By Tony Knopp, Co-founder and CEO InviteManager
I go to prospecting events— a lot of them. So I get to see what works and what doesn’t. Face-to-face marketing is an important part of business development because it cuts through oversaturated airwaves, overflowing voicemail, and overcrowded inboxes. When done right it creates relationships and drives business. When done wrong what’s meant as a benefit could leave your guests feeling disenchanted or worse— insulted.
We have a front row seat to events executed by over four thousand companies including hundreds of household names you know and are humbly invited to events as guests as our business continues to grow. Avoid these five deadly sins when executing your own face-to-face marketing:
1. You Didn’t Do Your Homework
Having a representative of your business walk up to a high-level customer or prospect and introduce themselves without knowing who they are addressing is disrespectful. It shows a lack of personal touch and preparation and I witness it at every event I attend. Don’t be the one caught asking “So, who are you?” to the president of your biggest customer. Prep your team before each event by identifying the VIPs and arming them with knowledge about your business relationships.
2. Nobody wants to be uncomfortable
Look around at your next event. If there is a prospect– even one – standing alone not interacting with anyone one of two costly mistakes is happening:
- There is enough staff but they’re just hanging out together instead of doing their job
- You haven’t made it easy enough for guests to get plugged in and feel comfortable
One of my favorite experiments I do at every event I attend is to walk right to the middle of the room and wait with an inviting smile and eye contact for someone to come talk to me. At the good events it’s almost instantly. But at the bad ones it can take twenty minutes or more. Most guests won’t have that kind of patience.
Yes, it can be fun to host live networking events. But your team is there to make sure guests are comfortable and having a great time.
3. You Chose the Wrong Event For Your Client
This is a very common sin, one that costs companies the most business. Fun events and effective events can often be very different. Create events your customers and prospects will love. And if you don’t know exactly what they will like? Give them options. As Karen Cage, an industry expert and sponsorship executive at HP explains, each guest has different needs. Some are very busy and won’t do anything that doesn’t include their kids (like me) while others only go to the most exclusive events.
Inviting a CEO to a game in seats she could have purchased herself on Stubhub for $75 is downright insulting. And taking an associate manager to floor seats at the Lakers game is a complete waste of resources. Inviting a busy CFO who drives a Honda Pilot to race cars all afternoon isn’t going to get them there— and it will highlight just how little you know about them.
4. Poor Organization: Emails, Checklists, Small Name Tags
Decision makers get invited to events more than folks realize. I’m the CEO of a 100-person company. I get three to four invitations to exclusive events every week including floor seats to the Lakers, suites to the Super Bowl, Masters Weekends, racing cars at the California Speedway, movie pre-screenings with family, and nights with a loved one at the Playboy Mansion. Now if that’s what I get as the CEO of a small business what do you think the CFO at Big Company Inc. is getting?
You have one shot at getting their attention so don’t blow it. In his book “Beyond the Cloud,” Salesforce founder Marc Benioff writes: “Many companies think they simply need to throw an event. WRONG. If you’re going to do it, do it right.”
Everything counts, so what do you need to focus on?
Your invitation needs to reflect and elevate your brand. It needs to make the people who receive it want to attend. The kind of food you’ll be serving needs to reflect the preferences of your guests. You need to have name tags prepared ahead of time. It may sound trivial but I assure you busy executives notice this stuff. It all matters.
I can’t tell you how many poorly executed email invitations I’ve received from companies. They claim they want me to join their event and then ask me to reply to someone’s assistant. If I attend I’m inevitably checked-in by someone with a clipboard who knows nothing about what my company does or why I’m even there.
5. You Let Your Guests Isolate
The deadliest sin of all— and the most common. Even if you’re an extrovert you must realize that most people are not naturally comfortable being surrounded by strangers in an unfamiliar setting. It’s therefore up to you to create ways for people at your event to meet one another. Start early and share content about your guests’ backgrounds, companies, and interests before the event begins with your team.
Break the illusion that you’re there to just have fun: go around the room & find your loners. Offer to introduce them to the people they want to meet. (How do you know who they want to meet? Because you avoided Deadly Sin #1 and you did your homework) Give your guests name badges which clearly display their name, title and company in large letters so it’s legible even at a distance— it’s a simple way to grease the skids and make it easy for people to meet each other while covertly enabling your revenue generators to focus on the big fish.
In part two I’ll describe three different events I recently attended and compare how well they avoided the Five Deadly Sins.