“Sarah, can you handle this?”
“And this. And that. And this.”
How many times have you wanted to scream at the top of your lungs, “I. Am. Just. ONE. Person!!!”
Then, the moment that all overwhelmed and overworked staff members dread: “Sarah, we need you to plan this lead generation event which needs to happen in 30 days and be awesome yet cheap and exciting but not expensive.”
Planning and executing successful lead generation events is not easy, as it requires experience across nearly every facet of marketing and sales from list build and promotion to vendor selection and sales follow up.
And you’re likely going to be working with a shredded shoestring budget.
Don’t freak out! You can do it.
Illumine8 Marketing and PR is here to provide some helpful tips for planning and executing a lead generation event that will save you from the dreadful fate of Milton Waddems and his infamous red stapler.
Here are some important items to consider as you start the event planning process:
It’s Not About You
You need to absorb this before you do anything.
The event must be about your target audience and what they need and not about the company you work for and why it’s so super awesome. Here are a few things to think about:
- Your lead generation event will fail if it is centered on your organization’s brand, services and/or products. If your main speaker is your CEO (unless you’re Apple or Amazon or Tesla) and your content is a PowerPoint about your brand, you’re wasting your time. No one will come. And if they do, they’ll want to run out the door screaming.
- Provide your target audience with an exclusive opportunity for a valuable and enjoyable experience. Remember, the event is just the start of the journey for these leads, not the end, so save the sales process for later and focus all of your energy on providing a memorable experience that a lead will associate and attach to your organization.
- Be disciplined. Stay behind the scenes. Embrace the Wizard of Oz role and it will pay off in the end.
Budget, what budget? Let’s be real, here. Budget matters. A lot.
The more money you have to invest, the better chances you’ll have of pulling off a great lead generation event.
You can’t do much with a shoestring budget but you can do this: Use a small budget event success to show how a larger scale event will provide even greater returns. Track everything. Showcase your highlights. Build your case for more budget dollars, so the next event can be even better.
Bottom line, though, spend whatever you have wisely. Know your audience and how to reach them as this will help you determine where you should invest your funds and where you can cut back.
Integrate for Success
An integrated event promotion approach means you tap into various mediums including digital, print, social media, public relations and possibly traditional advertising and signage. The more vehicles you can employ, the greater the chance you will have to attract the event attendees you need.
This is budget-dependent, of course, but blending social media campaigns, press releases, mailed invitations, email invitations and a streamlined RSVP process will yield the greatest results and the most balanced cost-per-lead figures.
Always, always start with the end in mind. Secure the event date and plan backwards from there. Consider the following things when creating your event timeline:
- When does your venue need a confirmed number of attendees?
- What is your RSVP deadline?
- When do your mailed invitations need to drop and how does that relate to the RSVP deadline?
- When do you need to get files to the printer so the materials will be delivered to the venue on time?
- Does your invitation drop date, digital or otherwise, conflict with any holidays?
- Are there other larger scale events in the area that could cause transportation issues?
- When are food orders due to the venue?
- When do speaker fees/travel arrangements need to be done?
- When do staff need to arrive at the venue and have travel arrangements been made?
These are just a few considerations to mull over. If you plan from the event date, back, you’ll have a greater chance of identifying problems in your strategy and nipping potential problems in the bud before its too late.
Refine Your Lists
Do everything in your power to refine your mailing or email lists prior to sending event invites. You want to attract qualified leads that have a high potential to turn into customers, not any old lead that just wants a free meal and entertainment.
This is where sales and marketing need to come together, mine the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) notes and construct the best possible prospect list. If you’re having a tough time getting the sales team involved, remind them that a successful event makes their jobs easier and will make them look great. Marketing and sales are tied at the hip, whether the respective departments like it or not.
Always remember that you will be judged not on how many people attend a given event, but on how many attendees eventually convert and become customers.
A room full of “plate lickers” can be avoided if you work hard to create a great invitation list. There will always be a few there just for free food, but you can limit this number if you make the effort to tighten up your lists.
Location and Content Matter
Where you hold your event and who you hire as the keynote speaker really matter. You want to deliver a great experience and valuable content via your lead generation event.
Everyone will be working with a different budget. That’s a variable we can’t pin down.
However, there are a few constants:
- Pick a location that is recognizable and easily accessible to the largest number of qualified leads. The harder the venue is to reach, the lower response rate you will achieve, even if you have the best venue and greatest speaker in the history of lead generation events.
- Hire a speaker that can deliver content and information that is useful to your audience. This sounds so obvious, but is often overlooked. Sometimes substance trumps name recognition in the long run.
- Select your event time carefully. To catch busy C-suite executives, consider doing a breakfast event before the workday starts. Courting seniors? Maybe a lunch seminar is the right choice. For the younger crowd, an evening event could work. Always know your audience and build your event around their behaviors and tendencies.
Always Visit and Piggyback When You Can
Always, always, always visit your venue and do a walk through pre-event. Online images, phone conversations, Yelp reviews are all great, but you can never be sure your venue is what it seems until you go there yourself. Any legit venue will roll out the red carpet for a tour if you are buying out their restaurant for an evening or two. If they don’t, beware.
Another useful lead generation event idea is to piggyback your event off of another, larger event. For example, throwing a cocktail hour at a restaurant within walking distance of an industry conference is a great way to generate leads and networking connections while providing conference attendees a way to blow off some steam.
Have a RSVP Process
Plan for how your RSVP process will work, including guest registration, cancellations and special food requests. You need to have a clear method in place to process RSVPs, respond to questions and make sure the final number you provide the venue is accurate and that your guests are accommodated properly at your event. A bad RSVP process could mean overbooking the event, serving the wrong food or wildly underestimating your actual budget.
Set Data Capture Points
Whether you have attendees drop their cards in a jar, take a survey, complete a registration form or enter into contests, make sure to set up data capture points at the event. The only way your sales team can capitalize on your highly attended event is to be armed with the best data possible. Don’t overlook the opportunity to gather data from a captured audience.
Have A Follow Up Plan
Give your sales team a reason to follow up with event attendees. Perhaps hire a photographer and place them in a prominent area for a “red carpet” type photo of couples and other attendees. Then, send a thank you letter from the team along with the photo a few weeks post-event. There are many ways to create follow up opportunities, this is just one idea. The important thing is to be aware that a reason to follow up is immensely helpful to your sales team, so build this into your event plan.
Planning and executing a successful lead generation event takes meticulous attention to detail, tenacity and the ability to adapt quickly under trying circumstances. Remember, the better you plan, the less you will have to deal with surprises and the unexpected.
Take it one step at a time. Breathe. And roll with it.
You’ll do just fine.
Get that first successful event under your belt, and when you’re ready for the BIG ONE, give us a call and we can help you tackle the event of your career.