by David Kirkpatrick, ReporterCHALLENGE
Live event marketing involves a number of elements, none more important than getting people to attend the presentation, conference or summit. Large, respected companies have a big enough challenge with this, as do well-known and established small businesses that have held several events.
But what about small- and medium-sized B2B marketers that don’t have many established events or well-known brands to serve as proof of their ability to deliver. After all, even a free event is a conversion. You must convince a business person to trade that ever so valuable commodity of time in exchange for whatever value your event will provide.
Nancy Juetten, owner of the one-woman publicity consultancy for small businesses, Main Street Media Savvy, produced an event this past December that doubled the attendance from a similar event from the previous year. And unlike the 2009 event, the 2010 version wasn't free to attend, but only required a donation of a small amount of money, or a small camping item such as a flashlight, bug spray or suntan lotion, for the Rise N Shine nonprofit that provides summer camp for kids whose lives are impacted by HIV and AIDS.
The event was the second annual "Publici-tea and Book Publishing Summit" that coupled Juetten's "soloprenuer expert" coaching services with her event partner, Patrick Snow, providing information on book publishing as a marketing tool for entrepreneurs.
After the event Juetten offered the material at no cost through December 25 in exchange for new email sign-ups as her "holiday gift to the world." She is continuing to market this event as a commercial e-summit for purchase, with a portion of those proceeds also going to Rise N Shine through 2011.
"One year ago I produced a similar event with the same partner and it was very successful," explained Juetten. "It was very well attended and people really enjoyed it, so we decided to do it a second time with a nonprofit twist this year."
Juetten decided to add the nonprofit entrance fee to the 2010 event because she felt it would send a powerful welcome message during the holiday season and build stronger commitment in the event. Added to that was the charity was also the designated nonprofit of the hosting sponsor, and the location featured "giving trees" inviting people to make an additional donation to the charity.
Even with that initial event under their belts, the challenge was quite daunting to the team, because the final decision to produce a second event was made in mid-November, less than a month before the event was to take place.
Pulling off a successful event was the obvious goal, but Juetten had much larger designs in mind for this marketing effort. One live event in early December 2010 has turned into a year-long marketing effort that both benefits the charity through 2011 and continues to drive sales for Juetten's consultancy.CAMPAIGN
Planning and promotion are important for smaller events that aren't going to drive wide attendance. It's key to have a critical mass of attendees and sponsor tables to ensure attendees take away both knowledge and networking from the event. Here’s what the team did:Step #1. Cast a wide net when choosing channels for promotion
The planning for this live event happened over a relatively short period of time -- the idea for a second event cropped up in November and the event was scheduled for December 10.
The 2009 event was free, and the idea was to make the 2010 event essentially free with a relatively small charitable donation the price of admission. Juetten found the nonprofit angle resonated with her audience.
"I wanted to make sure that we could do something good with the event, so I invited people to bring an item to donate to a nonprofit organization so they would have some investment in the game," states Juetten.
The quick turnaround from idea to event was possible because Juetten leveraged marketing materials from the previous year's event and simply updated them to begin creating awareness for the new event.
- Begin promotion
The key to promoting the event was reworking marketing materials from a similar event executed the year before.
These materials included:
o A one-page flyer
o A dedicated landing page at Juetten's website
o Email newsletters distributed through an email marketing service
o Social media outreach
- Blog posts at Juetten's website
- Facebook posts
- Facebook fan page posts
o Email blast to Juetten's entire community to invite them to the event and request they forward the message
o Juetten also used several online promotion services to spread the word
Juetten cast a very wide net in a limited amount of time to promote the event, and she found email was the most effective marketing effort. While she didn’t have a huge audience, a small but loyal one can be just as helpful.
She said, "My e-zine messages to my current community were clearly the most influential in bringing people to the door because those people have raised their hand and said, 'I like, know and trust what Nancy has to say and I want to play with her when she invites me in.' And the fact that the cost, the barrier to participate, was a flashlight or a bug spray or sun tan lotion to benefit a very meaningful and worthwhile nonprofit, I think that spoke volumes to people."
- Leverage partner audiences
Another area Juetten utilized to promote the event -- she offered event sponsors marketing tables in the room in exchange for promoting the event to their extended communities. Along with the marketing table at the live event, Juetten also offered to promote sponsor's logos on the event sales page through 2011.
"A result of everyone's collected contribution of spreading the word is we were able to get a lot of people in the room, and a lot of the sponsors were able to welcome new clients," Juetten states.Step #2. Focus on value to the audience, not selling
Before Juetten and her partner began the event, the nonprofit screened a video showing the charitable work it does making the audience understand and feel good about their donation.
The event featured two speakers, with Juetten presenting second.
The first speaker was a book publishing coach with a 45-minute presentation on helping entrepreneurs get their ideas on paper to create a book to use as a marketing tool, and to determine if writing a book is the right strategy for their particular business.
Juetten's presentation covered her "Rock Star Status Reality Check" aimed towards entrepreneurs looking to become experts in their field. She outlined why people need to be prepared before the media interviews them as an expert and how appearing on television or being quoted in the media requires practice and preparation.
Making the sales pitch of her services a very understated part of the presentation was important to Juetten. Her only call-to-action during the event was a simple, "If what we have talked about today would ease your pain, I would be delighted to be of service."
In addition, informal networking before, during the break and after the presentations allowed attendees the opportunity to connect, make friends and form new collaborations.
"We have all been to these events where all of the big players are talking and speaking and everybody in the room is anticipating that the big pitch is coming and I am here for free, but now they are going to sell me," she explains.Step #3. Don’t stop marketing when the event ends
The live event may be over, but the real marketing work just begins. She had this live event captured on audio, video and transcribed and it is now a virtual product available for purchase.
Juetten now sells this event as an e-summit at her website with five percent of that profit going to the charity for all of 2011.
Even thought the live event was essentially free, and the material was free from December 10 to December 25 for anyone who signed up for Juetten's email list, she is now selling the e-summit along with her book to leverage the time spent on the event.
"Anyone who's a small business owner knows the importance of leveraging your time, effort and resources across many different avenues to make every move you make count," she said. "This was a very content rich that could serve a whole lot more people, not only here in my backyard, but anywhere in the world. For a modest price people can get a copy of my book and all the content shared at the event."
She further explained this effort, "Event producing is not for the faint of heart. It takes an awful lot of time, energy, creativity, coordination and collaboration. It's a big darn deal and to pull something like this off in one month's time, how wonderful is it to have something at the end of it to share with the world so it can work for me 24/7 all year long. To me that is a great outcome."
She added the accessibility and ease of video coupled with the omnipresence of social media and useful tools for email marketing allow you to leverage live events and as she put it, "make it appear so much bigger after the fact."
Within three days of the completion of the event, a highlight video set to music was on Juetten's website, and co-promotion partners began sharing that video on:
o Facebook communities
o Email newsletters
o Attendance for the 2010 event doubled the 2009 event
o Pre-registration was 145
o Actual attendance was 75 -- 52% of all pre-registrants
o Juetten made 8 sales on the event day -- 11% of attendees
o Juetten's consultancy creates yearly revenue in the low six figures, and she attributes around $10,000 in sales to the event coming in from December 11 to the present.
o Between December 10 and December 25, the free e-summit offer created 330 new email list sign-ups, bringing Juetten's total list to around 4,000
o Juetten has received two speaking engagements since the event based on the live presentation
o The after-the-event promotion generated twice as many event sign ups to enjoy the virtual eventUseful links related to this article
1. Event flyer
2. Initial email
4. Email to drive new opt-insMain Street Media SavvyPublici-teaConstant ContactFilling That Workshop at the 11th Hour Can Be Done -- Here's HowVirtual Events: How IBM’s marketing department quickly responded to the economic downturn
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