Using the Sales Cycle for Event Communication
Running an event can be a stressful endeavour. When you have organised everything and decided who you want to invite, how can you be sure that they will come? There are a number of steps you can take to ensure that you don’t sell your event short and can attract the best attendees. It may seem unconventional but you can look towards the sales cycle to help you along.
The earlier you plan your communication and implement it the better results you will have.
Identify how your target wants to be contacted
A traditional communication plan starts with building your audience profile (by looking at demographics and behaviour) and searching for media that have an audience with the same profile. If you already have your audience in the database, the information should be readily available. This kind of analysis can be performed in a CRM tool or in a spreadsheet.
Create the communication plan
An event communication plan aims to ensure that the expected number of attendees will come to your event. A much higher number of people should be approached as it is expected that only a certain percentage will respond. Just like in a regular sales process the attendee acquisition process can be seen as a funnel in which your target has to move down until you “acquire” him/her. It is a journey. So the first step of the planning is to identify each moment of your journey:
Make the target aware of the event. Let your audience know what you are planning for them with an invitation.
The aim here is for the target to RSVP. Regardless of the channel used for the invitation, the event must be made to seem valuable enough for the invitee to want to come. This might mean that a series of invitations are necessary, bringing us to retention.
Once you have the attention of your audience, how do you keep it? Even if you receive an RSVP, this does not necessarily mean that the invitee will come to the event. Minimise the chance of this happening by implementing a retention strategy. You want every opportunity to convince your targets to add the event to their calendars so they do not forget to come!
For each part of the process it is important to define exactly what you are going to say to your audience depending on their actions after receiving the initial invite. To build awareness about your event you can have a teaser and save the date messages. For the acquisition, be enticing enough to make your audience RSVP to your event. Remind those who haven’t registered and send welcome or confirmation messages to those who have. Since not everyone will receive the same communication at the same time, save time by automating the process. Often, the best way to organise this is with a conditional flow chart.
A diagram like this makes it easy to specify the circumstances under which each action in the process takes place.
There you will specify when each message will go out and what the conditional rules are for it to happen. For your teaser message for example, the conditional could be: ‘The date is equal to xx/xx/xx.’ On the other hand the welcome email conditional would be: ‘Contact has RSVP’d and has registered one minute ago’. As you don’t want to overwhelm your audience, make sure you are not sending too many messages in a short time.
Implement and manage your plan
Your communication plan is ready so it’s time to bring it to life! There are many things to consider but there are some points that should be remembered above others:
- Have a single message. Your email, mail, SMS and phone call must have one main message. Trying to talk about more than one subject in your communication will decrease its potency.
- Personalise your content. If you know your recipients’ interests, use it in your communication. If some of your recipients are interested in investing in bonds and one of your events covers that subject, make sure the email subject and content mentions it.
- Automate your communication. With a CRM tool you can automate most of your communications. If you don’t have one you can at least automate your emails. Set your email tool to send a welcome email to everyone who registers for your event, a reminder email 5 days before the event, and a recall email to those who hasn’t registered. It will save you time and energy.
- Help your target to remember the event by adding an iCalendar link to the invite and follow up emails.
The first email goes out, then another one, followed by a letter, and finally a SMS message. But how do you know how well they have been received? How many people have registered so far and are you getting the CTO you’ve planned? Monitoring your KPIs is essential. You need to be aware of your communication plan performance. If you are not getting the expected results with your email you might need to change its layout or subject. If the interaction KPIs are as expected but the registration numbers are too low, perhaps you should ask the relationship manager to call your contact to follow up. If you have reached your registration target in the first week it isn’t time to turn off the engines. You are only able to actualise this scenario with constant monitoring. Frequent sessions to review and improve KPI performances are key to ensuring successful event communication. Make sure you’ve saved some time in your calendar to follow up with your communication plan to avoid unwelcome surprises.
With increasing pressures in the ever-changing world of events, it’s vital that you can make your event seem as compelling as possible. The key to this is effective communication with prospective attendees. The sales cycle can offer a useful structure to achieving attendance goals so consider it next time you are about to hit ‘Send’ on an invite.