The world we live in can often be very impersonal, thanks to social media and other forms of online communications. As such, an event can add a personal touch to your business and, if done well, can forge long-term relationships with key stakeholders, especially your customers.
Brand loyalty is a key focus for future growth in any business, and events are a fantastic way to show current customers how much you care, and potential customers what you can do for them. It doesn't matter what size your business is, or how big your event will be, the only thing that matters when everyone has left is how well it went.
Here are 13 tips to ensure your corporate event achieves all of the goals you set out to achieve.
Establish the objective
It may sound strange, but many businesses decide to hold a corporate event and don't know why. The first question you need to ask yourself is, “what is the objective of the event?” The answer could be:
- Increase sales
- Thank existing customers
- Increase your contacts list
- Attract new customers
- Launch a new product
- Gain media exposure
- Increase brand awareness
Once this has been established, you are able to plan everything else. Many companies put a lot of money into events, and in the end don't get a positive outcome because there was no objective to begin with.
Spend time planning
During the planning phase, there are countless tasks that need to be taken into consideration. Here are a few that should be at the top of your list:
- The last thing you want to do is give people cause to complain once they leave, so make sure there's enough food and drink, plenty of chairs and tables, a sound system that works for speeches, and any other factors that specifically affect attendees' comfort levels.
- If there is a theme, make sure it matches your target audience, and decorate the event space appropriately.
- Be covered from a legal standpoint, so get all contracts signed prior to the event, and make sure your insurance covers you. If it doesn't, take out additional cover.
- Have a designated helper with you on the day of the event to run errands, so you don't have to leave the venue.
Know who your target audience is
When you've set your corporate event objective, understanding who your target audience is will be a lot easier. Think about their interests, lifestyle choices and daily challenges, and tailor the event to suit them. For example, if you own a furniture store, invite your guests and have interior designers available (free of charge) to offer professional advice on how they can maximise their own homes.
Perhaps your objective is to attract a market segment that doesn't currently purchase your products or services, and as such you'll need to think outside the box. For example, if you own a homewares store, hold a sportsman's night with a famous athlete to encourage men to shop there as well.
Once you've developed your theme, and understand who your target audience is, you'll need to:
- Create a guest list
- Send out invitations
- Include an RSVP date
- Follow up without being pushy
- Confirm attendance with VIPs in the week leading up to the event, and arrange transportation if required
On some occasions, you will have several target audiences. In these instances, you are better off holding several smaller events, each with their own objectives, rather than try and hold one larger event where the messages can become confusing.
Set your budget
Is money no object or do you have to get creative? Your budget will have a huge impact on your planning, but a large amount of money doesn't guarantee a successful corporate event. However, limited funds may create more hassle than the event is actually worth.
Depending on your event, some of the big-ticket cost items you need to think about include:
- Venue hire (if away from the place of business)
- Licensing (alcohol)
Get other businesses involved
A great way to find new customers and increase brand awareness is to partner with local non-competing businesses with a similar customer base. Not only will each business be able to introduce potential new customers to each other, but there could be cost savings as well. This is great for small businesses that have limited event budgets.
Timing is everything in business, and the day and time you schedule your event is no different. When you know your target audience, select a time convenient to them. For example:
- Stay-at-home parents would rather attend mid-morning or lunch events.
- Mid-week evening events are best held on a Thursday, with people ready for the weekend and more likely to attend.
- If increasing sales is the objective, hold your event on a low revenue day to help bring in extra cash.
- Avoid busy times, otherwise you won't be able to provide great service to potential new customers.
Make sure you check the event calendar of the industry you're in, the last thing you want to do is clash with another event and cannibalise the potential attendee numbers for each event. Also, don't schedule on or close to holidays or traditional holiday periods.
Marketing will get you a crowd
Unless you tell your target audience you're having this great corporate event, how will they know to turn up? Without a crowd, your objectives can't possibly be met, so your marketing plan will be vital to the event's success.
You need to tell your target audience why they should attend, what they will learn and/or receive for attending, and who else will be there. This last point may not seem important, but think about the last time you went to a party. How likely were you to go if you didn't know anyone who was going to be there? For corporate events, they don't necessarily need to know specific people who will be attending, but they do need to know that like-minded people will be there.
Again, your budget will determine your marketing channels, but embrace traditional, digital and social media to cast your net far and wide.
Service is everything
When the time finally arrives, it's so important to ensure your attendees have the best time possible. You want them to leave talking about how great your company is, as well as products and services you offer, and not how bad the event service was.
- Make sure you have enough staff - the last thing you want are guests waiting for food and drinks, or leaving without finding out information they needed about your business.
- Hire professionals who know how to make guests feel special, and make sure the company staff you use know your business inside out. This will ensure guests leave having had any questions answered fully.
Finally, give those in attendance a taste of what they can expect if they buy from you. After all, what's the point of the event if your guests don't know what you do?
Marketing opportunities galore
You should be working hand in hand with your marketing and PR departments to realise the full marketing potential of the corporate event. The objective of the event should compliment your businesses marketing and PR strategy.
- Who's coming?
- What's happening?
- Is there an opportunity to get the media involved, i.e. social pages in newspapers or TV interviews with high profile guests?
Make sure it's fun
People won't come if they're not going to have fun, so give them a reason to attend. It could be to:
- Check out a great venue
- Enjoy the amazing entertainment you've organised
- Get some free giveaways
- See something exciting you're launching
While instant sales are great, the long-term benefits you gain from ensuring your guests leave with a smile on their face can equate to much bigger profits for your company.
Things can go wrong, that's normal, but be prepared if they do. Think through the event beforehand, envision what could go wrong, and what your contingency plans will be. Make sure it's documented and have it with you. No matter how much you plan for what could go wrong, inevitably you won't think of everything. If need be, get in there and fix it yourself when those situations arise.
Get information, follow up
What's the point of having all these people show up if when they leave you have no way of contacting them? Let them know when a sale is coming up, add them to newsletter distribution lists, call to thank them for their attendance, or ask them for feedback via online forms.
Don't be pushy, but stay in touch. And make sure your company's key messages are included in all follow up correspondence.
How well did the event go?
Measure your event's success against the clearly defined objectives set out in the initial planning phase.
- How many people were there?
- Did they buy anything?
- Did they leave any feedback?
- What was the media coverage like?
Hosting a great event has the potential to give your company a huge boost in terms of building a loyal customer base, forging long-lasting partnerships with key stakeholders, increasing profits and taking it to the next level. It takes careful planning, a reason for people to attend, an exciting point of difference to other events, and strategic post-event communications. But above all, there must be a clearly defined corporate event objective, otherwise you are doing nothing more than hosting an expensive, second-rate cocktail party.