What are the best strategies for creating influential marketing events?
Marketing events provide an evergreen method of selling to your clients. When you hold an event, you gain the ability to display hands-on examples of the services you provide. Although event planning doesn’t always come naturally, anyone can create a profitable marketing event by creating a plan that simplifies tasks and produces a repeatable formula for future use.
We at Gusto have teamed up with CPA Academy to provide simple steps for event planning. Our webinar “How to Sell More to Existing Clients” addressed the importance of creating influential events to grow your business with existing clients. This webinar was led by Matt Wilkinson, CEO of Bizink, a company that helps accountants create fundamental marketing strategies worldwide. Matt has also been a speaker at Zero-Con and various industry conferences. He has also presented webinars to tens of thousands of accounting professionals over the last decade.
During this article, we will cover the processes behind creating events that market helpful services and generate revenue. By the end, you will be able to plan a successful client event for your firm with confidence.
Who do you invite?
When determining who you should invite, begin by focusing on the topic you want to address. Once you choose the subject, you can concentrate invitations towards clients who match the presentation content. Narrowing in on a specific niche or industry creates an environment where you can effectively engage with clients who work within that industry. As you send out invitations to clients, give them the ability to bring along a friend. This strategy provides an opportunity to further your reach while selling to your existing clients:
“One of the hard things with events is getting the room full. What’s going to make it more likely for people to come is something that speaks specifically to them. If you can do something really specific to them, you’re going to create a more effective event.”– Matt Wilkinson
Events create a tremendous opportunity to network, so be sure to invite referral partners in addition to clients. Referral partners such as bankers, lawyers, and other professionals who can provide collaborative services will strengthen your event and provide opportunities to build relationships. Relationship-building is essential to effective marketing:
“The reason we hold events is relationship-building. It’s about showing our expertise that applies equally to referral partners and clients. Referral partners could be pushing more leads your way.”– Matt Wilkinson
Gathering the correct audience allows you to market your expertise to people interested in your services. It also provides an attractive pool of peers as an additional draw for guests wanting to network with each other. A captive audience dramatically increases your chance to sell your products or services effectively. Once you establish the guest list, the next step is selecting the proper time for your event.
When is the most effective time to plan an event?
Keep your audience in mind while planning a time and day for your event. Be sure to choose a time that corresponds with your clients’ respective industries. When the event conveniently fits within your client’s schedule, it will be easier to fill the room:
“If you work with contractors, construction workers, and tradespeople, morning is typically a bad time for them. However, if you market to cafes, restaurants, and bars, evenings aren’t going to work. Fit the time around your intended audience. Generally, times before and after work are the best.”– Matt Wilkinson
Your attendance also hinges upon the day you choose to hold the event. Monday and Friday are bad days because the work starts on Monday and ends on Friday. That leaves the middle of the week as the best time to plan. Many effective events fall on Thursday because clients haven’t checked out for the weekend, but the week is starting to wind down. Also, be sure to avoid special days such as holidays and other events that may be occurring in your area.
How do you choose a compelling topic?
While planning for an event, remember that your clients are taking valuable time to attend. Be sure to choose a topic worth the time they are devoting to being there. Always think to yourself about which topics would be enough to entice you away from your own business, family, or leisure time:
“Some popular topics with small business owners include: how to get paid faster, business planning, and easy ways to save time. When there’s a real, tangible benefit for a business owner, that topic is going to work well.”– Matt Wilkinson
Working with vendors also provides ways to present information to your clients. Many vendors and professional partners already have content prepared to run a smooth event, such as presentation materials. You can also reach out to your key partners to see if they could help run the event. Having representatives from the brands you are selling will increase the credibility and recognition of their products. Once you have decided on your content, you will be able to choose a venue.
How do you choose the best venue?
The best venues are those that come with the necessary tools for delivering an engaging presentation/event experience. If the venue supplies audio/visual equipment, it takes the responsibility off of your shoulders and frees up valuable time for other preparation. As the event approaches, be sure to test the equipment provided to avoid event-day stress.
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Another key component to choosing a venue is sufficient parking. Choosing a spot with a parking lot large enough for your prospective audience creates a comfortable environment before they even step in the door. Starting the event with a relaxed crowd will encourage clients to stay and receive the information you prepared for them.
What are other ways to ensure a successful event?
The next step in the planning process is to invite your clients. Invitations sent a month before the event have the best client response. If you send invites too early, your clients may forget about the event. A month gives your clients time to prepare but keeps the thought of the event fresh in their minds.
You may also want to charge an attendance fee. Even though the prospect of offering free events to your clients may seem tempting, it may result in poor turnout. However, when someone invests money into attending an event, they feel more compelled to go:
“A lot of firms charge a nominal fee to their clients. If an event is free, you can probably count on about 50% no-shows. It’s a pretty standard issue when you talk to people because if they don’t feel any pain by not coming, they won’t come.”– Matt Wilkinson
After you decide whether or not to charge admission, it’s essential to have clients register for the event. A helpful tool for registration is Eventbrite. Eventbrite offers a free ticketing service that simplifies the process of registration.
Another way to create event appeal is by providing catering. You do not necessarily need anything elaborate, but refreshments will keep your crowd happy throughout their time at the event. Something as simple as finger food could make the difference between making–or missing—a sale.
Keep the need for communication with your clients about the event in mind as you prepare. Sending one email with an invite will not be enough to ensure a turnout. Use all of the resources available to you. Social media posts, consistent emails, web banners, and even phone calls are great ways to create awareness about your upcoming event:
“Calls work great once people are registered. You can confirm that they’re going to come and ensure good attendance. Confirming attendance will make for a great event.”– Matt Wilkinson
Good preparation ensures a successful event once the day comes. Taking your time and preparing before the event makes it possible for you to thoroughly organize each element rather than trying to accomplish everything at once.
How do you run an accounting event?
As the day approaches, familiarize yourself with your content and your venue. There will probably be hurdles to overcome while staging the event, but preparation and perspective are the best ways to stay comfortable when problems arise. When you know something can go wrong, you will be ready for it:
“Stuff will go wrong; it always does. Most of the time, people aren’t going to notice, but expect stuff to go wrong, and stay calm when it does. You’ll get through it.”– Matt Wilkinson
When guests arrive, allow time for them to mingle and make introductions, when appropriate. Remember that you are in the business of making connections, and allowing your clients to connect with each other will only strengthen your event. Once everyone has introduced themselves and settled in you can begin your presentation:
“You want to deliver a short presentation. Stick to the agreed timeline, and don’t drag it over. If anything, being a bit shorter is better, but ensure you end the whole thing on time.”– Matt Wilkinson
After the presentation, provide time for a question-and-answer session. Allowing your clients to ask about your presentation will clear confusion and give you a chance to demonstrate your subject matter expertise. When the question and answer session ends, take time to individually thank each client for attending and have them fill out a short exit survey:
“Here’s the selling part, which is really powerful. Have a short exit survey asking if attendees would like help with the topics you raised during the event. It’s your call to action that can often be missed.”– Matt Wilkinson
While thanking your clients, you also gain an opportunity to continue conversations about your topic that could lead to a potential sale. When the event is over, be sure to follow up with your clients.
How do you follow up after the event?
Be sure to email the day after the event thanking those who attended and those who registered but didn’t make it. Just because your client could not attend the event does not mean they aren’t interested in buying from you. In the follow-up email, be sure to include a way for clients to set up a time to discuss the topics addressed in your presentation.
“Share any of the useful resources from the event. Create the ability for your clients to download the slides. People like that stuff.”– Matt Wilkinson
Remember to distribute the content from the event with other evergreen marketing tactics. Be sure to post highlights onto your social media pages or share a write-up on your blog. You can also feature highlights within your following email newsletter. By utilizing all possible avenues to redistribute information, you get the most out of the time and effort you put into holding your event.
Learn more about creating effective marketing events
Events are an evergreen way to connect with your client base and market new services because the information you share will remain relevant. Coupling events with consistent marketing builds trust and becomes the basis to effectively sell what you have to offer. Remember, selling to your existing clients is beneficial for both of you:
“If you’re not consistently marketing to clients, you’re leaving money on the table. Selling isn’t a dirty word; selling is helping. Clients want help, and you help them with the services you offer. Your job is to make sure all of your clients know about all the ways that you can help them.“– Matt Wilkinson
If you want to learn more about practical ways to create influential events, check out the entire webinar here. Also, if you want to learn how to apply evergreen marketing strategies to your firm, be sure to check out Part One of this webinar article series.
Here at Gusto, we partner with firms to provide practical strategies for building human connections. Be sure to check out our People Advisory Program to learn how you can effectively prioritize your clients’ individual needs. We also provide a partner blog full of resources for all your advising needs. Visit our Gusto for Accountants page for more information on people-based accounting and check out our payroll options to offer your customers a highly marketable system.