Building relationships with events
Five steps to make your next event a success
Developing strong personal relationships with your clients can do wonders for your business. But as our article on building face to face relationships highlighted, holding numerous one on one meetings can be time consuming. If you want to reach many people with the same message in a personal and memorable way – and get your customers talking about you – holding an event could be the answer.
A successful business event not only strengthens your reputation and credibility in the market, it can help your clients learn valuable insights and expand their own networks, while deepening loyalty and advocacy within your client base.
"We see face to face engagement with our clients as a key part of the business, and the most powerful relationship building tool that we can use," says Evonne Green, Head of Events and Sponsorships for Australia and New Zealand, Macquarie Group. She strategically supports events from conception through to execution and says they provide valuable opportunities with clients.
"We can share the latest insights with them – information they can use in their own business - and have open conversations to understand their own business objectives. This helps us to better understand the industry as a whole."
She says that whilst digital marketing continues to evolve rapidly, ultimately people still buy from people. "I think digital can be quite noisy – which means it's easy for your message to be missed. When planned and executed effectively, events are an excellent source of brand awareness and lead generation."
So how do you create that experience for your own business? Green shares the following five steps for success.
1. Understand your target
If you want to generate a high level of interest from your audience, you need to understand what they want to hear about. Don't assume your client wants to hear about the latest product release or sales pitch. Instead, draw on industry insights that can add value for your audience.
Green says "the key is to strike the right balance between business content, industry insights, topical issues, future trends and engaging content. Content (and context) is king."
2. Set measurable objectives
You need to be able to successfully evaluate your event's return on investment. Set specific objectives, and this will help you track the progress of your event so you avoid heading down the wrong path.
"Although measuring your attendance rate is important, it isn't a true reflection of return on investment," says Green. "It is much more important to attract quality registrations rather than quantity."
You also need to establish long-term objectives. For example, if your short-term goal is to generate leads and sales, you need to ensure these leads are nurtured. "This will allow you to create a foundation for future relationships and potential sales," Green comments.
3. Timing is everything
Effective event planning also involves setting realistic and achievable milestones and deliverables.
"Depending on the type of event, I'd recommend allowing at least eight to 12 weeks at a minimum to plan and execute an event," says Green. "Think about your own calendar – the more notice you have for a meeting or social event, the more likely you are to attend."
Take school and public holidays into consideration. If you run an event during this period you may immediately exclude a percentage of your target audience.
Budget planning is as critical as project planning. Take all the costs involved into account, and make sure you are thorough.
"It is usually the small costs that can add up over time and tip you over budget," Green says. "Be as transparent as possible, and ensure a key business decision maker has reviewed and approved the budget from the outset. Always allow for a contingency – I would recommend around 10 per cent of the overall budget allowance."
4. Plan and produce
Events are successful when a group of specialists work as a team. "The project team is not just the internal team - it also includes your suppliers, such as venue, caterers, audio-visual team and speakers," says Green.
Your event lead oversees the project from start to finish and ensures the planning remains on track and milestones are being achieved. Smaller businesses may need to outsource this role to an external specialist.
An integrated communication plan is also essential, to ensure your invitation message gets through.
"Make your clients feel valued, and that their attendance is important," says Green. "There are many reasons why clients do not turn up to events, but you can reduce the drop out rate by engaging with them as much as possible." She suggests also giving sales teams the communication tools to help them promote the event to their contacts.
When it comes to the venue, location or speaker, don't be afraid to do something different.
"We always ask ourselves, 'if our clients receive another ten invitations from our competitors at the same time as our event why would they want to attend ours'?"
On the day of the event itself, all this planning will ensure seamless delivery. Everyone involved should know their roles and responsibilities before they arrive onsite. Check presentations have been tested and final briefing sessions have taken place.
Understand what your attendees hope to achieve at the event, whether it's networking or learning something new, and create the opportunity for this to happen. "Onsite engagement is just as important as pre-event engagement," says Green.
5. Evaluation and reporting
Review the event outcomes to identify what worked, what didn't work and what areas you could improve. Even if you run the same event every year, it's important to re-visit your strategy and continue to evolve.
Green suggests considering how you can combine digital initiatives with your next event to maximise engagement and event return on investment "Events are most successful when planned and executed alongside an integrated marketing strategy, with clear and measurable objectives."
Make the most of your events investment
An event doesn't end when the last guest leaves. Here are three ways you can make the most of the experience.
- Create more content – use video footage to create podcasts or articles and share key event insights through your database or social channels
- Encourage social sharing – ask attendees to tweet from the event or share follow-up content (and thank them when they do)
- Celebrate your customer success stories – profile case studies through your presentations or share the stage with key clients.