You probably recall a time when interactions weren’t limited to 140 characters and a “friend” referred to someone you really did like. But things have changed. And even though technology can make our lives easier, it can also get in the way of real, in-person interactions that customers often need to develop trust in you. A great solution? Host an event — it’s a fantastic way for small business owners to strengthen relationships with customers by taking a moment to speak face-to-face. While hosting an event can be valuable, it does take some planning. Here, we’ll give you six steps to keep in mind for event success.
Step One: Define a Clear Objective
- Finalize the goal of your event. Is it to acquire a certain number of new customers, thank existing ones, or boost business during a particular season? Do some research and identify a measurable goal to work toward.
- Define who you want to target. First-time home buyers? Auto-enthusiasts ages 35 and up?
Step Two: Keep the Customer in Mind
- Always consider your customer. What would draw your customers in? Product discounts? How-to sessions? Expert guest speakers?
- It’s also important to choose a time that’s convenient for your target demographic. Traditionally, Thursday tends to be the most popular day, as customers are more willing to rearrange their schedules toward the end of the week.
- Give your attendees takeaways. Create items such as T-shirts, mugs or raffle prizes. This way, guests will remember you long after your event.
Step Three: Create Buzz
- List the event on your business’s website and social media pages one month in advance.
- Create custom invitations and flyers to send to customers and distribute locally.
- Set expectations by adding an agenda or list of events.
- Inform your local media — local papers are always looking for leads. You never know when you could be front-page news!
- Extend an invitation, verbally, at a local government or Chamber of Commerce meeting.
Step Four: Mind the Details
- Create and update a detailed budget.
- Be prepared with a backup plan. What if a guest speaker cancels? What if it rains?
- If you’re renting space, remember set-up and break-down times.
Step Five: Bring Your A-game
- Spruce the place up. Create a unique welcome banner and designate someone to greet and direct guests.
- Make sure employees are prepared to work the event. You need to be free to mingle with guests.
- Do your best to speak, individually, with everyone in attendance.
- Have a guest book or business card box, so you can stay in contact with guests.
Step Six: Follow Up
- Send personalized thank you cards to everyone who attended.
- Post a thank you message on your business’s website and social media pages.
- Make presentations and videos available to guests.
- To get as much publicity as you can, send a short explanation of the event, along with some photos, to local media.
Use your imagination and come up with something different, that none of your competitors have ever done before. But most importantly, take the opportunity to have fun, learn more about your customers and let them get to know you. Do this and your event will benefit everyone involved.
Image: © 2012 Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo