Event marketing is one of the most effective ways to promote a small business. We look at why it works, its pitfalls, and the keys to planning a super-successful event.

Marketing trends come and go, but event marketing remains one of the most popular ways for small businesses to increase brand awareness and attract new customers. In fact, a recent survey revealed that 80% of marketeers see live events as critical for their company’s success.

What is event marketing?

Essentially, event marketing is where a company hosts or participates some sort of event where they have face-to-face contact with potential (or existing) customers.

Events come in many shapes and sizes, including trade shows, seminars, conferences, demonstrations, fairs, pop-up shops, activity taster sessions, competitions — the list is endless, and only limited by budget and imagination. Even the smallest businesses have a surprising number of event-marketing options.

Why event marketing works

Research by the Event Marketing Institute demonstrates the huge potential of event marketing. In their 2012 survey, they found that 58% of event marketing participants went on to purchase the product, and 86% became regular customers.

Of course, those particular statistics don’t tell us how cost-effective those events were. But there’s little doubt that a well-researched, well-run event can give a spectacular return on investment.

Why should this be? It’s all about engagement. At an event, you have an opportunity to engage with your prospective customers, interest them, show them your story. You can demonstrate your belief in your product or service. This is important, because even in an age of digital purchases, humans are social creatures. People buy from people. Or more specifically, they buy from people that they like and trust.

So, events can be commercially successful and you get to promote your company, in a direct and personal way. What’s not to like?

Event marketing pitfalls

Inevitably, however, event marketing has some downsides. Two of the biggest issues are:

  • Events can take over your company’s life. Planning and delivering an event can eat into your team’s time, putting their regular business activities on hold.
  • There’s an element of risk. When an event doesn’t go to plan, it can be costly — and deflating for everyone involved.

The good news is that by following the tried-and-trusted principles below, you can minimise the impact of these factors.

Six quick tips for running a profitable event

  1. Decide what your aims are first. Starting with your specific business aims — such as gathering names for later promotions and contact — will focus your planning more effectively.
  2. Decide on  your target audience. This goes hand-in-hand with deciding your aims. Again, it’s a crucial step in focusing your efforts.
  3. Decide on a budget and scale. As people get on board with the idea, events have a tendency to grow uncontrollably. So draw up reasonable guidelines for budget and scale and stick to them.
  4. Consider what will make people attend. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the minutiae of planning without first considering the crucial question: what are you offering people that it makes it worth their while to show up?
  5. Plan. And then plan some more. Time spent on planning is never wasted and will drastically reduce the chances of the event flopping. To give one small (but important) example: when it comes to deciding the date, have you checked for any local or national events clashing with your own?
  6. Promote. Lack of promotion is often the death of otherwise well-planned events. You need to get your message out there every way that you can, starting well in advance and giving reminders just before the event.

Outside agencies and event planning

One way to reduce the time costs of event planning is to employ an outside agency. This is an especially attractive option for small businesses.

This is because small businesses are especially vulnerable to the disruption of planning an event. As noted above, event planning steals time from your routine business activities. And as small businesses usually have little spare capacity, this disruption is all the greater.

In addition, staff in small businesses rarely have expertise in event planning. In every field, including event planning, non-specialists work more slowly. In-house teams simply take longer, and that has significant cost implications for a small business.

Using a marketing agency or events planner can therefore pay dividends for SMEs. From our own experience in providing these services, we’ll mention a third advantage: stress relief. The pressure to get an event right is not to be underestimated, and teams often breathe a sigh of relief when they hand over the responsibility!

Interested in our event planning service? Whether it’s a product launch, conference, seminar or in-house event, MV Marketing has years of experience in all aspects of event planning. We pride ourselves on our flexibility, taking on anything from single stands at exhibitions to larger corporate events. Get in touch and we’ll be delighted to talk through your needs.