While it's still fresh in my mind, I want to go through the checklist of points I covered to ensure that the first company event we ran last week was a success.
I have got more experience marketing for and following up on events than running them. Event management is not rocket science, while in some ways, digital marketing can be. On that note, I would like to stress the importance of giving yourself enough time so you can prepare adequately for an event. It is a thousand times more important if your event is successful if this is the first event that you have ever run for a startup for three reasons:
1. The outcome of this first event will have a significant impact on future events. If it goes well, you will get support both financial and otherwise for future endeavours. If it goes badly, the reverse. It will take exponentially more effort to get the next one off the ground.
2. Use this knowledge that I have learnt through bitter, painful experience: The less time you have to prepare, the less chance the event will go smoothly. It's a simple equation. Over-eager CEOs, CMOs and Sales Heads have pushed me into doing rushed Events in the past, to sometimes disastrous results. I will never let that happen to me again.
3. Building a community or group of interested prospects takes time and effort across many marketing channels: Google Search, Email, Social Media, Bloggs, Linkedin and Twitter advertising and sometimes even through partnerships with other organisations.
I set up an email automation campaign one month or more before the event. My automation will include a series of 'if/not' decision trees; If my prospect opens and clicks on the first ever email I send them one which is more personalised and has more detail in it.
If not, I send them an email that will try to capture their interest with a catchy subject line and a variety of topics. If my prospect hits on the event landing page but does not sign up, I will send them a reminder email a few days later, again, perhaps with some video of a previous keynote and so on.
I create an excellent Landing page to maximise the number of attendees.
Create 'buzz' around the event. Fortunately, I have a lot of friends in Branding who know a lot about this. One used to work for HSBC, another ran EMEA Brand Management for Hyatt Hotels, and yet another friend of mine was Chief Creative Officer at Coca Cola. It helps to talk with 'ideas' people to come up with events and marketing that will 'hit them between the eyes'.
For example, right now we have a software tool that enables engineers, architects and contractors to manage their email inbox. Our company, Arup, built the Shard building in London. We are running an event in the Shard with a project manager talking about how he used our software to master the engineering of that building. My architect friends say that every Arup building is a masterpiece, from the Sydney Opera House to the new Apple HQ in California. This event will speak to them on so many levels.
You can use social media to understand your audience better. Posting titbits on linked or Twitter will get you many reactions. Monitor these religiously to get a feel for what your prospects want to see and hear, not only at the event but before and after it. I also use surveys at the event and online tools like Survey Monkey. However, keep these short and sweet. No one wants to spend twenty minutes filling out hundreds of questions. Limit it to five, with the option for them to leave comments.
My last event, one of our prospects asked if we had sent an outlook calendar invite to him for the date. I had not done that. But I checked into our new CRM system and saw that I could send invites en mass. I will certainly be doing this for the next event. Your prospects and customers know what they want better than you. Don't ever forget that.
I'm a startup to mid-size kind of guy. I tend to do well in those nimble, fast-growing companies. But we all like to hear about the big names, whether it's celebrities, billionaires, supermodels or large organisations. Some names I've had at events I've run, have been anyone from Verizon Wireless to Black rock, from Mckinsey to TJ Maxx.
I always want to show my prospects that I care. I want great food, interesting talks, fantastic giveaways and attractive hosts. I may be getting a bit old to be 'young and beautiful', but I dress up and wear a suit and tie to look my very best.
My attendees has taken valuable time out of their busy schedules to see us. I want to do the absolute best to make that an exceptionally good and hopefully memorable and useful, experience for them.
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