If you are having trouble getting noticed at a trade show, consider hosting a customer event. Customer events are a great way for companies to showcase their accomplishments, build relationships with customers and partners, and establish themselves as an industry leader. They allow personalized one-on-one time with current and prospective clients. If done in correlation with a trade show, the event can be highly successful. A customer-focused event will provide you a unique opportunity to stand out from the competition and build relationships, which can sometimes be difficult to do while at a trade show because of the hustle and bustle.
Every event planning process should start with an event strategy. First determine the goals for hosting the event. What do you want to get out of this event? How can companies maximize their return on investment when hosting a customer event in correlation with exhibiting at a trade show?
Part of the event strategy should include: where and when will you host the event? Who will you invite? What is the theme of the event? Is the event going to be in correlation with another event? These are all questions to ask yourself before you start the planning process. After you have created an event strategy, you should begin to nail things down.
Budget, Budget, What’s Your Budget?
First things first: decide on a budget. You can’t host an event without a budget. To help keep cost down, think about co-sponsoring with a partner company. This not only helps keep costs low, but it also generates new leads and opportunities within other markets.
Timing Is Everything
Plan accordingly. When planning a customer event in combination with a trade show, ensure that the event will not compete with any other sponsored events. Host the event shortly after the show floor closes to catch the trade show exhibitors and attendees.
Location Is Key
The next thing to consider is location. Selecting a venue for your next event will be one of the most important decisions you make. You will want to consider a venue that is in close proximity to the trade show. This will allow conference attendees easy accessibility. Choose a venue that plays into your event strategy. If you will be giving a presentation at your event, ensure that the venue has good acoustics, lighting and proper AV equipment. If you are looking to network, look for a place that enhances networking. If budget is a concern, look for unique venues such as an art gallery or bowling alley. Thinking outside the box when selecting your venue will help to keep cost down, and give your event the creativity it needs to stand out.
Expand Your Reach
You have determined the event budget and selected the date and location. Now it’s time to decide who makes the cut. Decide on the number of people you are going to invite. Do you want to host a more intimate affair with a small group of current and prospective companies, or a large event? If hosting a large event, begin with inviting conference attendees then broaden the reach by inviting customers housed in your company’s CRM system that are located in the city where the event will be taking place. If you are co-sponsoring the event with another company, your reach will be much more substantial. You will not only reach people in your target market, but in theirs as well.
Market Your Event
It’s important to develop a comprehensive advertising event strategy to promote your event and better accomplish your goals. Some items to consider:
Promotion strategies: You need a good blend of email, social, and public relation tactics to generate the highest number of attendees. There are a number of things you can do to promote the event. If you have the budget, I suggest creating a separate landing page for the event and/or placing information about the event in your company’s newsletter. Another option is to place a print ad in a conference magazine such as Internet Retailer Magazine or AdAge.
Helpful technologies: With so many event platforms and tools out there, it’s never been easier to invite and register people. Eventbrite and marketing automation platforms like ActOn, HubSpot, or Marketo are a few I recommend using that make the event process as seamless as possible. With Eventbrite, you can create a webpage for the event and then use simple, free tools to promote the event through personalized emails to your contact list or through sharing in social media. Marketo allows you to create and send trusted emails. You have the capability to track and manage the email blast from start to finish.
Tie it to a trade show: Don’t forget, if you are planning your event in correlation with a trade show, you should be thinking of ways to tie the two together. One way would be to place information about your company’s presence at the show in an email blast, or by placing information on the Eventbrite site. If you have additional sponsorship such as a bag insert at the trade show, incorporate the information into the content listed on the bag insert. Tell people that in order to RSVP for the event they must visit your trade show booth. This will drive traffic to your booth and allow you multiple interactions with the customer, helping to build a stronger bond, which will lead to closing more sales.
Don’t Forget About the Phone
An unconventional way to promote the event that I have found success with is voice broadcasts. Voice broadcasts are interactive or recorded messages that deliver prerecorded phone messages or interactive IVRs to thousands of people at once.
They can be a very effective way to get the message across. The right cloud-based voice-based marketing automation system can make sending out a voice broadcast as easy as 1,2,3. It doesn’t require IT assistance to set it up. You simply record your message (or type it in using text-to-speech functionality), upload the spreadsheet of phone numbers, and you’re off. You can then monitor campaign success online using real-time reports. Some of the reasons I like voice broadcasts for event promotion include:
Personalization: Creating a voice broadcast is similar to filling out an email, you can personalize your voice broadcasts using text-to-speech functionality to include each recipient’s name, company, city, or any event information you want to include in the message.
Transfer calls to live agent: If someone has questions about your event, they can be connected right away – during the broadcast – to anyone, anywhere, for a live conversation. They don’t even have to hang up the phone and dial your number.
Interactive: You can send people from your voice broadcast straight to an IVR (interactive voice response) that you can easily build to provide more details about your event, answer logistical questions, and interact with callers.
Hopefully this was helpful as you think about planning your next event.