InvoiceBerry Blog

Our thoughts & tips on small businesses, freelancers and sole traders

How To Ace Your Small Business Event

Written by on February 12, 2018

Creating an event is a wonderful idea if you run a small business. Attract the right people, and you’ll be able to collect new contact information, line up potential sales, and have existing customers there to act as your brand advocates.

Executing a successful event, however, is no easy feat. It involves a lot of “what if’s,” planning and executing before, during, and after the event. Failure to do so could have attendees talking about you, but for all the wrong reasons.

We’ve researched some of the core components to a successful event so that doesn’t happen to you. You want to get the most out of your event so every drop of time and capital is worth it.

We’ll be covering the following sections in this guide:

  • Establishing your event’s goals
  • Defining your audience and your value proposition
  • Creating a realistic budget
  • Tools to boost your event’s awareness
  • Small business event ideas
  • Why every logistical detail matters
  • Capturing the moment
  • Tips for engaging attendees after the event

1. Establishing Your Event’s Goals

Planning an event and establishing its goals is crucial.

You probably set goals for yourself, your business, and your personnel. You have to do the same for events. Otherwise, how are you going to gauge whether or not it was successful?

Start by asking: What do I want to achieve with this event? From there you’ll be able to craft an overarching goal, or several goals, and then break them down into strategies and sub-tasks.

Make sure your goals use the SMART framework. Each should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

For example, you could set a goal of acquiring 50 new emails and phone numbers of potential customers by the end of the event. It’s specific, can be measured against, is attainable, realistic, and time-bound.

This is much different than broadly saying you want to get more potential customers or “some sales” from the event attendees. Once you’ve solidified your SMART-driven goals, you can create a plan to increase your chances of success.

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2. Defining Your Audience and Your Value Proposition

To make a small business event impactful, it must have the right mix of people and value delivery. Your audience requirements will depend on your goals created from the section above.

If space is limited or expensive, you’ll need to be even more selective with who you invite and attract to the event. Start by defining your audience must-haves and create a percentage breakdown to guide you.

Reserve a small percentage, roughly 10%, to existing customers who will be there to sing your praises, and who could potentially become upsells. Then allocate a larger portion of attendees, approximately 75%, to new faces from proven markets who could become new customers. Excluding your own staff, the final 15% can be used to test new audiences you want to sell to.

2.1. Questions to Consider When Defining Your Value Proposition

You cannot assume the value in your event is inherent just because it makes sense to you as an organizer. Ensure every attendee understands your value proposition when attending your event. If you have to, explicitly tell them in your marketing efforts.

Ask and answer the following: 

  1. What value am I providing?
  2. Is my target audience correct?
  3. What do they need?
  4. What are their pain points?
  5. Am I the solution they need?

Obviously these questions will be different for different types of events, so you’ll need to tailor them accordingly. The goals and solutions of a networking event are much different than an event to unveil a new product or service, or a charity event.

Regardless of the solution you are providing, it needs to be clear, have substance, and provide value. Failure to define your audience properly and deliver value to them will undoubtedly lead to poor event performance. Neither you nor your attendees should feel like their time was wasted.

3. Creating A Realistic Budget

Creating an event budget is one of the first steps to a successful small business event.

Determining a marketing budget and an overall event budget is crucial. It’s also good to have a cushion built in your budget for any unexpected expenses.

You can track these expenses using our Expense Tool, and see which category is the largest spend. Adjust as necessary to support your primary areas of need.

Research similar events to gauge the level of capital that will be required. If you’ve hosted a similar event in the past, that’s an excellent place to start. Fixed costs are easy to track. It’s the variable ones that can quickly get you into hot water.

For example, if you’re not charging guests, exceeding your attendance expectations will lead to increased costs for space requirements and food and beverages.

If you’re realistic and have a contingency fund, your event will be a lot less stressful financially. Don’t try to stretch your dollars too thin, and don’t overspend on something that is not tied to your event goals. Do you really need that swan ice sculpture?

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3.1. Don’t Forget About Marketing

Create a marketing budget and make the most of it. You should know your audience better than anybody else. Advertise the event where your target audience frequents and entice them with your predetermined value proposition.

Offer early bird incentives and encourage them to promote your event to their networks. Word of mouth is a powerful ancillary marketing channel that shouldn’t be ignored.

Targeting attendees with the wrong message or in the wrong mediums will lead to wasted, precious marketing dollars. Use your budget wisely!

4. Tools To Boost Your Event’s Awareness

Social media marketing plays a an important role in promoting events nowadays.

There are so many ways to market an event today that you may be feeling overwhelmed. In short, only use the tools that will provide direct engagement with your target audience. For example, if they commute through a specific location, consider renting a billboard.

Properly targeting through interests, age, gender, and location is a great place to start. The tools below are some tried and true methods for generating event awareness and commitment.

4.1. Traditional Ad Space

Just like the billboard example above, buying ad space where your target market is likely to frequent is a great way to achieve one touch point in your event’s marketing funnel.

Even if they don’t commit from this initial awareness, they are more likely to convert on the next touch point if you successfully target them on another medium too.

Ad space can consist of print and media ads: local magazines, newspapers, commercials, and much more.

4.2. Facebook Ads

Facebook Events and ads are excellent for targeting your specific audience without breaking your marketing budget. With filters like location, gender, other interests, age, etc., you can really drill down to exactly who you want to target.

You’ll even get to determine where you want to send your audience. The best option is either a Facebook Event page where they can confirm their level of attendance, or to a landing page on your website where you can capture their email address and RSVP through a form.

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4.3. Eventbrite

Packed with experiences hosted by people and businesses all over the world, Eventbrite is known for its easy-to-use and trusted platform. You can create an event, sell tickets, and promote the event within their platform through sponsored listings for more visibility.

4.4. Meetup

Boasting a community in the millions, Meetup is great for listing your event locally. It has a very simple and effective UI on both desktop and mobile. If you really like it, you can even upgrade to Pro for more insights and a performance dashboard.

4.5. Partnerships

Are you hosting with any other supporting businesses? Do you have any sponsors? How about hiring a local celebrity or influencer to promote the event for you?

These are excellent ways to leverage someone else’s audience and clout to drive more awareness to your event. Just make sure they are the right audience.

5. Ten Small Business Event Ideas

There are plenty of different formats and options when deciding to host a small business event.

There are endless possibilities for event themes and locations, but choosing the right level of professionalism and delivery are key to event performance. Remember, you want something that will be memorable for all of the right reasons.

Use these event types as starting points:

  • Learning event
  • Charity event
  • Special guest/celebrity appearance
  • Product launch
  • Networking
  • Book signing
  • Debate
  • Fashion show
  • Hackathon
  • Pub crawl

6. Why Every Logistical Detail Matters

After initial preparation comes execution, planning and delivery. You must anticipate your attendees’ needs and wants, just like you need to deliver them value. To win over your guests, craft the right logistics strategy – from arrival through departure.

Put yourself in your guests’ shoes and ask yourself questions specific to logistics, one of the most forgotten elements. Don’t rely on the venue’s staff either, because their performance is going to affect your performance.

Think about a time you attended a wedding, exhibition, conference or any event you had a poor experience at. Why was it poor? What can you learn from this experience to make sure you don’t do the same thing to your guests?

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It’s easy to get caught up in the bigger problems leading up to and on the day of the event. Don’t fall victim to forgetting about the smaller logistical details that each guest will notice and judge you on.

Important logistical questions to ask yourself: 

  • Is parking clear and easy to access?
  • Is there plenty of staff to accommodate the amount of guests?
  • Will registration go smoothly and swiftly? (No one likes waiting in line!)
  • Are bathrooms close by or easily found?
  • Does the space have enough comfortable seating?
  • Can we accept payments in both cash and credit?
  • Do we have the right technology and equipment for presenting/speaking?
  • Can individuals hear in every corner of the venue?
  • Are there food options for every dietary restriction?

These questions will make sure guests feel respected and accommodated. Going the extra mile will show your business is attentive to detail and one that they can trust.

7. Capturing The Moment

Almost as important as the event itself is the capturing of your event.

It’s important to capture your event for awareness and for marketing. Taking photos and recording video will allow you to share your event in real time on social media. This media can also be used after the event and leading up to any future events to build hype.

Some popular and effective methods for capturing events are:

7.1 Videographer/Photographer

While both of these can be expensive, they’re worth the investment. Not only will you have marketing materials to use, but a videographer will capture the entire event through the eyes of your attendees.

Reviewing the footage will give you valuable insight into the positives and pain points of the event that you might not have noticed yourself. One word of advice though, make sure you hire a professional. You get what you pay for here.

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7.2 Snapchat Filters

Snapchat, a social platform that has exploded in the past couple years, has introduced on-demand geofilters. As an event organizer, your small business could create a custom photo filter for each snap taken at or near the event.

For around $5 per 20,000 square feet, it’s an effective and cost-conscious way for guests to interact and promote you to their network during the event.

7.3 Hashtags

Create a hashtag for attendees to use leading up to and during the event. Make it unique and do a pre-search of the hashtag on major social platforms to ensure it doesn’t already contain a lot of noise or competing content.

Utilizing a hashtag will allow users to interact with your event before, during and after the event. Plus, any photos taken by attendees or remarks will be much easier to find after too.

Pro tip: Designate a social media manager to interact with anyone using the hashtag live during the event. Use technology that displays the current conversation happening on a side screen.

8. Tips For Engaging Attendees After The Event

Brainstorming how to engage with the event audience once the event is finished.

Events are hard work, but the work is not done once the event ends. This is the perfect opportunity to ensure your small business reaps the rewards of the event you worked so hard to create and execute.

Make a plan for how you will keep in touch with event attendees after the event is over. Some popular methods include discount codes given out the day of with near-future expiration dates, connecting with each attendee through social media, and conducting follow up emails, direct mailers, and phone calls.

Most event organizers are biased about how the event actually went. They put so much work into it that it’s hard to be objective. If you want real feedback, send an anonymous survey out to your attendees and ask for constructive and honest criticism. What did they like? What could have been improved?

Once you have the feedback, you’ll need to make good on it by implementing the feedback into your next event and thanking them for their help.

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