I got asked this question recently. The company who asked me are in the luxury furniture space and are about to host a special event in London to celebrate their 40th anniversary in a couple of weeks’ time.
They have a theme (garden party), they’ve hooked in a co-sponsor (a popular brand of Gin), and they are even going to launch a signature, limited edition furniture piece at the event.
Oh, and of course, there are going to be free drinks. Lots of free drinks. With six company staff members, plus an additional two cocktail staff and two waiting staff, all booked and ready to entertain.
This all sounded great to me. Except there remained one small problem…
There are currently ZERO guests booked to attend the event.
I’m paraphrasing, but in short, the company wanted to attract 60+ “…influencers, journalists, national press, local press, website publications, etc.”.
Gulp. Good luck with that.
My immediate emotion was that of smugness. My brain was shouting “This is why it’s so important to build and sustain relationships with influencers.”
Ugh, I hate marketing brain. What an idiot.
I shook my head from side to side until marketing brain was so rattled that it could no longer function. With my ego temporarily paralysed, I was reminded that this is the real world where best practice and ideal scenarios mean NOTHING.
Perhaps you need to find relevant attendees to your next event, fast?
Maybe you’re on a limited budget and can’t afford to hire a PR company?
Or, maybe, you too are just trying to find a way to build meaningful relationships in the real world where time is tight?
That’s fine also.
Here’s what I recommend.
- Invite people who have been to your previous events.
When time is tight, people start to panic. When panic sets in, you miss what’s right in front of you.
This point might seem obvious, but whenever the topics of content marketing, influencer marketing or event marketing come up, I always see people approach them as if they are starting entirely from scratch.
You are never starting from scratch. All of us have a network.
If you’ve ever run an event in the past, start here.
Reach out to previous attendees or guests and let them know about your next event.
Always reference that you enjoyed their company so much last time that you would love for them to attend your next event.
It wouldn’t be the same without them.
- Event landing pages and pre-registration.
Regardless of whether you have run an event in the past, always put up a landing page for your event on your site. Even if your event is in two weeks’ time.
How many e-commerce companies do you know that host events but fail to feature them prominently on their sites?
This is a huge missed opportunity because you never know who is looking at your site (unless you have some creepy sales software).
Create a landing page for your events. Allows users to register their interest in your next event.
If you’re on WordPress, use tools like Beaver Builder or Leadpages. Not on WordPress? Give Lander a try.
Link to this events page from your main navigation. Put it on your homepage. Put it in your email signature. Post it on your social channels. Create a static URL for the page (e.g. /event-exclusives/) and put it on your business cards.
While you’re working on outreach over the next two weeks, you can start to collect email addresses from people who you know are going to be interested in attending.
You never know who is going to sign up.
It’s a useful backup plan.
- Explore your existing connections.
This tactic is almost always overlooked.
It’s much easier to engage, convince and convert your existing friends, followers and advocates.
Start with who you’re already connected to. You’re likely already being followed on social networks by the kinds of journalists, influencers or publications that you want to attend your event.
Some quick, practical tips.
- Try Followerwonk or Audiense.
With Followerwonk, download your list of Twitter followers and filter in the bio field in Excel by keywords related to whoever you’re trying to target.
e.g. journalist, writer, blogger, vlogger, etc.
If you’re using Audiense, you can replicate this process but without the hassle of downloading the data. Just search and tag all your different types of influencers. You’ll also be able to see any previous conversations you’ve had with these people which will help when you’re reaching out to them.
- Try LinkedIn.
This is similar to the Followerwonk process.
Download your contacts.
Filter by keywords in the job title.
Send an email or InMail.
- Search your mailing list.
This usefulness of this one depends on the sophistication of your email marketing, but it’s worth 10 minutes to do the following:
- Look at your top 100 most engaged email subscribers, is there anyone here who you can invite?
- Search your email list by target publication or newspaper name
- Filter your email list by job title (if you’ve recorded such information)
Steal guests from recent events that are like yours.
This is my favourite tip and the easiest way of finding people who are most likely going to be interested in your event.
Find the influencers and journalists who have attended similar events, recently.
There are several ways to do this.
- Search in Google for the keywords “[your industry/relevant keyword] event [your location]”.
Switch out event for meetup, group, conference, etc. to get more results.
Go wild with search operators (e.g. inurl:event) and search tools to refine your searches.
- Search for similar events on com, citysocializer.com or Eventbrite.
- If you’ve already booked the venue, look at the website for the venue and see what previous events they’ve hosted.
You’re probably not the first person to think of hiring this venue for your event type.
Once you have your list of similar events, you will find that almost every event will have at least one or more of the following:
- A website (sometimes with an attendee list)
- A social media page
- An associated hashtag
- A primary contact
If the events you find have a website, look for anything on that website that gives you an indication of previous attendees. Sometimes you’ll be lucky enough to stumble upon an attendee list. Reach out to those who are relevant to you.
Put the event domain through everyone’s best friend, Buzzsumo. Filter and explore for users who have shared or linked to the event domain.
If there is an associated social media page for the event, filter and explore the followers of that social media page. This is easiest to do on Twitter and Instagram. Again, Audiense is a great tool for this type of work.
If there is an associated hashtag, you can easily narrow down users who used that hashtag using tools like Keyhole, Hashtagify.me or Tagboard.
Whatever method you use, the goal is simple; find and connect with people who have attended and engaged with events like the one you are currently planning.
- Ask the venue events manager or receptionist for suggestions.
Again, this only works if you’ve already secured the venue.
If you have, try and get a 10-20 minute chat with the events manager or receptionist of that venue. These guys are almost always well connected and will have seen thousands of people pass through their doors. They will make suggestions that haven’t crossed your mind. Perhaps they will also make a few introductions? You don’t ask; you don’t get.
…and some final, quick tips.
Always try to give plus ones to your invitees. Nobody likes going to these things alone.
Starting working on securing your big names, first. It’ll be easier to attract others once you have a few popular names on your guest list. We all like to be popular by association.
Remind people a week before, a day before and even on the day. Pop your invitees an email on the morning of your event. “Really looking forward to seeing you later today etc.”. This can work wonders and sometimes it’s just the little bit of motivation that person needs to stop them from bailing at the last minute.
Use these email tools. It’s easy to find email addresses for journalists and bloggers these days. Try Hunter, Norbert or Rapportive (Gmail).
In summary, don’t panic.
The influence you seek to benefit from is likely sat right before you in the form of friends, followers and advocates. From the people who have already registered an interest in what you do.
Perhaps it’s a good time to explore where this influence could lead?
If you don’t have a huge existing network, you don’t have to start from scratch. You’ll find the people you’re looking to attract by focusing on what they have previously been magnetised by.
And if all this fails, just send out a mass email with the subject line: ”Free beer tokens”.
Good luck with your next event.