As a modern startup, a large portion of your marketing efforts have likely been geared towards the online world — you’ve combed through and built relationships with influencers, you have your social media persona down pat, and your SEO strategy has already improved your search visibility.
Because they’re seen as a marketing method of the days of yore, events are easily overlooked when drafting up and budgeting for comprehensive marketing strategies that will have an impact in the present-day. As a small, agile, and budding company, every investment you make must be calculated carefully with as much of a guarantee of success as possible. This is precisely why events should be a part of your marketing plan.
According to a 2018 event trends study, a majority of senior-level marketers agreed that live events are the single-most effective marketing channel, beating out content marketing, email, social media, paid, and search. All of these strategies are still important pieces of the marketing puzzle, but as digital channels are becoming increasingly oversaturated, audiences are craving more tangible experiences made possible by live events.
Once you’ve determined the kind of event you want to put on, here are a few ways to market that event on a startup budget to make sure you have a successful turnout.
1. Outline Clear Goals
It’s a well-known facet of any marketing strategy, event or otherwise: know your "why". Of course you want more business, but it’s critical to establish small-scale and specific SMART goals tailored to your event. Think number of newly-engaged attendees, along with a percentage of those attendees who convert into new customers. Clearly outline and publish your KPIs that will be used to measure your event’s success to any key company stakeholders.
2. Determine Your Event Type
Once you know what you’re aiming to achieve, you can begin the fun part: brainstorming the type of event you want to host. Based on your goals, does it make more sense to hold something like an intimate roundtable, or a boisterous conference complete with an afterparty? Some common event types include:
- Product Release
- Customer Appreciation
- User Conference
- Thought Leadership Summit
- Partner-Building Roundtable
- Prospect & Customer Sales Acceleration
- Investor Appreciation
- Training & Recruiting
3. Leverage Event Management Software
New technology makes managing, measuring, and growing your event much easier and more seamless than in the past. There are a number of powerful event management software platforms, many of which are also easy on a tight budget. The suite of services usually included on these platforms range from ticketing, sales tracking, third party tool integration, email marketing tools, and access to resources, making them well worth any kind of investment they may require. Eventbrite, for example, has budget-friendly management tools that can be tailored to organizations including nonprofits and startups, and they’re free to use if you host a free event.
4. Find Event Sponsors
As much as you adhere to your budget, pulling off a successful event when you’re still a startup will likely require the help of key sponsors. Event sponsorships will help to balance and offset event production costs as well as reduce ticket prices for your guests.
The key to a successful sponsorship is establishing a mutually beneficial relationship. Sponsors give necessary capital in exchange for access to your customers in the form of a free booth at your event, a logo on your promotion pamphlets, etc. You also gain exposure from the audience of your sponsors, and sponsorships are increasingly becoming long-term relationships, so choose wisely. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Seek out businesses who are already somehow engaged with your company.
- Research any relevant connections on LinkedIn.
- Comb through email and event lists for company emails.
- Inquire within your employee base for relevant networks.
5. Don’t Forget To Debrief
It’s a well-known startup adage yet so easy to neglect: measure your success. The best way to improve your event marketing strategy is to learn from your past successes and failures. If you’re using event management software, this process will be streamlined and simplified, but there are still a number of other places you should gather data from. Refer to your social media and search analytics, invoicing and accounting software, keep tabs on any media and press hits, and of course, crowdsource attendee satisfaction ratings via surveys.
Armed with the right insights, you can make your event marketing strategy evolve with and help grow your small business.