Are you looking for marketing tactics that are memorable, effective, and get you in front of new potential customers?
Event marketing neatly checks all three of these boxes, and when you’re partnering with another business owner, you’re also making a valuable professional connection and extending the reach of your event.
Should You Host an Online or Offline Event?
Today, it’s possible to host an event from the comfort of your own living room. All you need is a working computer and a headset. Isn’t technology wonderful?
Business coaches Makenna Johnston and Halley Razz Gray co-hosted a casual Q&A event with WebinarJam, despite being on opposite sides of the world, and both of them got new customers as a result. Grasshopper hosted a Fireside Chat using Google Hangout with six expert panelists.
You’ll need a webinar or teleseminar tool to help you host an online event. Here are a few of my favorites:
AnyMeeting (starts at $17.99/month)
GoToWebinar (starts at $99.99/month)
InstantTeleseminar (starts at $47/month)
But before you decide what tool to use, you need to figure out whether online is even the way to go.
Deciding which is best for you: Questions to ask
Do you serve customers on a local or national level? Obviously, if your business is hyper-local, then an online event doesn’t necessarily make sense. If you serve customers on a national level, then online may be the way to go.
Is cost a limiting factor?Unless you barter for the space you’ll be hosting the event in or have an event-worthy space yourself, an online event is likely to cost less than a local one.
Do you only want to partner other local businesses or with businesses in another location? If your dream event partner is located 300 miles away, then an online event makes more sense.
Depending on how the the event goes, you don’t have to stick with strictly one medium. You can do an event locally and if it goes well, host a version of the event online for a larger audience, or vice versa.
Finding The Perfect Partner For Your Event
There’s typically two ways you can go when trying to find the perfect partner for successful event marketing:
1. Look for adjacent services or products
By “adjacent,” I mean services or products that are directly related to yours and usually purchased either before or after yours.
Example: If you’re a dog groomer, you could host a free pet playdate with a dog obedience trainer or a dog walker. If you’re a bridal photographer, you could host a mini-spa day for brides-to-be with a hairstylist who specializes in weddings.
2. Businesses that have the same target market
These businesses don’t necessarily provide a service that has anything to do with yours, but they have the same target market. Think about other areas of your customers/clients lives and consider what products and services they’re using or should be using.
Example: If you provide accounting and bookkeeping services for microbusinesses, it makes sense to partner with a coworking space, because their customer base is largely made up of your target market.
3. Look for individuals (instead of companies) that have large audiences
You could apply either of the above tactics to find people who are influential and partner with an individual instead of a company.
Example: A dog groomer could look at pet bloggers, while a bridal photographer might check out wedding bloggers. Businesses that sell to other businesses might find a blogger that writes about creating and maintaining a successful one-person business.
How to Approach Your Potential Partner
This is easily the trickiest part of the whole process. People are very protective of their audiences/customers, and a badly framed pitch or introduction email can doom your event before it starts. Nobody (including you, I’d wager) wants to hear “Hi, help me market my business!”, so follow this tips to get things off on the right foot:
Don’t cold pitch
This basically means that if it’s possible, you won’t be emailing someone you’ve never met or talked to at all before and proposing doing an event together. There’s probably someone you already know that falls into one of the two categories above, and it comes off much better when
And of course, this doesn’t have to be someone you’re best buds with - even having had a few exchanges on Twitter or Facebook is better than emailing someone you’ve never talked to with an event idea.
Frame it as a win-win (and follow through)
Tell them you’ve got a great idea for an event that you think will help out both of your businesses, and be specific. If you’ve already done some research into the logistics of the event, make sure to mention that as a sign of good faith.
If they don’t know you, make sure to give a brief introduction (1-2 sentences, tops) that shows you’re a reputable professional who really wants to make this work out best for the both of you.
Amy Zellmer, a photographer, organized an event with several other service providers that included brief talks on topics varying from skincare to natural stress solutions. In her initial outreach email, she included the estimated number of attendees (thirty people), the benefits (each participant got a list with the name and contact information of all attendees), and a detailed explanation of what the event would entail and her role in organizing it (that she was putting the event together and would be introducing each speaker and keeping track of their speaking time). She emailed twelve potential speakers and the final event had eight, which is a pretty good “yes” rate!
Obviously, after you frame it as a win-win, you need to follow through and do everything in your power to make the event a success for both of your businesses and for the people who attend, but you were going to do that anyways. Right?
Here’s a sample email template you can use to contact a potential partner:
I’m not sure if you remember me, but we met at the Austin Pet Professionals conference a few months ago. My name is Beth, and I’m a local dog trainer that specializes in training puppies and younger dogs.I’m organizing a local event and I wanted to see if you’d be interested in co-hosting it with me. It’ll be about two hours total, and I’m going to be giving a brief presentation on some basic dog training practices. I thought you might be interested in talking about how to help keep your dog fit and happy.__
I’ve already talked to the owners at Smith Park and they said they’d be happy to have us host it there on the weekend of September 5th, and a local dog treat bakery is interested in contributing to gift baggies for participants. This would be a totally free event just to meet new people and grow the community of pet owners.
Let me know what you think or if you want to meet up to discuss the idea more. Thanks for your time and have a great day!
What to Do After They Say Yes
The biggest hurdle is overcome: you’ve got a partner for your event! But your work isn’t quite done yet...
Divvying up the work
In most cases, you’ll be dividing the workload of planning and promoting your event 50/50. The main instance where you might not be is where the other person’s audience, customer base, or reach is substantially higher than yours. If they’re going to put the event in front of ten times as many people as you are, then it makes sense for you to shoulder more of the work.
The other instance would be where they (or you) are doing less work, but providing more in other ways. If they have access to an event space that can be used for free, or are providing all of the catering for the event, then it’s fair for them to do less set-up or promotional work.
When Tina White, an accountant, partnered with a human resources consultant to co-host an educational event for small business owners, they divided up the tasks according to personal strengths. “I focused more on the techy to-do list– set up the website landing page, created the flyer, and set up Eventbrite to manage registrations. She focused on the general event planning tasks - spread the word, reserved the event space and ordered the food.”
Make sure to have the workload discussion very early on in the partnership. Otherwise, boundaries can get fuzzy and issues can ensue, potentially souring your working relationship.
An easy way to make this clear from the beginning is to use an online tool like Wunderlist, Trello, or Google Drive (all free) to create and maintain a task list. That way, it’s clearly laid out what each person is expected to do and by when.
Creating the content and experience
Whatever type of event you’re doing, people need to have a reason to go. They need to know that it’s not going to just be a pitchfest, otherwise they won’t waste their time and energy (not even for free food!).
You can either teach your event attendees something useful that’s going to make a difference in their everyday life (three dog training tips) or you can provide them a service/experience that they desperately want (to a stressed out bride-to-be, the idea of a free neck rub probably sounds amazing).
Since you’re partnering with someone for this event, you can either both contribute something (a lesson or an experience), or you can work together to create one piece of content/a unified experience.
Tina, the accountant mentioned earlier, and her event partner picked a hot topic (healthcare reform and how it affects business owners) that could be discussed from two different perspectives.
“This created more of a conversation instead of a lecture. We hoped the attendees would enjoy this style more and they did. This also allowed us to seamlessly pitch from the stage without feeling too slimy. We offered a special consulting package that included both of our services at the end of the event.”
Making your event an effective marketing tool
Creating an event is fun and all, but if it isn’t actually marketing your business, it’s a moot point. Here’s a few tips to make sure you avoid that pitfall:
Goes without saying, but make sure you’re creating an event people will want to go to and will have a great experience at.
Make sure you and your partner both provide information about who you are and what you do at some point during the event.
Have an iPad, computer, or even a sheet of paper handy to collect attendee names and contact information in case that they want to receive information about your business in the future.
Consider giving attendees a small discount on your services or products, especially if they purchase a bundle of both you and your partners’ offerings. In fact, consider creating a package offering that’s only available during the event or only available to people who attended the event, like Tina did at her event.
Partner, Partner, Partner
Partnerships present the perfect opportunity to get your products and services in front of a new audience, one who has a hankering for what you sell. They also allow you to make deep relationships with another business, one that has the insights you need to grow.
Your Turn: Have you partnered with another business for an event? Who did you partner with and why? What type of event did you run? Please share in the comments!