Despite lots of handwringing that people just don't go out anymore (thanks to the Internet or binge watching or whatever), eating, drinking, mingling, partying and similar activities are actually as popular as ever. In fact, 2015 was the first year on record in which Americans spent more money eating at restaurants than they did on groceries.
All we need is a good reason to leave the house. Something more compelling than Netflix and a box of wine. Which means a great way to promote your business is to either provide that reason or sponsor someone else who is doing the providing.
The easiest way to host an event is not to host one at all, but to sponsor someone else's instead. We've all seen sponsors at events. Their names are often listed in a brochure or displayed on some signs.
A drawback is that paying to list your company's name on a sign doesn't necessarily have much impact unless the attendees already know what your company does. The value you're going to see will vary from event to event, and the more effort you put in, the more likely you are to see results.
Consider these factors:
Is the event fun or important?
Some people, God help them, enjoy running marathons. These events are the culmination of months of training and prep, making them a big deal to the people participating. A sponsor whose name is connected to the completion of a major life goal is likely to invoke good feelings.
Think about sponsoring events related to charities, holidays, sports, major school events and people with a potential cult following (like an author coming to town to read her book).
Can you add some fun?
Barring an allergy or diet, everyone likes to eat. Events, not unsurprisingly, often provide food to their attendees. This offers a wealth of potential sponsorship opportunities for your business. You could hire a food truck (which will have your name all over it of course) and give out two free tacos to anyone who gets in line. Or sponsor a happy hour and provide drinks.
Maybe the fun can be a sample of the service or product your business provides. You don't know unless you ask.
Can you be there in person?
Always attend if you can. Putting a face to your business is huge. Attendees can ask questions and establish a personal connection that makes them more likely to look you up later.
But what if you are ready to take it to the next level and host an event?
When you sponsor an event, the hosts are there to market the event, build an audience, accept any financial loses, and ensure the event is worthwhile. When you host an event, all that is on you.
Where Will You Host the Event?
If you have a storefront, the answer is obvious. At your store. This may limit the size of the event but also keeps risk to a minimum.
If you don't have a physical business address, then finding a small, appealing location is key. Unless you have partners in this event, you might not have a huge numbers of attendees, at least not at first. You don't want the people who show up to feel like they're in a half-empty room.
A bar, a cafe, a park, a church or any place where people normally gather is worth looking into.
What is the Event About?
Maybe you have a business with an obvious answer to this question. Maybe you don't.
The Make Out Room in San Francisco hosts a different events at their bar every single night of the week. In a city with more restaurants and bars per capita than any other place in the US, this is a near necessity to set them apart from thousands of competitors.
A bar hosting an event is hardly revolutionary, but it's not all DJs and music. They get creative with events like Writers with Drinks (which is what it sounds like, local authors read their books while people drink) and themed movie nights.
You can also get creative with your answers to this question. You can even just host an event that's something you love to do. A weekly group hike on various local trails. A book club. A wine and cheese night, where you provide the wine and cheese. No need to think huge. Make the event something your friends will come out for, so that you'll have a good time regardless.
If nothing comes to mind, offer to help your favorite non-profits and charities raise money. You'll be promoting your business and accomplishing something good at the same time.
How Will You Promote It?
If you don't promote the event, no one will come.
- Start by telling your own customers about it. (Email is a great way to accomplish this.) They know you. They like you. They will help spread the word.
- Get other people and businesses involved, instead of hosting it alone. These partners will bring their own groups of people along.
- Reach out to local TV stations, blogs, newspapers, and organizations/clubs that might drum up support for your event.
- Create a registration form for the event using a service like Meetup. When someone registers, they'll receive reminders in advance of the event, which will make them much more likely to show up.
Start small, get some experience, gain some exposure, and before too long your events might be so successful that other business will want to sponsor them. The benefits of hosting or sponsoring an event are strengthened by brand awareness, new client relationships and the potential for creating new leads. You can track the success of an event by offering unique discount and coupon codes to attendees for your product or service, or you can collect email addresses for new customer leads.