(This is a contributed post)
Small businesses can get a lot out of a well-planned event. An event can be an excellent way to promote your business in the local area, to showcase your industry expertise, and raise awareness of your brand. But small businesses have unique constraints, often related to budget, that they have to navigate. Consider these five things if you want your small business event to be a roaring success, without blowing the budget.
Before you make any plans, look for a venue, or place any deposits, take a step back. Ask yourself why you want to host an event, and what you’re hoping to gain from it. You also need to know who your target audience is. Having a substantial purpose and secure goals will help you to strategize. Your strategy will influence everything from the venue choice to the name of your event, so it’s worth investing some real thought here before you start spending money on things you don’t really need.
Take stock of what you already have and what you might need to buy in. You might already have merchandise or marketing materials, for example, that can be repurposed. Do you need to buy exhibition display stands or order name badges? This will all need to be factored into your budget. You’ll also want to consider your human resources, too. What expertise do you have within the team already? Use the skills and strengths of your employees, and then identify what tasks you’ll need to outsource.
A careful budget is critical to your event success. You’ll need to include everything and anything that you might have to pay for, so you don’t get any nasty surprises later on. If this is your first event, a lot of the costs you list will be estimates. It’s a good idea to contact some venues and vendors to get a quote to make your budget the most realistic it can be. Use a budget tracker so you can stay on top of things, as your budget and costs might change as you go.
Think about the venue, catering, entertainment and so on. Are there local businesses that you could partner with? Creating effective partnerships can drive your costs down and might also have added marketing benefits. Think about what you could offer in return for a partnership before you approach them. You might also be able to draw on your existing network for collaborations, sponsorship, or cost-cutting deals, so it’s worth thinking of who you know.
Yes, you can invest in billboards and adverts in your local magazine. But there are also lots of marketing options that are cheap (or free). Make the most of social media, your blog, other local blogs, and your existing email lists to get the word out there for free. You might want to think about using a mixture of approaches to reach your target audience. Strong, consistent imagery and effective branding are just as important.