This is a guest blog by George Taylor, Chairman at LS4 Events.

Since launching LS4 Events in October last year, it has come as quite a surprise (to say the least) at how many SMEs don’t organise corporate events or utilise events as part of their core business function.

Yes, digital marketing is an effective way to reach new customers and sell products, and yes, sending a press release out, or hiring a PR consultant will most likely get you some press coverage. And treating your staff to drinks on a Friday might well increase your staff retention.

“But have you considered the number of ways in which events can transform your business?”

Here are some examples that you may not have considered:

Meet Your Prospects. Build Relationships. Sell More Products/Services!

In this day and age, we get so wrapped up in our digital marketing strategies, our pay-per-click campaigns, and our social media posts, that it’s no wonder some of us have forgotten this all-important principle: ‘people buy from people.’

Just having 3-5 high quality, face-to-face conversations with our prospects can be better than receiving 100 clicks or email captures through a landing page. Even better – nowadays, you can attend lots of business events for cheaper than a PPC campaign, or even for free in some cases – but don’t underestimate the value of organising your own branded event with an incentive.

Whether that means delivering cutting-edge insights, showcasing the latest tech, or just putting together a gathering over some drinks and food, you may well find that if you invest your marketing budget wisely into more event efforts, you’ll experience results that your digital marketing spend won’t, and can’t, give you.

Mark Wright (Winner of the BBC Apprentice 2014, and CEO of Climb Online) once said: ‘You don’t have a marketing budget? You’re not a business, then.’ I feel the same way when people tell me they don’t have an event budget or organise events of their own.

“There’s only so high you can go on retention rates, PR, brand-building and sales without events.”

Improve Your Staff Retention. Boost Team Morale

If we look at corporations like Dyson, they put a great deal of effort and investment into their recruitment, onboarding, training and retention programmes for new starters, and for long-standing employees. You can see why people love working there, and why they tend to stay longer than with other companies.

For example, they send all of their new starters to a beautiful 5-star hotel for two days to enjoy the beautiful surroundings of Malmesbury (where the Head Office is located), where they give them a guided tour of their HQ, introduce them to their fellow new starters, and share good drink and food together, which helps them to absorb new information in a relaxed, holiday-like environment, and create comradery within the team(s).

Every year, they organise multiple incentive trips for staff, hold a yearly award show for internal employees, and arrange multiple staff conferences in beautiful locations, and employees use these moments to meet fellow colleagues, learn about the latest innovations, engage in refresher training, and learn about business figures and the company’s goals moving forward.

This internal event portfolio doesn’t include their external events: PR, launch and experiential, which are a key part of their retail marketing and brand strategy. Dyson have nailed their event strategy, because they use events in the correct way, and they’ve worked out how to use events to maximise the various elements of their business. Have you?

PR, Brand, Social and Engagement

Yes, sending a few tweets out will get you some recognition, and so will paid social media advertising, but don’t underestimate the power of using events to drive your social media awareness. Whether that’s speaking at multiple events and using handles, hashtags, and competitions to gain followers.

Or maybe it’s by organising an experiential event that captures your audience’s attention and drives social media awareness in a viral way. Still, to this day, there is no better way to drive your online activity and build your brand online, than through events. And businesses who understand this will come out on top in their respective marketplaces.

“The businesses who don’t might get left behind.”

Of course, there is a cost attached to organising such events, and it isn’t cheap – not to mention the creative and logistical genius required to pull such an event off. And that’s why the event industry is worth over £45 billion to the UK economy every year.

Experiential events and product launches give you the chance to meet your potential customers (and journalists) face-to-face, which dramatically increases the chance they’ll post about what they’ve experienced online, and it also builds brand loyalty in a way that online marketing cannot.

Other Interesting Ideas

Intuit organise a huge yearly business expo, Quickbooks Connect, that brings the highest profile business leaders in the UK to speak (people like Alan Sugar have spoken in previous years), and thousands of delegates to attend. They brand their event with ‘Quickbooks’ signage every year, and this works a treat for building brand recognition in a physical, value-adding way for their stand-out product.

They also accumulate thousands of new emails that they can market back to, but in particular, their conversion rate increases, because when people think of ‘Quickbooks,’ they’ll always have a positive association attached to the brand, and this can work wonders when moving prospects up the funnel to fully-fledged, paying customers.

People like experiences and people appreciate it when brands give them value-adding, memorable experiences that demonstrate how much that particular brand cares about its consumer, and understands it’s market from an expert perspective.

“This is thought leadership and ‘guruism’ at its core.”

However, the event industry is becoming increasingly more competitive, and there are SO MANY business seminars out there, that just shoving a few chairs into a hotel might not leave a long-lasting impression, especially as people have become desensitised to seeing the same old hotel carpets, day in, day out.

Thinking Outside The Box

And this is why new event trends are coming into play to cater for that change – such as pop-ups, quirky, unique, and unused venues, cutting-edge technologies, and the recent ‘festivalisation’ of corporate events with a recent ASOS conference for 2,500 staff at Alexandra Palace just one of many examples.

“So if you’re going to spend your money, make sure you do it wisely, and devise unique ideas that will attract punters through that door.”

The future is in innovation, and the value that events can bring to your business is unrivalled. In my opinion, it’s time for more SMEs to get involved!

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