Nothing goes hand and hand quite like business and networking. If you’re part of the latest business boom Indianapolis is experiencing, it only makes sense to consider how you’ll market your Indianapolis events this coming year for maximum impact.
The key to any successful event marketing plan is having a series of easily repeatable steps that not only help you reach your existing audience, but also help you reach new people in the right places at the right time.
You’ve been to your share of events and conferences. You know what you like and what you don’t. You know how you’d like to present your products or services and the style of event that fits your goals best, and you know what outcomes you’re aiming to achieve.
But there are a lot of aspects to hosting a successful event and most of them are crucially tied to its eventual business outcome. The task of organizing and executing something on this scale can seem daunting. And that doesn’t even count the effort that goes into promoting it.
Rather than winging it this time, try following these five (5) easy steps to market your Indianapolis event—including more than 20 ideas in our Indianapolis event marketing checklist. These will help you conquer the event marketing promotional game like a boss.
It’s time to put on your thinking cap (or party hat perhaps?) and get to work on your next successful event.
? Step 1: Know your Goals
Events are fun. It’s a chance to get out of the office and hopefully get some cool swag.
And hosting your own events can be fun, too. It’s nice having an event where your message, product or service is central to the theme, and people leave with a better understanding of what you do, what you care about and how you might be able to help them or their businesses too.
But, to make sure you have a slam dunk event, you need to start with a framework of goals. Step 1 in our process deals with constructing that framework before you even make the first call, order the first appetizer or send the first tweet.
✔ Idea #1: Create Event Goals
Events are marketing opportunities and should be treated as such. And like other marketing opportunities, you need to have event goals if you want to be able to measure how successful they were at achieving your objective after they occurred. Events should be part of larger objectives—tied to strategies for the business.
Common event goals could be:
- Features & Benefits. Introducing customers and prospects to new features or benefits
- Collaboration. Introducing customers to one another for greater collaboration among key stakeholders
- Education. Educating your stakeholders on trends, changes or policy that may impact their businesses
- Partnerships. Announcing new partnerships or alliances that may help your prospects and customers
- Awards & Milestones. Hitting key milestones together with key stakeholders you want to recognize
Having goals also plays into how you’ll structure your event from the theme and budget to how it is organized and presented, and who you want to include on the invite list.
✔ Idea #2. Tie them to Business Goals
Taking things back a step further, what are the goals for your brand and business in the long run and why is hosting this event particularly useful in helping you achieve those goals?
Setting specific goals gives you a destination to point towards and breaking those goals down into smaller achievable tasks helps to keep you on track and moving forward. Your event goals should help towards you achieving your business goals.
It’s also important to determine (before you start planning the event) that hosting an event is really the best choice for achieving the goal you have in mind.
Events are time-consuming endeavors that will eat up staff time, budget and attention. You want to make sure that investment is entirely worth it before you agree to do it.
✔ Idea #3. Have an Audience
If you are still early enough in the process where you’re determining your event goals, it’s a good time to think about whether you already have a built-in audience to draw attendees to your event or whether you’ll need to drum up all the interest initially. If you do have an audience, do you have a way to contact them directly like a well-curated email list?
Either scenario is fine, you’ll just want to leave yourself a little extra time to gain event traction if you don’t already have warm leads.
You can build more leads than you think by working with your own business vendors and partners, your employees and team, your social network and other business networking organizations, especially if you’re in any trade groups or associations.
? Step 2: Find an Indianapolis Event Venue
One of the benefits of being in a popular convention city is that there isn’t a shortage of great places to host an event of any size. And with the increasing interest in revitalizing historic buildings, and creating pop-up spaces that work for a variety of activities, there’s no end to what Indianapolis event spaces may look like in the future.
But, with so many options, finding an Indianapolis event venue that is perfect for your event may start to eat into your research and preparation time more than you’d like. That’s why it’s important to really work through this process in Step 2 so you come up with a space that exactly aligned with your objectives to have a killer event that is memorable, fun and useful for your business.
✔ Idea #4. Know Your Venue Needs
You need an event venue that can handle all your requirements, and at the top of the list for determining a venue is your audience size and the venue’s maximum capacity.
It’s simple math. If you need capacity for at least 250 attendees, that’s a hard cutoff. But, you want to be certain about the seating arrangement you plan on using as well so that your audience isn’t cramped or unable to move around and network if that’s part of the experience.
But it doesn’t end there.
- Will there be food or beverages?
- What are your specific catering requirements? Are you trying to bring in your own food or use one of their preferred caterers?
- Will you have guest speakers?
- Do you meeting break-out rooms and a larger room for the full group?
- What are your A/V requirements?
- Do you need staging, podiums, a projector and screen?
There’s a lot more to the room than just the room.
We asked Crystal Grave, founder of Snappening, an Indianapolis-based tech company focused on event venue and planner searches, about what the initial ask should include, and she offered this advice:
“Make a list of your specific event needs in advance so you’re prepared when looking for a venue and come armed with all those details in hand. If you know exactly what you want so far as room size, capabilities and what you’re trying to achieve, the venue owners and venue managers you contact can give you much better answers much faster, and cut down your research time tremendously.
That’s why we made it easier for those planning events to ask a lot of the same types of questions at once to multiple venues on Snappening. This way they can focus on planning their event, and less on the daunting task of contacting a bunch of venues, which can be a real time suck if you let it.”
✔ Idea #5. Get Connected
If you’re in the tech industry or want to make technology a focal point of your event, we might assume you’re going to want Wi-Fi and potentially lots of it.
You’ll want to discuss options with the venue for fast Wi-Fi for large groups. If part of your marketing and event strategy is having attendees live posting and connecting on social, you want to make sure you have a pipe big enough to handle all the traffic, especially if you have plans to use it as well. Take the time to calculate the Wi-Fi needs for your event.
You might also want an easy way for your attendees to connect with one another during the event. Consider incorporating a tool like Socio, another Indiana-based #eventtech startup that allows attendees to do virtual “handshakes” and connect on multiple social networks at one time without exchanging one paper business card.
✔ Idea #6. Do a Dry Run
It’s always better to find out about problems before event day. ?
If your event is overly complex, detailed, includes numerous outside vendors or has a lot of moving parts the venue might not fully appreciate, we highly encourage you to do a pre-event walk through and test everything to make sure it’s working. It’s in the best interest of the venue to do this as well, and hopefully your venue contact appreciates this.
Learning about an issue in advance can save you a lot of heartache and panicked running around. You do not want to find out something is wrong when you’re standing in front of 500 people who are eagerly awaiting your wisdom. #trustus
✔ Idea #7. Hire a Pro
If you don’t have as much time as you do budget, it may be in your best interest to consider hiring a professional event planner to manage the details.
Think about how much time and effort it will require of your staff, calculate that opportunity cost, and then contact some planners. It doesn’t hurt to ask and could save you a lot of stress, time and money.
Professional events planners will come to the table with lots of benefits for your team including relationships with event venues, event vendors and caterers. They will also have a lot of planning experience you may lack and know about permitting requirements, technology hiccups and other things you failed to consider. If you’re short on staff, they can also bring helpers along for check-in tables, payment processing, award distribution or other administrative items that the event demands.
While your team is focusing on making the event’s content and your brand shine, the planner can focus on working with the event vendor team and the venue to make sure everyone has a winning experience—most notably—your attendees.
? Step 3: Prepare for your Audience & Takeaways
How well do you know your audience?
Are you certain?
Tailoring your event to your audience’s wants and needs can make the difference between a rousing success and a lackluster failure. Everything from the registration process to the actual takeaways when it’s all over plays a part in the event experience.
Once you’re clear about business and event goals, and you’re certain you’ve got the space you want on the date you need it, you can turn your attention to Step 3—audience preparations and key takeaways.
✔ Idea #8. Get the Word Out
To get people to register for your event, they must know about it first.
And for them to know about it, they need to be able to find out about it somehow.
More than likely they’re going to see or read something about it, and oftentimes they’ll be influenced by what they see a friend, colleague or someone they respect doing.
So…the larger question here is, do you know where your customers’ eyeballs are and what influences them to act?
Because the answer to that question is critical in determining where your message should be and with what frequency.
Whether it’s social media, influencer marketing or a media partnership, that’s where you’ll want to put your message, time and attention to help you achieve your event goals.
Make a list of all your available event promotion channels, and then rank that list based on reach and ease of promotion. Focus on those with the least amount of effort and the greatest reach first, and keep working your way down the list as you get closer and closer to the event itself.
We’ll get to more detail about this later in Step 4.
✔ Idea #9. Tackle the Event Page & Registration Process
When looking at event registration options, look at what will work best for your audience. Sure, it should also be convenient for you as well, but your customers should always have priority of convenience.
The software you choose may be guided by integrations you need, extra information you need to ask in the registration process, or whether the event is free, ticketed or both.
Remember, you can also create a Facebook event for your event and make any ticket or RSVP process you’d like. (Please note that Eventbrite has recently integrated more directly with Facebook events and will allow Facebook users to register directly with less clicks—which may help your event marketing efforts.)
No matter which event registration option you choose, make sure your event page is SEO-friendly and that it uses simple links and is discoverable by other social platforms and search engines if you’d like more people from the public to find out about it and attend.
✔ Idea #10. The Takeaways
What do you want to leave your attendees with when the event ends?
Is knowledge and an interest in buying products and services from you? Or would a swag bag with fun goodies that will have permanent homes on desks and shelves be a good way to keep your brand in the front of their minds?
Are your events a way for people to grow their personal network? Can you foster that after the event ends?
Finding the right mix can take time. No matter how much research you do in advance, this process is trial and error. You hopefully have many events in your future. You will learn what works and what doesn’t.
Just remember to leave enough room for your takeaway plan in your overall event budget, or ticket price.
✔ Idea #11. Use Consistent Branding
Repetition makes things stick in your head—from the most annoying radio jingle to learning a new language.
Consistent event branding is one of the subtlest examples of this. Consumers learn to recognize the look, feel, color, iconography and images associated with a specific brand subconsciously, and then seek out the design over time to speed up their eye tracking needs on a page.
Applying this psychological norm to you plan means everything for your event from the first invitation, through the materials and presentations at the event, and the survey your attendees complete afterwards should look like it came from the same place.
This means you’ll want to create an entire asset library for the event so all the pieces are sized and designed appropriately for the registration site, social media channels, signage and other outlets. Don’t forget standard copy too.
Make it as easy as possible for attendees to remember your brand and your event days, weeks, months and even years down the road.
? Step 4: Promote your Indy Event
Once you’ve got all the back-of-house elements in place to rock your event, it’s time to get the word out publicly in Step 4.
The good news is that there are a lot of ways to do that. The bad news is there are a lot of ways to do that.
Don’t kill yourself trying to do them all. Find the ways to promote your event that will work best for your audience, and do them to the best of your ability as we discussed previously.
These ideas are some of the most tried and true for those in the Indianapolis business and tech communities.
✔ Idea #12. Leverage Local Media Outlets & Promotional Groups
✔ Idea #13. Email…Email…Email
We mentioned the importance of building an audience and a well- curated email list earlier.
This is part of the reason you’ve been building it, so don’t be afraid to use it to promote your event.
Everyone on your email list has shown an interest in your company and has given you permission to contact them.
Let them know what your event offers them, make it easy for them to find out more and convince them it’s where they need to be. Better yet, compel them to bring and friend and share the event details on their own social channels.
(A contest for all those that share the event may help inspire people to do so more readily.)
✔ Idea #14. Think of Facebook as a Friend
Having a strong Facebook presence for your business will help you promote your event to all your Facebook page followers.
If you don’t have a strong presence with your own page, consider co-hosting the event with several other entities and cross-link the Facebook event page on all the participating business pages for more coverage and exposure.
Make sure that the event venue hosting your event has a strong Facebook presence and an adequate Facebook page so you can tag them and include them in your posts and vice versa.
Facebook Ads can be yet another cost-effective way to get your message in front of new people who might have an interest in your company and your event. If you’ve thought about advertising on Facebook but just haven’t taken the plunge, now would be a good time to try the Facebook for Events advertising goals.
Utilizing Facebook Live to give people a peek at what they’ll get at the event with a behind-the-scenes look could also be a great teaser. It’s a great way to showcase the awesomeness that’s forthcoming.
✔ Idea #15. Use Other Social Channels
You will (more than likely) want to promote the event on all your social channels leading up to the event.
If you are short staffed or usually have trouble staying on top of social media posts, it would be a good idea to use a social media scheduling tool like Buffer or HootSuite to organize and schedule your outgoing messages, especially during the event itself.
Create a hashtag for the event. Make it simple and easy to remember and use it early and often. Your attendees will notice and use the hashtag too, making it easier for you to engage with them and share their thoughts with your audience.
(Don’t forget to list the Wi-Fi information and the event hashtag on all the event tables and signage too.)
Consider doing a social media takeover day where you take over a partner or influencer’s social media account for a pre-determined day (or a set amount of time) and do Q&A with your audience. You can promote your event and gather questions to ask the speakers or presenters. It’s also another chance to use the hashtag.
Print and set up an Instagram photo prop poster frame for live event posts. It encourages attendees to share messages on social media and is something fun for them to do during breaks.
Assign someone to live tweet important quotes from speakers and scenes from your event. FOMO is real and showing off your current event will help you sell your next one.
✔ Idea #16. Partner with the Venue for Promotion
Work with the event venue and ask them to help you with your event promotion as a trusted partner.
The best venues usually have a significant social media base because it’s a cornerstone of building a thriving venue operation. It’s also a great way to cross promote client events because both businesses can provide one another with a new audience of potential customers.
But what if the event venue you’ve selected is perfect for your event, but doesn’t have a strong social media presence just yet? No matter.
If they aren’t particularly media savvy, or are just too new to have big base, you can add some value for your venue partner by introducing them to this free guide on how to market an event venue too.
✔ Idea #17. Don’t Stop Promoting at Registration
Your response to an attendee’s registration is another avenue to help promote the event.
Make sure your registration “thank you” page and confirmation email have opportunities for attendees to share the event with their audience. Consider offering a prize or a gift at the event for attendees who shared the event with their friends and contacts on their social channels.
This is a great time to encourage them to use the event hashtag and to follow you on social media if they haven’t already.
You can also take this time to solicit questions for your speakers and presenters. It’s a great way for recently registered attendees to interact and share.
✔ Idea #18. Make it Easy for Speakers and Partners to Help
If your event has speakers, special guests or partners, make social sharing easier for everyone by doing the heavy lifting for them. Provide pre-made posts, tweets, links and shareable images appropriate for all social channels. They will be much more likely to help if you take the stress out of it. Copy. Paste. Click.
Tools like Click to Tweet make this request incredibly simple and straightforward for your biggest event advocates.
✔ Idea #19. Have a Compelling Message and Visuals
All the things we’ve mentioned up to this point will be a lot more effective if you have a compelling message.
That’s more than just a compelling idea or theme, but also all the collateral that goes along with it: messaging, images, video, and some social proof from others about the quality of your event.
Documenting your event with photos or video is necessary if you plan on doing more events in the future. The more important the event is to you, the more important it will be to invest in professionals to help you in these areas. Professional photographers and videographers can help frame your event better than you or your staff who will already be occupied organizing and leading the event.
? Step 5: Plan for Post-Event Strategies
Everyone deserves a break after a big event, but your work doesn’t end when the attendees leave. It’s the best time to start laying the foundation for both the next step you want your attendees to take with your brand, and your next successful event.
Step 5 walks you through a couple more crucial ideas to squeeze as much marketing oomph as possible out of the event.
✔ Idea #20. Thank ‘Em and Follow Up
Send a post-event email to all attendees thanking them for their time and reminding them about the next steps you’ll hope they take with your business.
Not only is it a good way to give them another nod of appreciation, but you can also provide them with links and access to any extras or goodies you mentioned during the event. A special bonus that’s only available to event attendees is always a nice touch.
It’s also an excellent time to get their feedback.
Always give your attendees and opportunity to share their thoughts after an event. Ask them to complete a post-event survey while the event is still fresh in their minds. It doesn’t need to be long, and you’ll get a better response if you keep it short and simple, with as many close-ended questions and ratings as possible.
Want to schedule demos or get meetings set up with attendees?
Make those choices super simple with an email that already offers those options and link it to a meeting scheduling tool that can drop the appointment on both your calendars immediately.
✔ Idea #21. Tease Your Next Event
If you know what you’ll be doing next, share some nuggets with your attendees to build anticipation for your next event.
This is an excellent way to get them to follow you or sign up for email announcements if they haven’t already done so.
Post your event slides on Slideshare for the world to see—assuming the value derived from the event was mostly live and now the materials are just solid marketing ground for you.
It’s a good way to highlight what you’ve done and provide examples of what your next event could entail. It’s also a great way to continue to build your SEO presence around keywords that are relevant to your business.
Conclusion: Host Indianapolis Events that are Major Winners
Whoa, that was a lot to consider, wasn’t it?
But if you’re taking the time, money and effort to put on an amazing Indianapolis event, you want to make sure you do it right. One successful event can help you sell your second one, just as much as one disastrous event can sink it.
And if there’s anything that Hoosiers know, it’s that if you’re going to do something, you want to take the time to do it well. You want to show your attendees a bit of your charm and hospitality, all the while promoting your brand and working to achieve your goals.
You don’t need to do everything on the list to be a success. Look at your individual needs and what you are trying to accomplish and grab the most important bits that will work for you and help you improve your event.
? Here’s to your triumphant event in the Circle City!