Every event planner knows it is essential to keep the pipeline full of prospects. To achieve that, it isn’t enough to do a fabulous job and rely on word of mouth. It is important to actively market your services in order to grow your business. A comprehensive marketing plan is essential and forces you to state your goals, analyze the health of your industry, identify your target audience and understand how they search and interact with information. It ensures that you plan a campaign strategy by defining all marketing areas you will use, how you differ from your competition and what consumer problems your services solve. Your marketing plan also outlines marketing tactics (your day-to-day actions), your monthly and annual budgets, and, finally, what types of evaluation you will use to measure the success of your plan.
In order to establish effective marketing practices, you must understand the needs of prospective clients and how your services can meet those needs. How do you do that? You build a relationship with clients – have a conversation, invite them to observe an event, introduce them to previous clients. Invest time to yield results that will boost your business with both new and return clients. There are other areas worthy of your attention as you look to market your services.
Networking is an essential component of your marketing strategy. People who have met you and know the services you offer may refer business to you or use you themselves. Develop vendor partnerships by building mutually beneficial relationships with others in the industry. Be sure to choose reputable, reliable networking partners. Identify ways to share customers and prospective clients, offer discounts on each other’s social channels, and feature business cards, etc. at each other’s trade show booths. Other ways to strengthen these symbiotic relationships are to write guest blogs, host others as guest writers for your blog, and to follow others on social media in order to gain followers. These interactions not only help match a face with your brand, they also provide you contact with vendors that you may use for your events.
To be competitive in the event market, maintain a clean, crisp website that sets you apart from your competitors and highlights your strengths. Include a biography and picture of yourself so clients are familiar with the face behind the brand. Use quotes, pictures, and videos to highlight successful events. Provide event-specific pages for RSVP, maps, accommodations, etc., to give clients that personal touch they desire. A regularly updated blog will give prospective clients more information about you and a better feel for your business. You can also email the blog out to previous customers to stay in touch by providing them with helpful information.
Social media marketing is today’s way of building your network and client base. 73% of event planners believe social media is the most effective tool for event marketing. Every social network serves a different purpose so differentiate the information you post and tailor the way you interact with others on each. Develop a social media identity that is consistent with your brand and keep an active social media presence. Choose two or three platforms and do them well but know that Instagram is a must to highlight the visual story of your work. Twitter is a great avenue for sending quick messages to remind people about the services you offer or to thank customers for their business. Facebook is best used for a combination of pictures and fun tidbits.
Promoting your business via social media should be the background focus; engagement is the main goal. Post regularly, share value added content, and ask questions of your followers to promote an interactive channel. Participate in discussions and share your expertise to encourage people to like your posts and to follow you.
Utilize a combination of paid and unpaid advertising and take advantage of social media analytics to provide real-time, trackable results about how many people your messaging is reaching. Tailor messages to your specific audience, targeting narrow demographic slices for best impact. Follow-up after events with posts that contain testimonials or pictures and express your appreciation to clients for their use of your business.
Email is an effective way to keep in touch with existing and previous clients. Send out newsletters, holiday cards, seasonal promotions and discount offers. Have multiple places on your website to collect email addresses so you can push out useful, event related information to prospective clients as well. In addition, email is an excellent channel through which you can offer incentives for referrals. You can also use email to share leads and expertise with your networking partners.
Use hashtags to help to populate your business on searches. Come up with a consistently used set of hashtags, like #EventTips #Celebration #Venue, etc., and include that series on all photos and posts. Videos are more impactful than text alone and are an attention-grabbing way to encourage inquiries. Videos might include testimonials, clips of events, or tips for event hosting. Post short versions on Instagram, and longer versions on Twitter and Facebook. Use tags and hashtags to connect the videos back to your business.
Get out into the public - attend trade shows and interact with prospective clients on the floor. If your budget allows, host an exhibit as this often provides a list of attendees and their contact information. Trade shows are an excellent venue for sharing flyers, brochures, and other branded items. You can also put your brand out into the public by helping those in need. Consider giving your time, materials or services to non-profit events.
And it never hurts to engage in well-priced, print advertising opportunities. The Yellow Pages, local and regional newspapers, and regional magazines often yield unexpected clients. If you have a targeted list, you can also consider a direct mail campaign of business cards and informative brochures.
Marketing efforts need to be consistent, not hit or miss. Marketing should be precise and action driven. Remember, marketing is not about getting people to remember you. It is about letting clients know you have what they need and persuading them to take action and engage your services for their next event.