Using events for prospecting can be incredibly successful when done right. I realize many have not experienced this success or are simply afraid to try holding events, thinking it’s not worth the time and effort. I’m here to help deconstruct the event planning stigma and hopefully get you off the fence and in front of the room!
“I really want to do events, I’m just not sure where to start. What topic? What speakers? Who do I target?”
“I have held events in the past, but we never established a follow up plan, so they are unsuccessful.”
“I’ve tried to plan events, but no one shows up.”
“Everyone has events. I don’t want to be like everyone else.”
If any of these sound like you, you’re not alone. Planning events can be daunting and become a full-time job for a broker or agency. They can also be a tremendous tool for success, including gaining new leads, retaining clients, and closing business.
Think that’s bologna? Just ask one of our clients who closed a $150,000 account solely off of prospecting via LinkedIn and a solid strategy for follow up, both pre and post-event. Think that’s a one hit wonder situation? Think again. Through this strategy in just the last few months, he’s been able to fill his pipeline with over $350,000 in potential new business.
The truth is, it’s not the event that makes this work – it’s YOU. As with anything we advocate, accountability is key when it comes to #GSD (getting stuff done). Without it, you’ll most likely end up repeating the same sentiments at the introduction of this post.
There are a few steps to take when planning a successful event, but it’s not as tough as you might think.
1. Start with strategy
This cannot be stressed enough. Many times, we’ll see agencies frantically plan events to just ‘have them.’ They feel it makes them relevant in the market, so they put them on with no rhyme or reason and then wonder why there’s no visible sign of success.
Strategy doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s as simple as answering the following questions:
- Why do I want to have an event? Determine why you’re having the event in the first place. Is it to retain clients? Is it to generate new leads? Is it to move leads you already have along in the buying process? Is it for brand recognition? One piece of advice – resist the temptation to say YES to all of the above. Stay as focused as possible on one or two of the key areas here and not just decide to have anyone and everyone with a pulse attend your event. It leads to messaging confusion, which many times leads to lack of attendance.
- How will this event speak to my ideal client profile? If you don’t have an ideal client profile, you’ll want to know what that looks like (50-100 EE, within X area, similar values, out of the box thinkers, etc.) Once you have your ideal client profile, you’ll need to determine what challenges are most pertinent to them. (e.g., cost containment, attracting and retaining great employees, compliance, etc.) This, in turn, leads to defining who your audience will be and will also determine an appropriate topic to present.
- Who do I want to attend? If your answer is anyone who will sign up, think again. You really want to get clear on who it is you’re looking to target. Is it just C-Suite? Is it just HR? Is it both? You’ll need to narrow it down to a specific audience to provide the most value. An HR Executive has different challenges than a CEO, and a CEO has different obstacles than HR or even a COO/CFO. Define who you want to be target before hitting send on an invite.
- What results do I want to see? Make this more than just, “I want to have 50 people attend.” Really define what success looks like. “I want to obtain five new leads and set up at least 1 new meeting from this event.” “I’d like to have 15 CFOs of both clients and prospects at the event and set up at least three follow up appointments.”
2. Plan with purpose
Once you’ve outlined a strategy for your event, you’ll be able to plan. Based off of your goals, you’ll be able to decide on venue (small or large venue), topic (what challenges are most relevant to my audience), and speaker(s). A big piece of advice here – plan ahead as much as you can. Have a goal for one a quarter, three per year, etc. You can always tweak them as they come along, but setting the dates, target audience, and topic in advance is always key for success.
This cannot be stressed ENOUGH. It’s often the most missed part of the event planning process. Who is accountable for follow up and follow through? Establishing an event campaign outline, sharing it with the team, and establishing who is accountable for what will help tremendously. If you have a hard time with brokers following up, make them responsible for their own event (just make sure to set a budget!). When they take the ownership into their hands, all accountability falls on them.
4. Follow up
This should be an integral part of the entire process and strategy but is surprisingly one that is missed the most. You’ve got to have a plan for follow up, not only before the event, but after the event as well. Ensure that you’ve got a multi-step process (email invite, phone call, drop invite off at physical location, follow up email, etc.) that keeps the event in front of the audience you desire to have attend.
If you take these steps to heart, and actually do them, you’ll find much more success with events than just sporadically planning them here and there, or worse, not doing them at all. Don’t let fear of no one attending, or not having the right topic – you know, typical excuses – hold you back from a relatively easy way to fill the pipeline, keep clients happy, and close business.
Photo Credit: iqoncept