leveragingeventssmallbusiness

Do you remember the last time you built a relationship with a brand during a commercial or a magazine ad? We don’t.

Sure, it’s eye catching, you may crack a smile at its humor, but within seconds you turn the page or flip the channel and it’s completely forgotten about.

These mediums are becoming saturated with stale content and repetitive visuals, and it’s becoming harder and harder to make a real and memorable connection.

Oh, and did we forget to mention the expense of placing a print ad or a TV spot is way above any typical small business budget?  So, what do you do to get the ball rolling and start marketing your startup?

Now that we’ve said all that, you’re asking, where do I start? You’ve taken the first leap of faith by starting your own business, so don’t miss the opportunity to make it thrive. Here are a few quick tips to get you started down the path of planning your own events, and read on for how to make the most of them. 

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Strategy comes first

First thing first, you need a strategy.  

Starting anything strategic for your business from scratch is tough, even when you have a great vision. Developing a strategic marketing plan is no exception. As a new business, you need to stand out, and deciding where to invest your marketing dollars is crucial. We’ve been there, and we remember when we asked ourselves, “Where do we start”?

There are so many channels to choose from—email, radio or TV ads, online marketing, and print marketing. New channels get added daily via social media and the options are becoming endless, not to mention overwhelming. You already know your marketing efforts need to be out of the box and really create some buzz.

I’m going to make a case on why you need to ditch the traditional (or, dare we say, mainstream), and consider an even older-school style of marketing which has stood the test of time. 

Let’s talk about events

Think of how you make connections in your personal life: it takes plenty of convincing to step out of your comfort zone when it comes to new friends and it’s the same for your target customer.  

More often than not, they are unwilling to step out of their comfort zone and become a consumer of your product or service because someone who they have never met said it was a good idea.

But think about how, at your sister’s wedding, you met your best friend because you share a mutual love for hiking. Or at last summer’s family BBQ, you finally bonded with your (once-disliked) brother-in-law because you both found a common love for animals while discussing your new dog Watson.

What do these situations have in common? You fostered your relationship at an event.

A tangible, in person experience yielded a (desired or unanticipated) result. Just as these are the most successful ways of creating relationships in our personal lives, the same concept overlaps into our professional lives. The level of effort can be the same when your goal is getting consumers to create a meaningful relationship with your brand.

5 reasons to use events to your advantage

These are our top five reasons for why leveraging events as a small business will be the best marketing move you’ll make for your new business:

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 12.43.30 PMFreshen up existing marketing channels

Events allow you to market yourself in unique ways via the necessary mediums.

Scroll through your last set of tweets on your company account. Sounding repetitive? Many companies don’t have anything new to talk about. Hosting an event allows for interesting, new, fresh content that your followers will actually engage with. Sending out e-blasts with a call to action that isn’t just about pushing sales is a nice change for our inboxes. The content you will create from your event will strengthen your website, email marketing, social media, video content, photos—the list goes on and on.

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 12.43.53 PMDirect interaction with your consumer

Events offer a one-of-a kind opportunity to have a conversation that engages your company directly with your consumer, and humanizes your brand—which in today’s overload of digital marketing, is vital.

You need face time with your clients, and no, not through the app. Whether you are B2B or B2C, events allow your target market to directly interact with you as a professional, with your brand, and with what you offer. A small business should always look for the opportunity to create real, valuable relationships, and an event is your express route to getting there.

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 12.44.04 PMHighlight subject matter expertise

Ever heard someone ask for a mediocre accountant? Didn’t think so. They want the best accountant.

Consumers are always looking for a subject matter expert in whatever service or product they are on the hunt for. Because your business is just starting out, you may be lacking years of experience, an extensive client list, or just simply battling the fact that you’re not well known yet.

Hosting your own events is one of the best ways to show off your credibility. Yes, you are a subject matter expert, and can own up to the hype that you are promoting through your other marketing efforts. For an audience, seeing is believing.

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 12.44.12 PMFollow up

From a sales perspective, events have your back too. They allow the opportunity to follow up with new prospects without sounding sales-y. “Remember Joe’s party trick at the event? That was impressive.” Now, that is a conversation starter you can feel comfortable and confident leading with.

This tactic reengages the consumer, and puts them in a spot where you don’t sound like an aggressive salesperson. There is even an opportunity for feedback about the event or your brand. When your follow-up is not a cold call, the conversation opportunities are endless.

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 12.44.26 PMBudget

By now, you are sold on the idea that events are a good strategy, but you are worried about the bottom line—how much this will all cost you.

The truth is, you don’t need to throw an extravagant multimillion dollar event to see results. Smaller, more intimate events may work better for your target market no matter how much money you are willing to spend. Events may not seem “necessary” to your sales and marketing strategy, but the reality is that they kill multiple birds with one stone.

This way, you are working smarter, not harder. How much time would you spend cold calling or creating an ad for a newspaper, when nobody is picking up the phone, or reading that newspaper? Time is money, and events are a smarter way to house this effort. It’s also a direct deliverable to measure success.

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Emily Chalk
Emily Chalk

Emily Chalk is Founder and Senior Managing Partner at East of Ellie, a Stamford, Connecticut based events agency. A two time 40 under 40 winner, she thrives on organizing customized events across the U.S. for Fortune 500 companies and high profile clientele including Bvlgari Parfums and Nestle Waters North America.