Tuesday, August 4, 2015


Hosting an event to which you invite prospective clients and potential referral sources can be a powerful approach to building your business. When you get people together in an event centered on your business, it gives you an opportunity to build the know, like, and trust factor that encourages clients to work with you. But hosting events isn't for everyone. Here are seven keys to success for invitation events that enroll clients.

1. Design an event to introduce people to your business.

When I was first starting out as a business coach -- back when no one knew what that was -- a colleague and I used to host a no-cost "introduction to coaching" evening in a downtown conference room. We would invite people in our marketing pipeline to attend, serve them coffee, tea, and snacks, and show them a live coaching demonstration. We found this to be a very effective way to move our prospects from simply being curious to being ready for a sales conversation, and numerous new clients resulted.

A similar approach can work for just about any business. Financial planners or accountants might offer a complimentary or low-cost in-person workshop. For a wellness center or fitness studio, an open house could be effective. A coach or trainer might offer a free teleclass. If you have a portfolio like a graphic or web designer would, a webinar can be a good choice. And almost any type of business could host a networking mixer.

2. Establish clear goals for your event.

Decide what you want to get out of being a host. Do you want to simply get to know your prospective clients better, or do you want them to experience what you do? Is part of your purpose to showcase your skills and expertise? Do you want to attract only highly-qualified prospects or would you rather have as many people there as possible?

The answers to these questions will help you know what sort of event to offer and whether you want to charge a fee to attend. Don't confuse a promotional event with a money-making one. It sometimes makes sense to charge a fee for an event to make sure only qualified prospects attend. But don't expect to turn a profit on your event, or even to recover your costs. Your profit will come from the new business you get, not from the event itself.

3. Craft an enticing title and description.

Even when your event is free, you must put as much effort into making it attractive as you would for a paid event. Your prospects' time is valuable, so they want to know if your event will be worthwhile. Give it a title that promises benefits, and describe what people will learn, experience, or take away if they attend.

4. Plan how you will promote your event.

Getting enough people to attend your event typically requires promoting it in a variety of ways over a period of several weeks. This can be enough of a challenge that, as I said in a previous article, sometimes it's better to be the guest, not the host. You'll be most successful at hosting an event if you already have a substantial number of prospects in your pipeline. Until you do, you should consider being a guest presenter at events hosted by others, instead of trying to put on your own.

I like to allow six weeks of lead time when hosting an event. I create a promotion plan that includes adding a registration page to my website, sending several invitations via email to my prospect list, mentioning the event in my ezine and blog, and posting about the event multiple times on social media. I also send personal emails and place phone calls to specific people I'd like to have there. Depending on the event, I might also create a flyer to distribute at other events I attend, or a postcard to send by mail.

5. Create a positive experience.

Consider all the elements that will make your guests feel welcome and help you accomplish your goals. For a live event, you may need food and drink, music, flowers or other decorations, a projector and screen, and supplies like paper and pens. For a virtual event, practice in advance on the teleconference or webinar platform you will use for your event. If you'll be making a presentation, outline and rehearse it. Make a timeline for your event to allow for greeting, the main program, enrolling, and wrapping up.

6. Enroll clients before they leave the "room."

Whether your event is in person or virtual, decide how you will ask prospects to commit to a next step before they leave. At the conclusion of your event, people will be interested and excited. Now is the time to ask them to sign up for your program, have a sales conversation, or make an appointment for a complimentary session. Make this request as part of your planned program.

For a virtual event, you can set up an online registration or appointment form that prospects can access before your event ends. At a live event, you can ask people to fill out a paper form or use a tablet for the same purpose. In either case, the incentive of a discount or bonus gift can encourage your guests to take action immediately.

7. Follow up after the event.

Reserve time on your calendar after the event to follow up with everyone. Thank your guests for attending, and remind them of the next step to work with you, if they haven't taken that step already. Follow through on scheduling appointments for sales conversations or complimentary sessions for people who asked for them. Also follow up with those who registered for your event, but didn't attend. Diligent follow-up after an event is key to making it productive.

Hosting invitation events can reward you with many new clients, but as you can see, there's a lot involved in making them work. If reading these keys to success makes you feel overwhelmed or anxious, consider whether other high-contact marketing approaches such as networking or public speaking might be better choices. If instead you now feel energized and enthusiastic about the possibilities, hosting an event might just be the perfect marketing approach for you.

Copyright © 2015, C.J. Hayden

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