Observations of Campaign Techniques-It’s Who you Know

A lovely older woman I know asked me to attend an event to see a nationally renowned Congresswoman. She didn’t say why, just asked me to come and who I could bring. I know the ropes, it’s actually a pep rally to get a group of people excited about the upcoming election. But none of that was discussed. Reminded me of an Amway pitch-I once was suckered into doing that for a while too.

I went because I know this woman, because she asked. I also had in the back of my mind that two interns should go for an opportunity to meet this federal representative. So I shared the appointed time and location with students and gave up a Sunday to attend.

Room was filled with 150-200 people. There wasn’t enough coffee. The food didn’t recognize today’s standards to eating issues–most women my age have given up donuts and fattening muffins for breakfast. Did I mention there wasn’t enough coffee?
The location had the worst accoustics. If you want to plan an event for 200 people you certainly need parking and space. But you also need to be able to have sound. Someone set up the microphone in front of the speakers–assuring hideous feedback every time the Congresswoman moved. Had the speakers been placed closer to the audience so she could walk…er…pace…behind them, she could have stuck with the microphone. In the end she abandoned the microphone to bellow. She was able to reach most of the room, but not those of us in the back. It’s okay, it was a pep rally, I know the drill. She wrapped up and people started to head out. The political aids were all poised at the back to capture departing guests to sign up to volunteer.

What they lacked in setting logistics they made up for in understanding their purpose–get the enthused audience to volunteer. It’s the only reason for the event. I’m sure they succeeded in getting several. Except me and my interns. We have our own campaign. But that’s another post.

Feed the Photographer Eye Candy

Whenever you have a gathering for your business, don’t forget the photographer. Doesn’t matter if its a networking event, a fundraiser, board retreat, business opening, new product–be sure to take pictures.

Ideally you use a professional photographer; when you can afford to, do it. They are skilled at capturing the right moments, recognizing the lighting and working with what’s available, they can manipulate the picture or know what frames well in a picture. Tips like not wearing name badges, or wires above your heads, or shadows across faces–all skills a keen photographer’s eye can capture.

When working with a photographer, try to think in advance what you want to DO with the pictures. Annual report? Submitting people shots to the local news people-watching column?This is an excellent option for publicity–sometimes you can promote your business if you’ve hosted an event and just submit pictures of the attendees. Get the media requirements for this–typically you can submit photos from an iphone if the quality is good.

Write up a check list of those kinds of shots you need-shots of happy kids, active shots of business interactions, people mingling.

Negotiate the ownership of the pictures. Many photographers will sell you all the shots; some may only sell use of the artwork for a period of time. There’s valid reasons for both, just know your options.

If you can’t afford a photographer, you can still take pictures–and should. All these shots can be taken–it’s often just remembering to bring the camera or assign someone to use it during the event.

We are a visual society. The more you can add graphics, especially pictures of real things the better for your blog, Facebook posts, annual reports, investor reports, publicity submission. Click away!

Small Business Saturdays–and keep it going through the holiday

Hopefully you haven’t been living under a rock and you know that today is Small Business Saturday. It’s a corporate philanthropy day suggested by American Express. You don’t need to be an American Express member to go shop at small businesses in your community. Your small businesses don’t have to accept American Express to participate. But the Amex folks know that small business is what drives our economy-it’s the 99.7 percent of all employer firms and hires half of all private sector jobs.

From a PR perspective, Amex is providing a great service. Yes, they could as a company benefit because of their small business solutions arm. They are a financing force; but they used it to get great coverage, it’s resounding with a lot of shoppers–many of whom don’t know it’s an idea sponsored by American Express.

For you the small business owner, you’ve missed the shot at SmallĀ  Business Saturday window signs and the easy set up that Amex offered on their pages. But what you can do for the rest of the holiday season is to communicate with your customers–across all platforms.

  • Tell them what deals you have and remind them of small business purchases. If it seems too bold, share about other businesses.
  • Give them ideas–like a certificate for a bookkeeping or house cleaning service, personal grooming or pet care services, local restaurants.
  • Partner up with businesses in your block. One winery I go to partners with the local restaurant next door who doesn’t charge a corkage few if you bring in a bottle from the winery.
  • Create an experience–harried shoppers want convenience, no hassle. After yesterday, they don’t want to go where they could get pepper-sprayed over a video game! Offer refreshments, maybe have a masseuse doing 15 minute stress relief moments.
  • Service, from the minute the walk in the door till two years after, counts. Knock ’em dead with the right amount of attention without hounding them to buy. It’s a balance. Offer information about bargains or special benefits.
  • Find enticements: free gift wrap (discount at another local store, perhaps), gift basket ideas, free delivery.

Get going. You still have time. But there is only about three weeks shopping left-depending on what holiday you commemorate.

6 Tips on How to fill your Event

You’ve planned the event. You’re hosting a coffee Q&A, a fundraiser, a workshop, a networking gig. You set the date, picked a venue and orchestrated the logistics of refreshments and a program. Now how do you get the people to come?

First step-know who you want to attend. Is this for prospects? To raise money from long time donors? New benefit for clients? Don’t tell me everyone–nothing on this planet is a product for everyone. If you think about water, which everyone does need to exist, then tell me in 10 seconds the different waters you can purchase, you realize my point.

Second step-plan in advance enough to be able to notify people. You can’t get 100 people to an event with less than 2 weeks notice. Part of the plan is having a tracking mechanism to know how many are coming. But know the formula for attendance. Used to be invite twice as many as you hope to attend. Now people would give an arm to have that. It’s really about 10x the number of people. Put another way, however many you invite, across platforms, expect only a 10% return.

Promotion and publicity happen in four platforms: in person, on the phone, online (email to social networking) or third party (local newspapers, client referrals). You need a plan to promote across every channel.But keep in mind that in-person, super time intensive. Not likely to happen-if you have that kind of time you probably should be retired.

Most of you try to hit the most number of prospects by going to the local news. It’s a broad reach, a little work. But results are limited. Certainly from a public relations perspective send out a news release and submit your event to calendar options to all the news outlets. And this includes newsletters such as the Chamber of Commerce, not just the local paper. Know what’s available in your community. You aren’t likely to get 100 people to attend with just this tactic. Works for awareness (making it worthwhile to do), not so much for the trial/adoption buy-a-ticket phase. Think about how many news calendars you look at for stuff to do. Usually you find an interesting event you might want to attend only after you’ve gone to looking for a specific event for you kids’ soccer team or your mother-in-law’s senior club.

Then be sure to push the event on your social media (blogs and tweets) and your social networking (Facebook and LinkedIn). And repeat. Friends/clients aren’t on their social media all the time. You want to post when people are likely looking at their sites. And vary that to catch as many of your target as possible.

You absolutely must share with your list and more than once. You can include info if you have a scheduled newsletter, but don’t just leave it at that. You need to be sure to send a stand alone email to your list with specifics about the event. Make it easy to sign up and calendarize by adding these features in the text.

Finally, pick up the phone. Especially for a fundraiser. People forget; you may need to remind them about their RSVPs or that they usually go and they haven’t signed up. Don’t expect that your fabulous information is always read and by 100% of the people you sent it to. Even your mom won’t read all your stuff.

If it’s a one time event try to schedule it when there aren’t competitive events for your same clients (i.e. fundraising). If it’s a regular club event, be sure to set the schedule so members know it’s every third Tuesday at lunch–makes it easier to calendar.

Be sure to repeat the communications-social media posts and event invites and emails. And plan for fewer folks to attend than RSVP on those social media platforms. Follow up phone calls, best way to get people there.

Five tips for trade show booth planning

If you have a booth or attend a trade show as a vendor, make sure you keep these basic rules in play:

Determine the purpose for your participation.

  • Are you going for new prospects? Then create a mechanism for capturing names. Drawings are good; freebies for a signature are good. But promise not to spam them or abuse their contact info.
  • Need to demonstrate a new product? Think through all the elements you’ll need to be able to do that well. Samples a possibility.
  • Trying to be in the community? Be sure you can be seen-sign up early so you aren’t at the back of the room, usually given to last minute reservations.

Make your booth or table visually interesting and branded. This means investing in table cloths in your brand colors and ideally printed with your logo; table runners or banners for the table top if not pre-printed; a stand-up poster on the table and a banner/signage for above and behind the table and/or to the side of the table.

Bring manageable materials. Trifold brochures or postcards or even business cards are easy to carry, but 8×11 get folded or rolled and eventually never read or not even picked up. Consider being the vendor to provide the bag–great promotion all over the trade show with your logo being displayed.

Creating an engaging display. Visually is a start-less is better. But also try for a game or some interactive testing of samples or something for the participants to DO. They’ll be more likely to stop at your booth if there is something to do. Think of the pyramid of design concepts:

Staff your booth the whole time; so figure out bathroom breaks and meal breaks for you or your helpers. An empty table/booth is a missed opportunity to engage with prospective clients.

Now talk to the attendees. It’s not a reverse circus.

Four tips on planning for Tabling Events

One way to reach a large number of prospective clients includes sponsoring a booth or table at an appropriate event.

The first step is to determine if your client prospects are attending this event. Targeting women? Perhaps there’s a women’s expo in your community. Provide business-to-business solutions? Then the local Chamber of Commerce or a business Cooperative might be a good source. Conduct health services? Sponsor a health fair.

Once you determine the right venue, then figure out your level of participation. Can you afford a sponsorship? What does that entail–booth space, name on promotional materials done by the event organizers? Determine the value besides access that goes with a sponsorship.Too expensive alone? Consider sharing with a business that offers a non-competitive service but targets the same audience.

Next question-Booth or a table. Be sure you figure out the materials you need: banner to see your booth, stand up items, a freebie to engage participants, signup sheets and handouts. Sometimes you can just give away promotional items as the freebie. Sometimes you can give away a “large” valued item as a raffle prize for those who leave a business card–then you are capturing leads at the same time.

Another option may just be attending the event. People at booths are good targets as well as other attendees. Use your business card with a NeoReader code linked to a coupon or discount or just offer the discount for an upcoming workshop or other service you provide. Distribute widely.

Even Alice Knows Why Matters

Many non-profits or clubs want to hold events-it’s a way to raise money. Sell tickets to something and hope enough people attend to make it net a number that’s worth the effort. People like parties, should be easy. Problem is much more thanĀ  goes into an event and why so many non-profits or clubs/organizations ultimately fail.

First to consider is what is the purpose of the event? Is it to secure new clients or prospects? Is it to generate media attention and publicity? Is it to raise money? Raising awareness? Interesting new clients to repeat business? Creating a trial stage for clients or donors? An event is not going to be all of those things for all the attendees. Prioritize.

How much time and effort does it take to conduct an event and what are the real costs associated with the event? Not just talking food, beverage and decoration here. How much staff/volunteer time goes in to logistics, media relations, marketing? Who’s doing the sales–you know actually getting people to buy tickets? How many tickets at what price will net the result you want? Many non-profits or clubs set a ticket price for what people can pay but don’t back out the costs to know what they need to net to make it worth it.

If the event is to attract new prospects, does it relate to the image you want for your company? It’s easy to sell tickets for alcohol related events (from wine tasting to all-you-can-drink vodka), but does that fit the image for a professional association for college students or for non-profits working in social justice? Might be easy money, but is it worth the image? What about students who aren’t 21 or people with families? Can they attend or have you made the event exclusionary? Might work for your club, might not. The key is to ask the questions.

Do you have a program to connect the attendees to the organization? Do you need one? If it’s prospects, what point do they know your organization is the host and you want their engagement? Is it the same 25 women who always come-are you just bilking the membership for a few dollars at a time? Wouldn’t it just be easier to forgo lunch and have them write a check monthly check for the equivalent of lunch? You’d have more money.

Here’s an important question: what are you going to do with the money? For non-profits it often offsets the operations costs that donors don’t particularly want to fund. Contributions that directly impact the lives of young girls far more exciting than paying the executive director a livable wage or buying ad time to spread the message. Many service clubs give back to the community, which is great. But the clubs often decide who gets to receive the funds–for many donors, they’d just as soon give directly to an established organization. So what are the funds for again? And why do you need them? How much do you need? Why are you doing this event?

Events done well, with the right image, the best program content and the price that meets the net goal are terrific tools for RELATIONSHIP building–wither with current clients/donors or future ones. They are a tool for connecting to people at various stages of involvement with your organization. The consume a lot of time and energy-bigger they are, the more likely they are to consume valuable resources. It can be worth it, if you know exactly why you are hosting the event and what you want to get out of it and who you market the event to. But THAT topic is a whole other blog.