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5 Tips For Small Businesses Running Their First Event



Events can be exciting activation for any small business. Especially if you operate predominantly online, running a physical event can bring you closer to your audience and help further your brand mission in myriad ways. As a B2C marketplace and B2B business community, we’ve attended and run events that have been aimed at both commerce and community-building: pop ups and marketplaces but also roundtables and networking. Here are our five tips for running a successful event.

The Black-Owned Weekender, 2021

Reasons to run an event

Events are the in-real-life rendition of yourself and your brand. For businesses that don’t have a permanent physical space, events are the ideal opportunity to bring your product or service to life and engage an in-person audience. As a short-term activation, you can create a lot of buzz and leave people wanting more.

Invite people into your brand story. At your own event you have your attendees’ undivided attention, unlike when you are reaching them online or in other spaces. Take the opportunity to immerse them in your brand message which, when powerful enough, they may go on to share themselves.

Reaffirm your mission. If your business aligns with a particular mission or cause, in-person activations can be the vehicle for your efforts. Fundraisers, conferences, discussion panels, networking events, and so on can all be demonstrations of your mission in action – and they allow your audience to be part of the progress too.

Meet customers in person. Getting to know your customers personally can be invaluable, as they can share insights into your business to help you grow and improve.

Boost revenue or lead generation. It sounds simple, but events are great for raising awareness. Get your brand front of people and they are more likely to discover and interact with it, especially when you make the effort to talk to them individually.

Create a ‘moment’ on social media. Running and marketing your event generates a buzz around your activity that can even spread virally. So, even people who don’t attend can feel your impact – and they’ll be waiting in line for the next one.

Types of events

There are a thousand different types of event you can run. For example:

  • a milestone celebration
  • product/service launch
  • new location launch
  • B2C marketplace
  • B2C pop up
  • B2B networking event

The kind of event you should run will depend on your type of business, your overall mission and your strategic goals.

Money Matters, 2019

TIP #1: Set a goal

First, you need to have a clear goal and understand how the event fits into your wider business strategy. We may all want to throw a party for the sake of it sometimes, but the best events have a ‘why’ that makes the time and expense worthwhile.

Some ways in which an event can serve your broader business aims include:

  • revenue generation i.e. sales, either during or after the event
  • community-building e.g. bringing likeminded people together; talking to your customers in person
  • increasing newsletter sign-ups
  • increasing social media following
  • drawing attention to a new product or service
  • data insights e.g. inviting customers to give feedback; observing how different audiences engage with your product

Once you decide the main motivation behind your event, frame your standard for success by quantifying the gains you want to get out of the event. For example, set targets for sales, visitors, leads and sign-ups. Gear your efforts towards these goals and you will be able to make informed decisions on the overall direction of your event – your location, invite list, concept, and so on.

Our first events were industry-focused, with the purpose of helping business owners in the Black British community network with each other and access invaluable knowledge at a low cost. It was also an opportunity for us to meet founders that might want to work with us, introduce people to the Jamii brand, and more overtly position ourselves as a platform that cares about the success of the businesses it works with.

These goals drove our approach to the events: we aimed to gather contact information, build our mailing list, and chat personally with attendees to foster relationships. Afterwards, we were then able to reflect on these aims to judge to what extent the event was a success, and what we would do better next time.

CULTURE&SOUND, 2019

TIP #2: Give your event a hook

To guarantee widespread interest and steady sign-ups, make sure your event has a hook – a clear appeal that your target audience understands. Figure out what the main value is that you’re giving your attendees and emphasise it in all your communications. Once there is a relevant hook that reels them in, they will want to run to get tickets.

We knew what we wanted our first event to be – but we were terrible at explaining it in concise, catchy terms. No one knew what to expect! From feedback afterwards, we knew that people were interested but they weren’t really sure if it was for them or if they were even the target market.

Our concept made sense, but our communication didn’t. Ticket sales were slow as a result. We learned an important marketing lesson and our next event, a deep-dive into the essentials of small business finances, was a lot clearer. We called it Money Matters and even ran the event description past more people to ensure it made sense.

Money Matters, 2019

TIP #3: Plan the event down to the minute

Nothing ever goes to plan – but having one helps a lot. Set your expectations for how you want the event to go and plan for every scenario. From ‘how will we get the tables to arrive on the day?’ to ‘what will we do if the WIFI is down?’, it helps to have a contingency plan so that your attendees don’t notice a thing.

One event we ran, Reboot & Refresh, was an entrepreneur roundtable that depended on the participation of the attendees. We were concerned that it would take people a while to warm up, so we wrote out a list of questions that we could ask to get the conversation going. Luckily, we didn’t have to use many of them before it started to flow!

Trust in your ability to rustle up a solution. If things go wrong, don’t panic. We once ran a marketplace featuring over 20 small businesses. On the day, we realised that there had been miscommunication amongst the managers of the space, and that there might not be enough room to house all of the stands. We had to be confident and get creative: we ended up moving things around from our original blueprint and using all the space we could to make sure all businesses got what they came for.

Reboot & Refresh, 2019

TIP #4: Create as much content as possible

Milk the event for as much content as you can. Months of photos, videos, blog posts and social media content can be made around this activation, not to mention having shots of your event can set a benchmark to expand or improve on future branding ideas.

If you can, invest in a photographer or videographer to document the day or task a friend with a high-quality camera to capture the important moments.

Create a shot list. Think about what content will you want down the line: you’ll want to be able to show people loving your products, interacting with your brand, having fun, and enjoying themselves.

Encourage attendees to take their own photos so you can repost them; user-generated content is generally considered more trustworthy and authentic and so this is powerful social proof.

To this day we still use photos and videos from our first events. As they were networking and roundtable discussions, we also used the topics as a basis for writing blog posts targeted at small business owners because the conversations were so impactful. 

The Black-Owned Weekender, 2021

TIP #5: Leverage other communities

Think about how you can reach out to influential people and organisations to sell more tickets. These could be influencers, newsletters, community establishments, or fellow small businesses. Who has a sizeable community people who would love to attend your event? Reach out to them and ask if they would like to share your event, either as a free or paid promotion.

Sometimes, it’s as easy as sending over flyers to put in their shop window or online order packages. For a more dynamic impact, you could organise a ticket giveaway or entry into a prize draw in exchange for event sign-ups. The collaboration with create a buzz and draw a new audience to your event.

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