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Leveraging the Power of Partnership
for Smarter Private Events
Self-funded events deliver high impact and lower marketing spend
by Dennis Church, Southeast Division President, MC²
The new economy has left many marketers with scaled-back budgets or having to defend strategies that are regarded as being extravagant, such as events. However, when done right, events offer high value -- and even an opportunity to generate a profit.
While not a new concept, self-funded events are a smart option, especially in today's economy. With expenses shared between participating brands or companies, this approach provides cost-savings benefits for the organizer and its partners. And just as important is the added value for attendees, who gain access to several brands at one event rather than investing time and money to go to several shows.
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So, where do you begin? The key to executing a successful self-funded event is to start with a focused, targeted and customized approach.
Focus on a specific purpose and goals
Self-funded events can take many forms, including being held in conjunction with an industry tradeshow or as a stand-alone expo. No matter the format, all events warrant a specific purpose and set of goals.
Understanding the desired outcome helps establish a framework for a self-funded event. Let's look at two types in a little more detail:
Event within an event
Several companies are realizing a highly effective way to ensure uninterrupted, personalized time with a targeted audience is to combine a private event with a tradeshow or other industry gathering. Private events help cut through the competitive noise on the show floor and build relationships between your company executives and prospects. The result is a dramatic shortening of the sales cycle and a reduction in the number of calls required to close a sale.
Despite budgetary concerns, professionals are still attending tradeshows because they are looking for solutions to challenges or ways to build business. However, they are pressed for time. Inviting other brands to participate in your event allows attendees to gain access to several key suppliers at one time, eliminating the need to commit to multiple engagements. Plus, with each brand contributing to production costs, a shared approach allows the partners to essentially do more while using less individual resources.
Holding a self-funded product showcase event brings the target audience to your doorstep. Unlike tradeshows, this makes your company the centerpiece in what can be a highly memorable and profitable attendee experience.
Typically in these events, noncompeting companies engage attendees by offering access to a wide range of products and services. With each partner inviting its "A-list" audience, the event helps garner wider brand exposure for all companies involved.
Maximize profit-building opportunities
Self-funded events enable your company and its partners to reach important buyers and set clear, measurable results at a fraction of the cost. Additionally, they often provide a number of profit-building opportunities:
Selling exhibit floor spaces to your company's partners.
Providing housing, food, transportation and leisure at lower costs.
As a result, more money will be generated that can go back into the event. Income streams:
Streamlining event production
Private events can sometimes be costly affairs that dig deeply into possibly already strained budgets. Manpower also has to be considered when you stage an event within your industry. Working with a professional event producer can help, but how do you avoid falling deeply into debt?
Working with a proven event production partner that offers turnkey solutions to help expedite the organization, design and execution of your event. This production partner provides the knowledge, experience and expansive resources for you to execute a private, self-funded event, not only helping you save money, but freeing up your time as well.
Identify target audiences and partners
As with any marketing program, you have to know whom you are trying to reach or influence with your self-funded event. This could include retail buyers, suppliers, consumers or members of the media. Homing in on your specific audience also makes it easy for you to identify other products or services that may appeal to them and strategic partnerships to pursue.
Keep these points in mind when identifying potential partners:
Brands within your company: If your company has more than one line of products, a self-funded event is a great way for you to bring all the brands together and share the cost of the event across budgets. For example, a personal care products company may sell makeup, shampoo and other hair care products as well as personal appliances like hair dryers.
Noncompeting brands: Often, we see noncompeting companies joining forces to create an event that appeals to a shared target audience. This may include media, fashion, packaging or other luxury goods brands.
Executing a successful, customized event
When planned, managed and executed properly, events can be valuable marketing vehicles to build brand awareness and relationships, generate sales through qualified leads, and move customers into action. To get the most out of your event, there are several things to keep in mind:
Lay the foundation
Once you have established clear and measurable goals and identified your target audience and partners, you can develop an effective implementation strategy. Map out the big picture to identify how to best attract existing and prospective customers to your event. Spending time upfront will help build interest and momentum for your event.
Make sure there is an end-result benefit. For example: "Marketing beauty and fashion in a challenged economy." Structuring a plan where your private agenda is married to a bigger industry perspective helps position your event as relevant and important to attend.
Engage the media before, during and after the event to keep it top of mind and generate coverage.
Use social media and other e-strategies. Set up a blog or e-mail distribution several weeks before and after the event so attendees and partners can track the coverage online.
Share promotional activities with partners.
Build for form and function
Your event provides an opportunity to showcase your brand and engage new and existing customers. Their experience at your event is a critical component of the event. Therefore, you need a balance of fun and functional elements to appeal to your audience.
Assess the opportunities to determine the best mix of elements that offer higher value and help create a high-impact event.
Form: Find a great location that offers some in-demand leisure activities.
Function: Base the location of the event on its proximity to your audience.
Form: Hire a major industry talent to speak at the event, bring in live entertainment or create dynamic presentation videos.
Function: Offer industry-specific training that will attract otherwise reluctant attendees. Also, consider adding general sessions with buyers or retailers, press conferences, and keynote presentations.
Form: Create engaging displays and marketing materials that reflect your general theme.
Function: Expand your production elements and marketing tools to include online platforms, which will help engage attendees after the event as well as those who couldn't make it.
Self-funded events have proven to be an effective way for marketers to achieve marketing goals with high impact and lower marketing spend. If done correctly, you develop long-term partnerships; attendees have rich, personal experiences; and you generate better ROI than if you had done the event on your own.
Dennis Church is a seasoned, award-winning event producer who has produced numerous self-funded events for Fortune 500 clients globally. His experience is across markets and includes all aspects of production from initial strategy to final accounting. Church is currently president of MC2's Southeast Division based in Atlanta, Ga.
Editor's note: This article first appeared in GCI magazine's "Marketing Matters" column, February 2010.