Event marketing is notoriously time consuming and expensive. If you’re on a shoestring budget, hosting or sponsoring events can be a risky investment. The time spent on planning, designing invitations, mailing costs, advertising and venue and catering expenses all add up fast. Many firms are turning to webinars and online meetings to minimize venue expenses. Webinars have many benefits, but they lack the ability for face-to-face introductions.
Event marketing can be very effective for professional services firms — if done right. Gaining one great client can easily give you a substantial return on your investment. But it’s not always realistic to convert a room full of listeners into a handful of great clients, especially when you’re selling higher-level professional services.
Don’t jump to deeming your event a failure if it didn’t generate billable work in the short-term. There are other intangible benefits to keep in mind:
- Exposure. Speaking on a subject reinforces that you’re the expert. Don’t forget that the advertising and related public relations around the event are great branding opportunities.
- Lead generation. Other forms of marketing and PR establish you as the expert, but events bring those leads together into one room. Now you have an audience of real, live breathing people who want to hear from you. This is your chance to introduce yourself, and get their contact information for follow-up.
- Client nurturing. Not all events are about meeting new leads. Educational and social events allow you to provide your existing clients with helpful information and a chance for some face-time. Social events let you show your appreciation for the client’s business.
With these benefits in mind, events can still be risky. Their effectiveness can be difficult to measure, especially if direct business isn’t an immediate result. Here are 4 ways to improve your event ROI:
- Set goals. Reevaluate why you’re hosting the event in the first place. If a seminar hasn’t been effective for a few years in a row, revisit the strategy. Align your goals with your firm’s strategic objectives. Be sure that the event is designed to reach your target audience. Try to measure the results of the event in previous years.
- Have a “pre” and “post” strategy. Whether you’re hosting the event, or attending an industry tradeshow, develop a simple pre-event strategy. Think about who you want to meet, how you’re going to spend your time during the event, and how you’re going to follow-up after. Huddle up with your team and devise a simple plan. Coming back to the office with a stack of new business cards gives you a new list of leads for follow-up. Don’t overlook the follow-up phase.
- Provide value. Educational events shouldn’t be all things to all people. Be mindful of the topic. What’s keeping your client (or desired client) up at night? What’s happening – or about to happen – that affects them? Be very careful that your event title and marketing materials clearly explain who should attend and exactly what they will learn. Work on attracting qualified leads. And don’t panic if your registration numbers are a little bit lower than you expected. If you’ve marketed the event right, you’ll have quality leads outweighing quantity.
- Leverage. Make the most of your event marketing efforts and leverage it. Turn the topic into an article or ebook for your website (the published content is great for SEO!). Follow-up with everyone who attended on LinkedIn and Facebook. Add attendee contact information to your e-mail marketing list. Write a press release about the event and update your professional bio.
Event marketing can be worth the time and energy if you plan ahead and follow through on the pre-event and post-event strategy. Learn more about integrating online lead generation with event marketing.