No matter how large your company is, there's room for events. Read on to discover the secret to growing a startup event marketing strategy.
If you're a small, agile startup aiming to lead the next revolution, you really ought to be investing in revolutionary marketing channels. Namely, events.
In-person business events are nothing new—in fact, they've been around for millenia—but over the past couple of decades event marketing has taken on a new status for companies both large and small.
Why startups need to invest in events
According to our 2018 event trends study, over 400 senior-level marketers believe that live events comprise the single-most effective marketing channel.
So what changed in the past 20 years? For one, there's a general resistance toward digital marketing tactics forming. As Gary Vaynerchuk puts it in one blog post, "Are open rates at eighty percent like I had in 1997? Absolutely not." Of course, he follows up, email still is an important marketing channel—as are digital advertising, organic search and social media.
However, across the board, audiences are growing less tolerant of digital marketing channels. In an overcrowded sea of digital noise, in-person events are the perfect island oasis.
Second, new technology has made managing, measuring and growing events easier than ever before. Just like Salesforce drastically streamlined client relationship management and HubSpot empowered a single marketer to do the job of twenty, disruptive event management software is making it easier than ever to create successful events.
At the end of the day, if you're not investing in event marketing, your competitors are. And why shouldn't they? It's never been a better time to invest in events.
Time to dive into how you can take part in the action.
1) Establish Event Goals
Whether you are hosting or attending events, the most important question for you to answer is why. What outcome are you hoping to achieve from your events?
- Increased revenue
- Lead generation
- Sales acceleration
- Stronger customer relationhips
- Investor relationships
- New hires
Your event goals will determine every other aspect of your event strategy—from the types of events you run, to the sponsors you court, to the event success KPIs you use to measure your event. Make them count.
2) Host Events
Hosting events can be a sizeable investment for startups, but it doesn't have to be. Depending on your event goals, you might be aiming to create a cozy 10-person roundtable, a friendly 30-person sales acceleration event or a larger 300-person user conference.
Here at Bizzabo, we frequently hold intimate round-table events for event professionals. These intimate, invite-only events that comprise the Eventovation series give us the opportunity to speak directly with event professionals about their event wants, needs and general thoughts.
GreenBook, a market research publication and resource service, holds a series of small events throughout the world—in addition to their flagship conference series.
The sales intelligences solution provider, InsightSquared, recently held their first annual user conference in 2017. They
What types of events you hold will again be determined by your objectives (and also your resources). Here's a quick run-down of some of some common event types:
- Round-tables: Begin building partnerships with other organizations and establish yourself as an industry-wide thoughtleader with small round-table events.
- Summits: Similar to round-tables, summits are another thought leadership-oriented event type that caters to larger crowds.
- Sales acceleration events: The best advocates for your product are your customers. Bring them together with prospects in a smaller setting.
- User conferences: If you have a large enough customer base and find that the demand is there, a user conference is a great way to bring users together and coax prospects into joining the club.
- Recruiting events: Find high-quality fits for your company in bulk with a recruiting event. Give your candidates the opportunity to experience what your company's culture is all about.
- Investor events: Show appreciation for your current investors or create an opportunity for gaining new ones.
- Training events: Rolling out a new tool for one of your teams? Welcoming a big class of new employees? Make an event of it.
- Product release events: Celebrate your success and attract the eyes of press with a product release event.
- Customer appreciation events: Show your customers that you care and bring them together for an exclusive event that says "thank you".
You can learn more about the different event types available to startup marketers in the Event Roadmap ebook. Just click the button below!
3) Attend and Exhibit at Events
Attending events can be a low-cost way for your startup to achieve a number of business goals.
If you're just attending an event as a general participant, the cost will be the event registration fee, travel and any other supplementary expenses. From there you can build valuable business connections, increase awareness about your brand and even net prospective customers.
Exhibiting at events will cost you more out of pocket. However, depending on your relationship with the event organizer, you maybe able to exhibt at a discount or for free.
Event registration set aside, you're still going to need to invest a lot in materials. These include, but are not limited to:
- The event booth
- Printed hand-outs
- Monitor rental
- And swag bags
Looking for an event to attend or exhibit at? Check out the Tech Events Guide, which includes over 130 tech summits, conferences and more.
4) Find Event Sponsors
Events (especially startup events) would be almost impossible to pull off without the help of sponsors. The support of event sponsors allows organizers to offset the high cost of event production and make the price of an event ticket reasonable.
Event sponsors provide event organizers with the capital they need to succeed in exchange for access to the event organizer's audience. Access may mean anything from having a free booth at an event and being listed in an event program for brand awareness purposes to gaining access to insightful data about an events attendees.
However, events sponsorship is becoming less of a one-and-done deal and more of a long-lasting partnership. This is because sponsors have more of a reason than ever before to invest in events. In the past, an organization would organize an event and then #hope to see some gains from it. Today, sponsors can be recompensed with key event data and this same data can be used to help sponsorship better understand the ROI of their event sponsorship package.
- Define the fundamentals of your event.
- Understand why organizations would want to sponsor your event.
- Define your event sponsorship criteria.
- Research organizations that have sponsored events similar to yours.
- Have valuable event data readily available.
For more even sponsorship tips and best practices, download our Event Sponsorship Guide.
5) Leverage Event Partnerships
While a sponsor may be an event partner, they aren't the only ones who can help you succeed. As a scrappy start-up looking to invest in even marketing, you have a surpising breadth of potential event partners at your fingertips.
Your fellow startups can be a great resource for helping to produce your event and to get the word out. Outline the benefits of splitting the cost of an event, if you think it's a good fit. If they're unable to give a hand in producing event, ask them to help you promote the event. You can make it worth their while by offering free tickets, food or a promotional IOU.
When it comes to splitting payment for an event
The rich experiences that events provide crave to be written about. Give the press a chance to do so. Writing a general press release to do this and hoping to tget picked up is one way to do this. It's also worth reaching out to publications individually.
Chances are your speakers have a sizeable online following. Ask them to assist you in promoting event. You can make it easier for them by providing images and pre-written collateral for them to share, similar to this collateral shared by TechsyTalk:
Your attendees can be some of your biggest event advocates, if given the chance. Promo codes, special offers and gifts can serve as great incentives for attendees to bring others to your event. You can also use a promotional tool like Ticket Boost, which leverages the power of social media to incentivize your attendees to share.
6) Build, Measure, Learn
It's the tried-and-true startup adage, and it's extremely relevant to events. Once you've built your event marketing strategy, measure the performance of your event KPIs, learn and iterate.
Depending on the software you are using in your event stack, you may want to look in different places for these answers. For instance, you could refer to your event dashboard, your social media metrics, your invoicing software or another platform.
You can find more event data tips in this guide:
Wrapping-up: Finding Your Startup Event Strategy
With all of the other marketing channels available to startups, it's understandable that events might not be at the top of the list. But they should be. In an industry predicated on disruption and innovation, the in-person experience can be the perfect channel for communicating a message.
If you plan on investing in event marketing for your startup, remember the following:
- Establish clear event goals to guide every component of your event strategy.
- Look into hosting events when possible, to showcase your brand and vision in all of its glory.
- Attend events when you stand the chance of reaching a valuable audience or forging valuable connections.
- Find event sponsors who see eye-to-eye with your startup and your event plan to help you cut down on cost.
- Leverage partnerships with fellow startups, media, speakers and attendees to help produce and promote your event.
- Build, measure and learn with your events strategy. Each successive event is an opportunity to improve.
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