In the events world, we have a lot to compete for. Brands are constantly vying for the attention of new clients and fans, which means the floodgates are open for salespeople to seek them out and close deals.
Industry staples such as CES and Dreamforce are consistently growing year over year. Attendance at SXSW this year, for example, grew 11% over 2015, giving brands and tech companies ample opportunity to insert themselves into conversations around technology and innovation.
But brands aren’t just fighting for awareness, or the glamorous title of “sickest after-party in town.”
They’re looking to leverage excitement and attendance to reach their business goals, from lead generation, to strengthening existing partnerships.
A logical step for those who want to capitalize on that excitement is to plan something to entertain prospects and partners already attending the larger event. A client dinner, perhaps. Or an exclusive DJ party to host potential customers.
But whatever you decide, there’s an art to getting the right people there. So how do you make sure your clients or prospects attend your event over everyone else’s?
Let’s break it down to three key ways to successfully invite your prospects to an event or meeting: choosing your events, targeting and knowing your prospects, and mastering the art of the invite.
Choose your events wisely
Whether you’re a software company at a trade show or a brand sponsoring a festival looking to network, picking the right event to pursue leads is crucial.
Of course, you’re going to want to be a part of CES if you’re a growing tech company; industry events are a breeding ground for like-minded entrepreneurs who thrive on partnerships and innovation.
There are hundreds of trade shows, festivals, and conferences you can choose to sponsor or plan a side event around. From B2B-focused niche industries like affiliate marketing (ASW is a big one) to music industry staples like Lollapalooza and Coachella that present highly visible branding opportunities.
To start, think about your business goals, and the industry and people you serve. Find the events that align with those goals, and seek out the best way to insert yourself in the buzz.
Two common paths to take include becoming an official sponsor at an event, or to plan your own activity surrounding the larger events.
SXSW boasts countless official sponsors each year. Clever brands know how to take advantage of the excitement and opportunities to get in front of new and existing users without actually sponsoring.
To better illustrate this, let’s take a look at what internet radio giant Pandora coordinates during SXSW.
Pandora hosts an annual 3-day concert during SXSW at the aptly-named “Discovery Den” in downtown Austin. But they take it one step further – Pandora offers several sponsorships of their own to brands looking to gain exposure without actually sponsoring SXSW itself.
For example, Pandora brought FedEx on to sponsor their online SXSW live stream this past year. And in past conferences, brands like Sony Pictures (promoting American Hustle with a 70’s lounge area) and Sprint (offering a branded mobile charging station at the “Discovery Den”) capitalized on the same visibility.
But taking a step back from the consumer-facing side of things…planning a happy hour, kickoff party, or even an elegant sales dinner surrounding an industry tentpole event can be just as effective, depending on your goals.
B2B-focused brands might consider saving their resources for something less glitzy and brand awareness-centric, and more focused on generating leads within their industry.
For example, how many “official” kickoff parties or side dinners do you think there are in January around CES? The correct answer is – an impossibly high number. And these dinners cost a fraction of what an actual sponsorship would cost.
There’s no “one size fits all” strategy to deciding which events to partake in, and which to pull back the reigns on and plan around. It simply comes down to your goals.
Target your prospects
This might seem like an obvious step, but it’s incredibly important to target the right people, not simply the most.
Rather than hitting up every brand attending or sponsoring the festival. Pause and think about your goals, your company’s mission, the purpose of the event, and then find the intersection of the two.
To find this magical intersection, you need to understand who you are, what your goals are as a business and an individual, and how you can genuinely help or benefit your prospects.
You have an elevator pitch for your brand, right? Does that pitch touch on anything your prospects would be interested in and is your mission relevant to the theme of the event?
In other words, make sure you know your personal sales goals and your brand’s purpose before you set your sights on prospects. Connecting yourself with someone you hope to do business with should be a natural fit.
And once you’ve narrowed down your search, the real fun becomes getting to know them. Their behavior, career path, job title…even their interests and hobbies.
Know your prospects
Making a good impression on your guests is more than memorizing your pitch and showing them a good time. Engaging with them on a personal level and researching who they are beforehand will allow you to add a personal, human touch to your interactions.
Some sales organizations use marketing intelligence tools such as DiscoverOrg or ZoomInfo to find email addresses and job titles of potential leads. And these can be extremely helpful in initial outreach, but you’ll need to dive a little deeper into your research to learn more about them as a person.
For example, what activities/hobbies do they list on their LinkedIn profile? Do they run a blog on the side? What’s their career path, and do you have any mutual interests? Do they constantly tweet about the Warriors’ strong start this season?
It’s a good idea to engage with your target prospects early on, even before you invite them. Comment on their blog posts, or interact with them on LinkedIn and Twitter. Not only does this show a human and genuine side of you, it also makes the eventual business conversations comfortable and less awkward.
Mastering the art of the email invite
Locking down a face-to-face meeting with a potential client is a lot like dating. You want to make the best possible first impression. Give them a sense of who you are, while keeping it concise. Learn about their interests and goals. And finally give them just the right amount of space afterward before re-engaging them again to finally say, “yes, I’ll go out with you again.”
That’s why your email strategy for clients and guests is incredibly important to get right.
Let’s go over the basics of an email, because it’s the little parts that make up an engaging and successful invitation.
- Subject line. This is the first thing your target guests will see from you, so make it count. It should be interesting, clear, short, and actionable.
- Keep it short. Don’t go into too much detail on the first date. Get their attention with the basics in the initial invite, and follow-up later with more information as the event date gets closer.
- Design matters. A lot. A beautifully-designed and well-laid out email shows that you care enough to spend time on them and stand out from everyone else.
“Thoughtful design allows you to stand out from all the clutter by blowing away your readers with creative and captivating emails,” according to Jonathan Ruiz, Sr. Visual Designer at Shazam.
“And that includes crafting the perfect subject line and writing flawless code to ensure your emails look great on every browser.”
The big question you should be asking yourself while writing and designing your email is, what’s the point?
There is a reason you’re inviting this person. Yes, you’d love to close a deal right then and there, but why them? For example, is this a concert after-party? Are they an industry professional that would benefit from your product? Sounds like a great fit – let them know that.
Your cadence and frequency are also crucial in engaging with and getting a response from your recipient. AKA, timing matters.
- When to send your email. Time and day of the week can be extremely important. For example, emails sent on Mondays have been shown to produce higher ROI and engagement than those sent on any other day of the week.
- Plan around holidays. Don’t expect a response over long holidays and holiday weekends.
- Space out your follow-up emails. At least one week in between should be fine. Planning backward from your event date is a great practice to schedule your email campaigns.
Not seeing any momentum? Each follow-up or reminder email should definitely be different from the previous one. You can continue to add new information or incentives, such as more specific venue details, entice them with some prizes, suggest meeting times, live entertainment teasers, and more.
Now, it’s game time.
Stay tuned for a deep dive into each section – we’ll break down not just the importance of choosing the right events, targeting the right people and how to create a successful email invite, but how to execute each step.