Successful Guide to Planning Events-On Any Budget
- Posted on: Mar 12 2014
Successful Guide to Planning Events-On Any Budget-
Building Your Practice through Face-To-Face Events
By Cheryl Whitman, Founder and CEO, beautiful forever
A well-run event can bring a significant number of new patients to your aesthetic practice, – or new customers for your proprietary product. However, running an event – whether it attracts 5 or 500 people – can be a daunting task. The skills needed to promote and stage a successful event are far different from the skills needed to effectively treat patients one-on-one.
Before you schedule your event, stop and think about its purpose. Identify your goal for the event up front. This will help guide your decisions in planning the event. Are you hosting the event to thank your existing patients, or to attract new ones? Are you launching a new treatment or product and want to create a buzz among a specific target audience, or are you just trying to build marketplace awareness of your brand and your practice?
Working with your brand and budget, as well as with your desired outcome, you should strive to create an experience that your attendees will remember. In addition to showcasing your products and services, the event should also positively differentiate your practice from those of your competition. If you are not sure where to start, our consultants at beautiful forever offer you these key points as your guide to success:
- Decide on the purpose of your event (patient education, new procedures or products, new staff member, patient appreciation, grand re-opening), and make sure that every part of the event – from promotion to hand-outs – reflects that purpose. (See sidebar for our suggestions on creating a calendar of events)
- Identify a person in your office to take ownership of your event. This person must be organized and have excellent skills in both following up and following through. Designate this person to work with your marketing team to ensure promotions match the content and theme – and capture the spirit and purpose – of the event.
- Venue – how large an event are you planning? Is your office able to accommodate the amount of guests you are expecting? If you are thinking a larger crowd, or perhaps more of a social event, a stylish, upscale hotel or restaurant may be more suitable. You may also consider – space and weather permitting – erecting a tent to allow for overflow, or even to hold the entire event in an inviting outdoor venue.
- Sixty days prior to the event, send a “Save the Date” pre-invitation to potential guests, asking them to put down a marker and get on their calendars long before a conflict might arise.
- Develop a detailed invitation for your event in time to mail it forty-five days prior to the event.
- Paper invitations are more expensive – and more effective. Digital (email, Facebook and Twitter posts, etc.) are less costly, but also less effective. The best solution is often a combination of print/mail and email invitations, each reaching the same individuals to reinforce the message. The invitation should include the date, time and place, along with a motivating and intriguing topic. It should be created with your “brand identity” and contact information. Always include a “call to action” such as ‘Space is limited and many have already secured their place, so call now!’
- Two weeks later (i.e. 30 days before the event), for those who haven’t RSVP’d already, re-send the detailed invitation again, this time with a personalized note.
- Two weeks out, if you still have unanswered invites, call guests and extend a personal invitation.
- To reach beyond your warm list of invitees, network your event and create a version of your invitation to be displayed at your strategically-allied businesses- health clubs, health food stores, salons, etc. Give these strategic allies these flyers, along with additional invitations, 30-45 days in advance of your event. Offer them incentives… “bring 3 guests get discounts on products and/or services.” You can also consider offering them space at your event. Provided they are not in competition with any of your services, of course, have them set up tables and distribute information on topics such as nutrition/diet/wellness.
- It’s often best to encourage responses through your website. In this way, prospective attendees will see the website and learn more about your practice and products, as well as the event. Your website should have an event link to enable those that did not get an invitation to be aware of all upcoming events and what specials will be offered. As part of your website registration, you should also be able to add their email addresses to your list, enhancing your database for marketing purposes.
- Attendance at this event should be by invitation or pre-registration only. Create an incentive for “bring a friend” (For example, ensure that each RSVP’d guest receives five raffle tickets, and receives an additional five for each friend that that the guest brings). Please be sure to ask their guests to preregister or RSVP as well, but be ready to welcome walk-ins at the event registration table.
- Favorably leverage your relationships with your own vendors – get them to underwrite as much of the cost as possible. Encourage vendors to attend and display information or be part of your educational program. (for example, Allergan, information and specials on Botox and/or Latisse). Free samples that are distributed at the seminar are great for prospects who may not come in for treatments but who could still become clients for skin care products.
- To effectively promote each event, and beginning thirty days in advance of your event, take advantage of free marketing and send out a press release to your entire media contact list and chamber of commerce list. Be sure to have a link to your website in your press release as well as a copy posted on your site. Community service sections of your local cable TV and newspapers are always looking for educational programs for the community. Many stores, malls and community centers have bulletin boards on which you can post the promotional fliers developed for allied businesses. Don’t overlook senior centers for active seniors who still take pride in their appearances, or sororities and other youth-oriented locations which might want to play host to group make-over parties.
- Plan on door prizes, and be sure to ask vendors to contribute gifts. Gift certificates, gift baskets or a specific highlighted treatment are examples of good door prizes.
- Most of your guests will anticipate refreshments, so consider your budget – and your event theme (don’t serve high-calorie sweets at a weight-loss program) and determine what type of catering you want. Quality food trays, hors d’oeuvres, water, juice and coffee usually work well. You may consider something a bit more upscale with wine and cheese platters, but if you do, be sure to monitor your guests’ alcohol consumption. Custom desserts beautifully displayed also make a great impression (as long as you’re not focusing on weight loss)!
- Be sure to have a designated person in charge of check in and registration – plan on walk-ins, and be sure to capture contact information … including email addresses.
- Upon check out all attendees should receive a “goodie bag.” Something packaged nicely with samples and information from your product line works well.
- Offer a ‘this night only discount’ for attendees who book at the event. It will help them decide – that night – to come in later for specific treatments. Also offer discounts on products purchased that evening. Be sure to mention you have discounted gift certificates available. Explain finance options so your services are seen to be affordable to everybody.
- If you are holding your event in your office, on the day of the event, schedule patients in the morning – but not the afternoon – so you will have time to prepare and set up – and if you’re creating a profit-and-loss balance sheet for the event, be sure to include the opportunity cost of being closed for the afternoon.
- Create a to-do list that covers both the week before and the day of the event – and include day-after follow-up – thank you notes for attendees, confirmation of booked appointments, perhaps an extension of the “night-of” discounts for people who wanted to “sleep on it” before deciding to have a procedure.
- At the event, have soft, mood music playing. Decorate with fresh flowers. Obviously, the office should be spotlessly clean. All displays should be in place and organized. All valuable display items should be put away; don’t leave anything to chance. It’s nice to believe that everyone is as honest as you are, but you’ll have strangers wandering through your office – don’t leave temptation lying around.
- Have your staff dressed appropriately for the event, and consider the theme of the event when determining what is “appropriate.” Depending on location, time of day and season of the year (plus the theme) they should be in proper “dinner attire” – or if the event is in the office, dressed nicely under lab coats, with logo. This looks neat and put together. The important thing is to create a professional image, then live up to that image. Designate someone to be your “event photographer”.Document your event and post pictures on your website, everyone loves to see pictures of themselves and their friends!
- Prep each room with relevant brochures, as well as before-and-after pictures – your own (preferably) or stock photos provided by allied vendors. Keep displays of product visible but not in a place where they might “walk off.”
- Patient flow should be directed by a concierge or greeter (with name tag) – you can use your practice manager for this, or even bring in a professional, such as someone from the cosmetics department at an upscale department store. Have patients go from room to room, seeing each procedure, and then give them the chance to hear about the procedure and ask questions. This enhances their experience.
- The area within the office where staff members are taking money for products, gift-certificates, etc., should have a price list available for all the procedures – with special prices being offered that night and discounts on gift certificates both prominently displayed on the price sheet.
- To handle visitor flow, depending on the amount of people attending (40-60 makes sense), you will need two people taking money and giving clients instructions and two people making appointments.
- Doctor and key staff should be available to speak with guests, providing explanation of services, answering questions, etc.
Do you need to advertise your event? This may depend on the goal of the event and the intended audience, as well as your budget and anticipated return on your investment in the event. If the numbers add up right, create an advertising budget, along with specific bottom-line attendance goals to be generated by the advertising. In creating your plan, you should identify advertising methods – email and the web, TV and radio, magazines and newspapers. The correct medium for you will depend on the type of guests you’re trying to recruit, the time and location of the event, and other factors. Consider using new social media tools and events websites, especially geo-targeted ones, to promote your event. Examples of effective social media tools for events include Meet-Up.com, LinkedIn, Facebook, Craigslist and Twitter. Make sure to design and distribute your ads, emails or letters with ample time to receive responses.
“We have found that in our market, a mix of media seems to work most effectively,” according to Dr. Ram K. Reddy, Medical Director of Yuva Medical Spa in Athens, Georgia. “Each of our socials has a different theme, with a different audience, and a variety of advertising has proved to be the best way of reaching our target audiences.”
Follow Up on Each Event
Now that you have created an amazing event and provided everyone with a memorable experience … what next? Follow up! If you need help beautiful forever will design a follow-up system for you that will make your event even more unforgettable.
Start at the beginning by creating an attendee list which requires complete contact information: name, address, phone and e-mail. Add this new information to your existing software-based database, and be sure to include – in the information – the events they attended. The next step should involve sending a follow up note telling each visitor how great it was to meet them – then invite each of them to call with any questions.
Add another event date or a reminder of an event incentive that is still available or attach a card with a discount on their next service. As noted above, a day-after call is also useful, especially if you offer an extended “act tonight discount” for people who wanted to “sleep on it” before deciding on a procedure.
Be sure to include your list of attendees as part of your e-mail blasts and direct mail campaigns, (for example, My Emma, MailChimp, Constant Contact or Vertical Response are all good examples of workable systems). Create groups for future events on different topics.
Don’t forget to follow up with people who’d RSVP’d but didn’t show. They should be called right after your event and offered something, such as a free consultation, to get them to come through your door.
For example, after hosting a successful re-Grand Opening event, Dr. Hal Brown, Medical Director and Owner of Reflections Aesthetic & Laser Solutions, Vero Beach, Florida, explained: “We hoped to reach out to the community and re-introduce ourselves with the re-Grand Opening. I believe we accomplished that and much more! We acquired new patients and expanded the breadth of purchases of our existing clients. It was a great event; we are still booking appointments from it even two weeks after the celebration.”
With proper planning and implementation, your events will always reflect your image, provide you with valuable exposure to new prospective patients and provide attendees with a very memorable experience that will have people talking – and anticipating your next event.
Continually build your brand and create a buzz in your local market! Beautiful forever consultants can assess your brand and marketing material … contact us today for a complimentary assessment.