Monday, May 20, 2013

Tutorial - How to Put On a Big Event and Become More Visible

Chapter 41/101 - Marketing Is Largely About Visibility - Events Are a Great Way to Become Visible

If this is your first time here, I want to thank you for stopping by and let you know that this is chapter 41 out of an eventual 101 Marketing Secrets that I am compiling on this blog, and that I will eventually release as a book.  You can get chapter titles and links to the other 40 chapters here.

In this next section we are going to look at various ways small businesses can reach out to the larger community around their business and get VISIBLE.  It is easy to get super lazy and sit behind the desk or the counter waiting for the phone to ring or the door to swing.  But it rarely works out well if that method is followed for very long.

Add the concept of VISIBILITY to your list of important things to think about.  Much of marketing is about visibility, but many who do marketing for all or part of their living, sometimes fail to think of the marketing in those terms.  The next 10 chapters will discuss 10 great ways to become visible.

Major Events Can Create More Visibility in One Weekend Than You Would Normally Get in Three Years

Location is still a very big deal for any retailer.  But no matter whether you have only been in your location for six months or are an absolute fixture in the neighborhood, a huge percentage of your potential clients don't even know you are there.  Want proof?  How many times a week do you hear, "I drive by here all the time, and i didn't even know you were here."  And those comments come from those who "drive by here all the time."  The ones who never drive anywhere near you are even less aware of your presence.

If you are in an office complex or work from home, getting visibility is even tougher.  You have no street visibility at all, which is generally the number two source of new traffic for those who do have a "main street" location.

Major event managers will tell you that a single event can generate up to three years worth of neighborhood visibility.  In other words, in a three year period, X number of potential customers will become aware of you through various methods.  A well run event will get you that same number of awareness results in a single day or weekend.

Assuming that such results would be an exciting proposition for you, the next question might be:  How much time and sweat is it going to cost me to get that result?  I did a recent event for a client that cost just about $5000 out of pocket and probably about 30 hours of his time, which resulted in 700 people showing up for his anniversary party. 

$5000 is probably the minimum you can spend and expect great results.  You could also spend $50,000 and 150 hours of your time and not equal those results due to inadequate planning.  Here is the outline for a plan that will work every time.  Don't leave anything out.

A.  90 day advance planning minimum.  120 days is better.
B.  Assemble a team of at least 4 people who will brainstorm and handle tasks
C.  Plan a first meeting for the team
D.  Set the date, the theme, the details of the activities for the event, and the budget. 
E.  Find a large local non profit, service club, or charity to share the work and help get participation.

In my experience this last part is as important as anything else you will do.  Your event will become a fund raiser for them, and done correctly might raise $5000, $10,000 or even a lot more.  In return you get a huge list of benefits, not the least of which is that the charitable organization will want your event to succeed. 

Within their organization will generally be local folks who are well connected.  They may be able to help with publicity, star power for the day of the event, attendees for the event, and even members who will help with some of the work. 

The fund raising will generally be some kind of raffle.  You can turn to your suppliers for many of the items to be raffled, and you may want to donate a some high end products also.  In some cases, members of the non profit will buy items from you to add to the list of prizes.  If you are in a service business, you can work with retailers and restaurants in the area to assemble a great prize list.

Print up 10,000 raffle tickets with both your company name and the non profits name.  List at least a few of the top prizes, the date and details of the event, and any rules.  Maybe you want the person entering to have to be present to win.  The sales force for the raffle will be the members of the group you partnered with.  Sure, you'll sell tickets at your business, and you and they will sell a lot the day of the raffle.  You and the partner organization can also sell them online if one of you has an online store. 

Please note that various states have rules for raffles.  Check online to see what rules you may need to follow.

The Bigger and Better the Prize List, the Better All Results of the Event Will Be

Whoever on your staff works the most closely with suppliers should start dialing for prizes and swag.  Distributors and manufacturers will gladly help you with T-shirts, hats, and all kinds of other items that can be given away.  But you may need to exert a bit of pressure to get items worth over $100 that will make the best items for the raffle.  If you have room and believe it will make the event more interesting, suppliers may also send reps with pop-ups, demonstration booths, and/or contract athletes, entertainers, or speakers to add star power.

Hopefully someone on your staff, a member of the non profit, or a local PR person can help spread the word with online PR, print, radio, and TV.  Even in a major market you should be able to get top newspaper and TV people to show up for your event.  Pre-event publicity in these types of media are critical to success. 

You may want to advertise in some of the places where PR is going to matter.  And you may be able to advertise in some media that will be useful to increase interest.  However, don't use this event to experiment with advertising.  You should only use those media and approaches that have worked for you in the past.

Weekly Planning Meetings Are A Must to Keep Everything on Track

Hold weekly meetings with the top players.  Set tasks each week that can be completed by the next week and that will culminate in reaching all necessary goals in a timely way.  If a team member is consistently late on tasks, replace them early.  

Social media is huge to spread the word.  You will clearly want to get the event on your website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube Channel.  In addition, send emails every other week until the last 30 days, and then weekly, to your entire list.  If the partner organization has a list, they should also send out information to their list.  During the last week, send out emails every day.

A new way to spread the word that may be the most effective and efficient yet is Google+ Events.  You can learn all about this by going to  You can also use the event system in Constant Contact.  This is especially useful if you already have a large email following. 

And while on the subject of emails, your most likely participant in the event will be your most recent visitors to the store.  Hopefully you and your staff have been compiling a huge list of emails from those who have made any kind of purchase.  You might also be generating emails from your website email capture forms or on Facebook.  In any case, you will want to email something about your even at least twice per month up until a few weeks before the event, and then even more frequently. 

One of the major benefits of the event is the accumulation of even more emails that you can use to reach customers through regular mailings in the future.  Make sure the raffle ticket asks for an email, and have prizes or other incentives at the event to gather emails from those in attendance.

A big draw for events in most cities today are the food trucks.  You will need to call these folks month in advance as they are very much in demand.  Each one will have certain policies and requirements, and some may even require a minimum gross for the time they are at your shop.

An Event Should Be Exciting and Fun - A Boring Event Is A Huge Waste of Time and Treasure

On the days of the event you will want to keep the party going.  There is nothing worse than big lulls and lags between the festivities.  One way to help is to have a local music combo come and play.  This might be a group from the local high school, and their personal popularity will bring more youth to the party.  You can commonly get such a group for free.  Be certain to get a preview of their style and ability before bringing them to your event.  And make it clear what kind of music you are hoping to have them play.

You will need an MC for the raffle and give away portion of the day.  Make sure that the MC has a personality that can keep the crowd engaged.  You will want to thank any company that has given the various prizes and other items that are given away.  Tossing items to the crowd has become a standard approach for generating a fun atmosphere. 

Make sure you have a clear schedule of events.  This might include clinics, demos, sign ups for clubs, charity sign ups, carnival booths (dunk tanks and similar), product demonstrations, samples, super interesting seminars by local or national speakers.  Have your team brainstorm on what will please your crowd enough to stay all day, or even come back the next day.

To have a sale or not to have a sale.  Sometimes the event will be all about selling things.  Sometimes you will be more interested in creating visibility and good will.  Other times you may want to do both.  Only you and your staff can determine what the day will be designed to accomplish in your overall marketing strategy.   If you are going to have a big sale, try to concentrate the time of that sale into one or two windows to create a "frenzy."  If the sale goes on all day or over several days you won't get that kind of atmosphere. 

To draw that neighborhood crowd, consider search lights the night before any day of the event.  You might also want to rent a huge rooftop balloon for the week leading up to your big day.  Banners are great.  If you are partnering with a local service club, school, or other group, you may even get the city to allow banners on the major street in the area.

Invite local dignitaries such as the mayor, president of the chamber, and others to come.  This will help your post event PR. 

Be sure to take lots of pictures.  You may even want to hire an event photographer or videographer.  These pictures and videos can then be used for emails, youtube videos, blog posts, content on Facebook, etc.

Holding an after event party is commonly a great idea.  Invite all staff, their dates or spouses, volunteers who helped, the leadership of the partnering non-profit, press, and local dignitaries.  This dinner might cost you a pretty penny, but it will be worth it to create good will with everyone concerned. 

What other things have you done to insure the success of an event.  Add your thoughts in the comments below.

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