Planning an event can be an excellent way to promote your business.
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Don't limit your thinking to grand openings-restaurants can hold seasonal tastings, electronics stores can host seminars about home theatre or computers, and apartment complexes can attract upmarket renters with art showings, catering or live entertainment.
The key to events is providing prospects with a "relatable draw"; a program, in other words, that will attract not just any customer, but the right kind of customer. The least successful events, in terms of revenue generation and meeting business-related goals, are borne from failing to ask a few essential questions before entering the execution stage:
- Who is your target customer?
- What are the opportunities for others to help shoulder the cost for your event?
- Does your event require you to obtain any permits or licenses?
Let's examine these considerations one by one.
You're Just My Type
Give your target customer a name, like Susan-and a profile. Does she drive a luxury sedan, or an SUV? Does she live alone, or is she a doting mother of two? Is she listening to oldies on the radio, or Maroon 5 on her iPod?
Designing your marketing strategy around a prototypical customer type, or typology, allows you o narrow the focus of your event to those segments you wish to reach-to the exclusion of those you do not. If you plan to solicit talent, sponsors or other vendors, a document detailing how each event-related decision was made with the target customer in mind may assist you in selling through an untested event, which is often quite challenging in more saturated markets, such as event capital of the world, Las Vegas, NV.
Make an Impression
Depending on your location, experience with events and your reputation in the business community, you may be able to obtain financial support for your event by signing sponsors, selling displays to vendors or even charging a modest admission fee. In most cases, I recommend you seek professional assistance in securing sponsorships; however you should come into the process with a basic understanding of how sponsorships are sold and valued.
Professional-level event sponsorship pricing is based on the number and type of impressions the sponsor will receive, as well as the assigned value of those impressions. This includes (but is not necessarily limited to) name mentions on the radio, inclusion in a TV spot, press conference or newspaper spread, logos on programs, stanchions and banners at the event-and of course-any activity on the event's website or page.
When calculating impressions, a common misconception is that one logo on a banner equals one impression-this isn't so. Rather, you must take into account the approximate number of people that will see the banner-this includes passerby, as well as ancillary impressions if there is, say, a news camera pointed toward the banner and the sponsor's logo is broadcast to two million homes on your local six o'clock news.
Newer events charge less per impression than larger, more established productions; however, if you are able to sign one high-profile sponsor, other, smaller sponsors may fall in line. This is called keystoning. Again, I suggest you consult with an event planner or ad agency to determine your ability to secure a high-profile sponsor; and then, to potentially negotiate a deal with that sponsor.
License and Registration, Please
In order to erect signage, serve food on the sidewalk or set up a stage, your borough, town, city or county may require you to obtain permission, as well as pay a fee for the privilege. Ensure you apply for such permits well in advance; the machinery of government approvals is cragged and may require a bit of grease in the form of frequent follow-up contact, volunteering for civic activity or (gasp!) arriving at a compromise about a particular detail of your plan.
If you expect to play commercially available recorded music-even via the radio-you will need to acquire a license from either ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) or BMI (Broadcast Music International). These performance rights societies (PRS's) collect funds from businesses that profit from playing music, and then they distribute these funds to the artists and writers involved in its production. Most of these licenses are of the "blanket" variety, meaning you can play any song in the PRS's catalog and incur no additional charges. I would also advise against playing the radio-it affects an air of unprofessionalism, especially if an ad for one of your competitors comes blaring across your speakers.
There's another administrative consideration, as well: your event may require the purchase of supplemental liability insurance for the patrons and-if you plan to host any-the performers. Consult with your insurance broker or attorney regarding the efficacy of insurance based on the particulars of your event.
Once you've devised answers to these complicated questions, work your plan by developing a checklist for all event-related activity. If you think it will take two weeks for your signage to arrive, allow three or four. Create "call times" for all essential parties, including your support staff, outside vendors and talent (if any). Once your patrons arrive, it's your job to relax and act as the happy host; and that's hard to do when you're worried the entertainment is stuck in traffic or the water ice guy is running two hours late.
When your event is over, distribute surveys to guests to discover what they liked and what they didn't. If you're a nonprofit, this is also a great recruitment tool to obtain volunteers to use at the next event!
Then, relax. Confer with your staff about the event's success and take advantage of all those points you accumulated ordering event-related supplies on your credit card. Las Vegas, here you come!
Patrick Diogenia is Founding Partner of CrowdConnect Group, a Princeton, NJ-based ad agency that produces events across the US and Canada for clients in businesses from retail to restaurants, and entertainment to electronics. Starting early as a child performer on television and Broadway, Diogenia has also planned events for his own retail business, which he sold in 2004 to produce concerts for the City of Philadelphia. He resides in Princeton, NJ and invites you to contact him at [email protected]