From ribbon-cuttings to charity auctions, every small business wants to draw a customer-friendly crowd to its event. One undisputed benefit of hosting a live event: reaching your target audience in real-time. That’s why Cathy Mueller, executive director of Mapping Your Future, plans gatherings for soon-to-be college students to educate them about the higher education process.

“We might live in a digital world, but there is no better way to create and maintain customer relationships than a face-to-face meeting,” Mueller says.

The key, Mueller says, is to match your time and energy with your needs. “It takes time and effort to plan the event, so make sure you have the resources to devote to its planning and execution,” she says. “You’ll also want to pick a time that’s appropriate for your customers.”

For example, a new athletic store should schedule a ribbon-cutting around March Madness or a local sporting event. Once you have the basics figured out, it’s time to send out the invites. Here are a few tips and tactics to spread the word quickly and easily.

Use social media tools designed for events

Of course, social media offers a free and easy way to let your customers know about an upcoming event, but Mueller says small businesses can do more than just mention the date, time and place.

You can create a Facebook event or if you have a paper invitation you’re going to send out through the mail, take a picture of it and post it on Instagram or Pinterest. Remember, VerticalResponse’s parent company, Deluxe, has social media marketing services that include Facebook to help you promote your event.

Don’t ignore traditional media

While many small businesses gravitate towards social media now, you shouldn’t overlook the ‘old school’ newspaper or television station in your town, Mueller says.

“Keep in mind, not all of your customers use social media, so it’s important to utilize several media vehicles,” she says. “A lot of newspapers and television stations still have community calendars that you can include your event on for free.”

You can also send a press release to local journalists who might be interested in covering the event.

Partner with a nonprofit

By teaming up with a nonprofit, your event will attract new guests while helping the community, a win-win strategy according to Mueller.

“This collaboration provides an opportunity to draw new and existing customers to the event, and it shows your small business is interested in the success of the local community,” she adds.

Pick a charity that fits your business. For example, a restaurant might team up with their local food bank or soup kitchen.

Create a calendar invitation

Once your event details are set, you’ll want to send an email to invite your loyal customers and remind them to attend.

“Utilize your company email list when you’re having an event, but don’t overwhelm your customers with invite after invite,” she says. “It’s okay to remind your customers about the event as the date draws close, but keep it short and simple.”

Send out a calendar invite, so the event will automatically go into your customers’ daily schedule.

“Anytime you can connect with your customers on a personal level, you win,” Mueller says. It might not turn into massive sales on the day of the event, but customers will remember the experience and will turn to your company when they need products or services in the future.

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Editor’s note: This post was originally published in January 2014 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and relevance.

© 2016 – 2018, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

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