By Alina Fridman -
One of the best ways to grow your brand, build relationships, customer loyalty and increase your ROI is through in-person, face-to-face events. Experiential events effectively engage your target audience. They create organic connections and immersive experiences that tell your brand's story and sell a lifestyle.
The fact is that events are time-consuming, a lot of work and can be very expensive. The biggest challenge companies face is getting the budget to produce an effective event that will provide you with a good return on investment.
Here are our 10 top tips to hosting an event that will give you big buzz without breaking the bank.
1. Find a Unique Space
If you don’t have a business location where you can host your event, you will need to find a space. Most conventional venues cost a lot of money and can eat up your budget. Look for unconventional spaces. Find a space that has a good floor plan and plenty of parking. If the venue doesn’t have a kitchen, don’t worry. Most caterers can work around that. Sites like Peerspace.com or Eventup.com are fantastic resources to booking a venue online. Photo, yoga or dance studios are great spaces to look into as they offer an open floor plan and will require a minimal amount of labor clearing furniture or product out for your event. Talk to small business owners with great spaces and see if you can strike up a deal or a trade. Some small businesses will be open to the opportunity to host an event as a way to advertise their shop.
2. Feed Your Guests
Your guests have made the effort to show up. Feed them! You don’t have to offer up a six-course meal, but you do need to provide good food. If your space allows access, food trucks are still a novelty and cost less than hiring a caterer. Also, charcuterie tables have become very popular trend. There have been several companies popping up that just focus on these huge grazing tables with beautiful displays of a food with a variety of options including gluten free and vegetarian.
Alcohol isn’t cheap. And an open bar with top shelf liquor is a sure way to eat up your entire budget. You can opt for a cash bar, but only if you’re really low on funds. Remember, you’ve invited these guests to promote your brand and grow your business. Optimize your guest’s experience and pay for the alcohol. You can keep it simple and offer a small selection of wines or a signature cocktail. Also, reach out to alcohol companies and beverage companies to request a sponsorship. If your brand fits their focus pillars, they will sponsor the event.
3. Hire Help! You'll need it.
Depending upon the size of your team, asking for or hiring help is important. You won't regret it. The logistics involved with load-in, set-up and load-out can be stressful and time consuming, especially if you're not used to doing a lot of events. Many venues charge by the hour. To save some cash, you can shorten your set-up window and hire more help that will be there for the duration of the event including load-in and load-out. Sometimes labor costs less than the hourly rate of a venue. But if its't not so exorbitant, I would spend the money to hire extra staff and pay for additional time. The last thing you want is to have guests arrive while your still setting up.
4. Collaboration Builds Community
Find one or two complementary brands that you can partner with. Not only will you be able to split the cost of the event, you will also be able to cross promote each other and reach a new audience.
Consider partnering with an influencer who fits your brand. Have them speak at your event and give them the opportunity to promote their product or service. Influencers with huge followings and brand affiliations will charge a fee for an appearance. If it’s not in your budget, reach out to attainable influencers such as Micro-Influencers who have smaller followings. You’ll be surprised how many will be happy to work with you in exchange for exposure. It’s also a great way to build a relationship that could lead to more partnerships in the future.
5. It’s All in the Details
Details do matter and branding your event is key. Create a mood board for your brand and start building an aesthetic with color, pattern, texture and shape.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money in decorating the space. Focus on 2 to 3 details to invest in where you’ll get the most ROI. Signage with your logo or a step and repeat is the typical rout. Create a beautiful photo backdrop with great props that guests can share on their social media. And don’t forget to have your guests tag you and use a unique hashtag when sharing.
Another idea is to display a fabulous dessert bar with your brand's color scheme or have your logo printed on sugar cookies. Get creative! Choose details that will amuse your guests and have them take out their phones to snap photos & share on social media.
6. Create Activation Stations
Cocktail parties are boring. Get your guests involved in activities. Activation stations create memorable experiences. You don’t have to compete with the big brands when planning an activation station. Just make it fun. Guests will love the experience. You can even offer activities with a tangible gift guests can keep. For example, offer a perfume bar where guests can create their own scent. Be creative and try to tie in your product or service to the activation station.
7. Invite the Press
Inviting press to your event will impress your guests, build brand visibility and get you media coverage. Although journalists are always invited to various events and it’s never a guarantee that they will show up to yours, it never hurts to try. Aside from the uniqueness of the event, ease of location and no other conflict in their schedule, your invitation has to be on point. A few general rules to follow:
· Know your audience. Invite publications that would be interested in your event.
· Be concise and to the point. Don’t bury the lead. Just the facts, please.
· Don’t bother with attachments. Paste your image directly into the body of the email or provide a link.
· Include a calendar prompt to easily add your event to their calendar.
· Include an RSVP prompt. Provide a link where they can easily click to RSVP.
· Allow them to bring a guest.
8. You Gotta Have Swag
Swag bags are ultra popular at any event. Guests love walking away with a bag full of goodies. They are also a part of the incentive package for influencers to show up at your event. Fabulous, another expense! Not necessarily. If your a brand that sells product, fill the bags up with a few samples and one or two full size products. It's a great way to get your brand out there and have your guests test it, take photos of it and post it to social media. Need more swag? Reach out to other complementary brands and ask them for an in-kind sponsorship. They provide you with one or two goodies and you promote their brand. It's a win win. Everyone gets exposure.
9. Get Your Own Coverage of the Event
Hire a professional photographer to take photos of your event. You’ll be able to share beautiful images of the event on your social media and use it for future marketing materials (discuss licensing fees in advance and sign a contract). Go one step further and hire a videographer to film the event. Your videographer can edit the footage to include promos and you can upload it to you website and YouTube. Video is a great marketing tool that will give your event longevity.
10. Keep the Buzz Going After the Event
You nailed it! Congratulations on a successful event. Now what? You have to keep the momentum going. Send out a thank you email and/or a post-event survey to all of your guests. Don’t forget to include and a special thanks to all of your partners and sponsors. Also, include a link to download event photos and any relevant information. Start posting and tagging photos and video from the event to your social media. You have a small window to maximize the impact of this event. Get it out there and enjoy the buzz.