Should events be in my marketing mix?

I was recently asked whether holding events should be in a marketing plan. Well, much like so many other marketing activities, it depends on what you want to achieve and who you want to target!

Before you start planning any event, there are two things you need – an intended audience and a clear business purpose.

1. Your audience – Who do you want to attract, and would the event appeal to them? For example, you wouldn’t run an event in a theme park if you were targeting the over-70’s! Make sure what you want to do is appropriate to your audience.

2. Your business purpose – what do you want to achieve by holding the event? Every decision you make regarding the event should support this aim. So, do you want to generate new business, promote a product or service, build customer loyalty, or something else? It is essential to answer this question so that your plans don’t spiral off in a direction you hadn’t intended.

Once these two questions have been answered, you can start planning your event. If you cannot clearly answer these two points, then the answer to the original question was no, you don’t need to have an event in your marketing plan!


I’m An Events Organiser, Get Me Out Of Here!

I have written before about the importance of delegation in events management and having people to help and support you. However, what happens when too many people become involved and stop you from doing what you need to do?

All event managers have experienced it – the barrage of comments and ‘helpful advice’ from volunteers, colleagues or clients who think something should be changed last minute or offer their opinions on how the event should look or work. So, at what point do you have to get people to back off and let you organise an event the way in which you know it will work? This doesn’t include the tips and advice which help to build an event, but rather those ones which override the things you have already confirmed and have in place, or that go against those parts of an event which are essential but that only an event manager cares about (i.e. health and safety, fire hazards, etc).

Before it gets too much, the best approach is to thank the person for their comments and say “this is already in place, but in case anything changes, I’ll bear X in mind”. This usually helps to get them to back off for a while, but without offending them (good for clients and colleagues!).

You could also give them something else to focus their efforts on. Is there a part of the event which they could look after or take responsibility of? If so, send them that way…and away from you!

In my 10+ years of running events, I have come across this kind of behaviour on numerous occasions and find that one of the best ways of staying calm is to try and remember that the person’s intentions are good and they only want the event to be as successful as possible. Don’t forget that they usually think they are helping, and so are unlikely to realise what a burden they are becoming, so try to distract them or refocus their efforts without going into meltdown!


Event Do’s & Don’ts – Don’t forget the small stuff

In my experience, I have found that people only ever remember two aspects of an event; the food and the toilets!

You can have organised the greatest event of all time, but if your guests had to queue for 30 minutes to use the loo, or it cost them an arm and a leg to buy a snack, that’s what they will tell others about.

So, whether your event is in the middle of a field, a brand new purpose built venue, or even your own wedding, spend some time checking the ‘essentials’ and you will ensure that you’re on the way to a successful event.

Why you shouldn’t be afraid of failure in your marketing

With the England football team’s World Cup hopes almost diminished, I’ve seen a lot of posts about failure on Twitter and Facebook and it got me thinking abut whether failure was necessarily a bad thing.

You read plenty of business stories about entrepreneurs, computer programmers and the like who met failure many times on their way to success, and the message is always the same; don’t give up.

In marketing, it is the same. There are times when you can come up with the best ideas, the perfect target audience, and the exact way to execute it, and it still won’t work quite as well as you wanted it to. Over the years, I have ran events which I still stand by as formats, but didn’t come off on the day – sometimes for no particular reason. It is frustrating, and can undoubtedly be damaging if your marketing, branding or the business as a whole is damaged as a result.

Does that mean you should stick to tried and tested means all of the time, to avoid potential failure? No, of course not – we grow by trialling, testing and sticking our necks out with the aim of growing our businesses.

So maybe failure is around the corner sometimes, but like the England football team, as long as we learn from our mistakes and use them to develop ourselves and our marketing going forward, coming out of failure stronger it isn’t a bad thing.

What benefit does sponsorship have for small businesses?

I receive a number of sponsorship requests every month, asking the company I work for to sponsor their child’s football team, the local sports club, or some other activity, club or event. The only ones I consider are those which give details of tangible benefits to my company by providing such sponsorship.

All businesses need marketing to ensure that customers are aware of their products or services, and for small businesses, sponsoring a children’s sports team or a local community event can be a great way of gaining profile and letting those who attend or are connected to the event or team know about your business.

But before you go spending your business’ hard-earned cash, you should consider these questions:

  • Is this event / team / activity the right fit for your business? For example, if you own a e-cigarette shop, sponsoring a children’s sports team might cause a negative reaction to your company.
  • Similarly, have you ensured that the audience of the event / team / activity is right for your business? You might use a sports event to promote your fitness company to the attendees of that event, for example.
  • How will the sponsorship benefit your company? Will your logo go onto a team shirt, or can you have a banner at the event? Make sure you agree what you can do in advance, and don’t forget to include the costs of any necessary production into the overall sponsorship cost if you have to supply it.
  • How reliable is the event or team? Will they fulfill their commitments to your sponsorship agreement?
  • Does your company have the time and resources to fully commit to the sponsorship? For example, do not accept a season ticket to a sports club in return for sponsorship if you realistically expect to only go once or twice throughout the season. See if you can swap that ticket for something more useful instead, such as an advert in the programme for example.

These tips will help your business to choose carefully the events, teams or activities it supports, in order to ensure maximum benefit for your company, whilst also hopefully doing some good to support your local community.

Event Do’s & Don’ts – Exhibitions

Over the last couple of weeks, I have attended and exhibited at a number of exhibitions and expos, and it was clear to see which stands received the highest levels of interest from those passing by. It wasn’t those stands with the best giveaways or most eye-catching banners, but those being manned by people who were willing to engage with the delegates at the event.

Exhibiting at business or trade exhibitions are a great way to promote your product or service to those you don’t know, and give people a hands-on chance to experience the product or to meet you and your staff.

I found it worrying how many people sat behind their exhibition tables and tapped away on laptops during the exhibitions I’ve attended recently. No-one will speak to you or ask you questions if you aren’t ready to say hello, start a conversation and capture their attention. You may as well not bother attending at all if you’re going to sit behind a table and ignore everyone passing by.

The best thing to do (especially if your exhibition stand is to be manned by your staff or volunteers) is to remove the chairs and move the table to the back of the pitch or space. Obviously, keep a chair available for when you/your staff need a rest (you can spend a long time on your feet at these events) but position yourself in front of the table and ensure you communicate to anyone representing your business that you want them to be ready to engage whenever the opportunity arises.

Often, the outcome of these events is what you make of the opportunity so decide how you want people to perceive you and your business, then make sure you embody that on the day.


This Week’s Guest Lecture…

On Monday, I gave a guest lecture at my local university in Bedfordshire for their event management course, on marketing and communications for events.

This was a great opportunity, and I really enjoyed sharing some simple tips on where to start in incorporating marketing into events planning – an essential part of events management if you want anyone to attend your events! 

I thought it might be useful to include the slides I used here on the blog, as it includes basic advice which are of use to all small businesses, not just those organising events. That includes thinking about why you’re doing what you’re doing, the ‘big 5’ marketing tools at your disposal and when your marketing should end (or not, as the case may be).

If you have any thing you’d like to add to these, do get in touch.