How To Run a Promotional Event To Promote Your Online Business

Ultimate guide to running an event

Increasing your company’s online presence can be achieved in a number of different ways — one of these being offline blogger events.

At Exposure Ninja we’re always looking for ways to increase our clients’ visibility, particularly when it comes to combining Digital PR outreach and SEO strategies. Events are one area that doesn’t get much attention from most companies that focus on digital, but we thought the potential to get lots of influential people in one place was too good to be true!

We’ve started testing offline PR events and, so far, the results have been incredible. In this post, we’re going to share how and why you might want to try this out for your own business.

“Events? Really? Sounds messy, icky and stressful. Can’t I just spend more on Adwords/SEO/Facebook instead?”

As much as it pains us to say it, even the most persuasive copy can’t beat personal contact for making an impact. So many bloggers and journalists spend their whole lives online, yet even those who feel naked without the comforting warmth of their laptop keys under their fingers do need to get out of the office from time to time.

So why events? If your business is new or you want more attention, an event is a great way of drawing attention and (loudly) announcing your presence. New beauty salon struggling to get customers? Throw an event, give them champagne and offer makeup tutorials! Wedding photographer? Run a wedding fayre!

Getting people through the door and starting the conversation with them is an important first step if you want to make a splash. We’ll look at some more examples of attention-grabbing events later on…

“But can events help my online visibility too?”

Yes, if you’re smart about it. Post-event reviews, social media activity, promotional material and partner content all help give you more online visibility. Not only do events get people talking about your company, they can also be a great way of acquiring links to your website to boost your ranking. Each time a blogger, journalist or online publication writes about your company, they’ll add a link to your website.

If the bloggers you invited are influential and high authority (in fact, even if they’re not) these links will add up to boost your ranking. In addition to getting links one at a time from regular SEO-PR work, an event can bring you in tens, hundreds and in some cases even thousands of links within a very short space of time.

Massive win for your company and your online exposure.

Finally, an event shows your existing (and potential) customers that you care. I know, I know, it sounds a bit soft and fluffy, but it’s incredibly important to show just how dedicated you are to providing exceptional customer service at every opportunity.

Whether you’re reactivating old customers who don’t come around as much as they used to or inviting along frequent fans to spread the word to the undecided, an event puts your business top of mind.

Case Study: Jo Malone

One company who is exceptionally good at this is Jo Malone. My mum has been a dedicated Jo Malone customer for many years, and they recently sent her (and up to three friends…/daughters) an invitation to join them in a local Jo Malone store for her birthday, offering an hour of pampering with champagne, sweet treats and as many free samples as her skin could take. Needless to say, my two sisters and I jumped at the chance to accompany mum to her free hour of pampering.

We enjoyed an hour of champagne, lavender biscuits and hand/arm massages, and we left feeling truly rejuvenated. Incidentally, I also left the pampering session with some lime, basil & mandarin bath oil and a grapefruit scented candle. Did I need a lime, basil & mandarin bath oil or a grapefruit scented candle? Of course I didn’t! I mean, who really needs those things?! But I bought them, because I was made to feel important and they acted like they really cared about my mum and I.

And of course I now rave about Jo Malone to anyone who will listen (and even some who won’t), because they’re an example of customer service done right. A simple, mini event for proven loyal customers. Add champagne, some strategically placed upsells and everybody leaves happy.

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How To Maximise The Online Impact Of An Offline Event

To get the most of your event, you need to design it with the explicit aim of boosting your visibility online.

When you’re inviting bloggers along, it is important to outline exactly what you’re hoping they will provide once the event is complete. The standard requirements we use are as follows:

  • One post on a social media platform during the event
  • One post on each blogger’s site recovering the event
  • One picture posted on a social media platform either during or after the event

When asking guests to post to social media platforms, you should also include the hashtag that you would like them to include alongside their post, as well as any companies that wish to be tagged. These posts have the potential to increase your social media following, as well as showcasing to all the guest’s followers how creative you are as a company.

When it comes to the post, each guest, whether they are a blogger, journalist, vlogger or reporter, should include a link to your website. This means that anyone reading the content on their blog can then click straight through to find out more about you and, potentially, convert.

Case Study: Harington’s Hotel

We ran an event for Harington’s Hotel in Bath in February. The event picked up thirteen fantastic online reviews from influential bloggers, as well as multiple Instagram, Twitter and Facebook uploads alongside the hashtags #HaringtonsHotel and #HaringtonsSpaDay.

haringtonsspaday hashtag

Just under one month after the event took place, the Harington’s Hotel Facebook page exceeded the 1,000 follower mark. Since the bloggers’ online reviews went live, they have collectively received over sixty-nine comments from potential new customers, many of whom expressed what we marketing geeks like to call ‘purchase intent’ having seen the stunning photos and read the gushing write-ups.

Red Velvet London website

“I would love to plan an event, but I’m going in blind. Where do I start?”

One of the keys to a successful blogger event is staying super organised. There is nothing harder than executing an event with poor organisation skills. Reputations are made and broken by the quality of the organisation, and it’s key that the day runs smoothly.

Also important (as with any marketing activity) is to clearly define your goals up front: Why exactly are you running a blogger event? What are you hoping to achieve from the event? Is it general awareness with a specific audience, launch of a product or service? What’s your budget? How many people would you like to attend? Will you require additional support staff?

We Ninjas work with three different sizes of event: mini, medium and mega.

Mini events tend to be low budget, short events that can be executed multiple times a month. Think a coffee morning or equivalent.

Medium events are slightly bigger, require a slightly bigger budget and tend to last a full day or night.

Mega events (yup, you guessed it!) require a much bigger budget, a large amount of planning and can last as long as two or three days.

As with everything in marketing, where you start depends on your budget. If you’re testing the waters, starting small or medium makes sense.

“Sounds interesting! How do I begin designing an event?”

We would recommend creating at least three different ideas for your event; these ideas should compliment your brand image and intrigue your guests. If you’re struggling for ways to present your ideas, you could use a mood board — something that our event Ninjas do here at Exposure Ninja. These mood boards include images that sum up the tone of the event creative that you’re going for, allowing anyone who sees them an idea of what they’re in for.

Here is an example of a mood board that we have used for one of our own clients:

pretty pictures

Your mood board should reflect the kind of event that you are planning. For example, if you are looking at planning a mini event, such as a coffee morning or an evening of champagne and canapes within your store, your mood board should reflect this and should not over or undersell what you’re offering.

Just to clarify, a mood board is not a promise or an ‘event in pictures’. They are created to provide an idea of the type of event you intend on designing as well as the general tone of the event. They are not intended to be a literal representation of the event you intend to deliver, so have fun with them!

Example Event Design: Running A Mini Event

Say you’re looking to design a small, intimate event for a handful of guests – the first thing you want to do is establish a budget. For an event of this size, you want your budget to remain under £1000 (which incidentally, is plenty!) Once you have your budget secured, it’s time to get creative. The best place to start is to write down some words that you associate with your business.

For example, say you’re running a juice bar using only natural ingredients, your word association cloud might look something like this:

word association

Once you’ve thought of a few different words that you’d associate with your company, it’s time to get your creative juices flowing! Fruity, bright and fresh might inspire you to create a juice morning where guests can create their own mix of juices, whilst energising, healthy and delicious might inspire a more active, indulgent type of event. Once you have a few ideas going, create a mood board that encapsulates your thoughts and provides a place for your mini event to start growing. For example, the following mood board would be perfect for a fruity, bright and fresh event, where guests can experiment with flavour and create their perfect juice combination:

juice pictures

Alternatively, you could also partner with another company who are looking to bring people together and unite guests under one cause. For example, Macmillan Cancer Support is a charity that works to unify guests through coffee and cake, and as owners of a (hypothetical) coffee shop, it would be a natural fit to combine your business with this incredible charity. You could execute a coffee morning, inviting local guests and serving your best coffee creations alongside homemade cakes and bespoke pastries.

Alternatively, you could combine your mini event with a competition, proposing that each guest brings their own cake/biscuit/flapjack creation and awarding a prize of 10 free coffees to the person with the most loved baked goods. This way you not only incorporate your guests directly through the event design, you also bring together various members of the community and creative a supportive atmosphere within your business.

Mini Event Mood Board, Coffee Morning

Budget: < £1,000

Coffee Morning

This process can be repeated for events of any size; the most important thing is that you adjust the budget appropriately and tailor each event design to your company values and desired outcomes.

Medium Event Mood Board, Spa Day

Budget: Between £2,000 – £3,000

Spa Day pictures

Go Big or Go Home!

However, if thinking small just isn’t your forte, then play to your strengths and go big! If your company delivers any variety of food, drink, music, lighting or print design, a bespoke festival would be the perfect way for you to collaborate with a number of different companies and execute an unforgettable bespoke festival. Reading, V Festival and Glastonbury all started off as small, unknown festivals but with the right combination of skills, expertise and talent, they became legendary events. If you’re the kind of person who believes in ‘go big or go home’, a mega event is undoubtedly the right package for you.

Mega Event Mood Board, Bespoke Festival

Budget: £10,000+

Event board

Once you’ve decided on the theme for your event, it’s time to look at who you would like to attend and how you’re going to get in touch with these individuals.

“Can I invite the whole world to my event?”

Anonymous crowd of people walking on city street

Well, theoretically yes, but that doesn’t mean that you should. When it comes to running your own blogger event, the guest list is extremely important. If you invite the wrong type of blogger, the vibe on the day can be ruined by surly looks and uninterested guests, so you should dedicate some time to researching your guests and making sure that they’re the right fit.

Once you’ve collated your list of budding bloggers, get in contact with each one using either their email address or their social media pages. If they don’t reply to one, try the other (but don’t go round to their house… apparently that’s a step too far). If you’re not sure which bloggers to contact, get in touch with us – we run, a blogger network and work with a lot of awesome bloggers.

You Don’t Call, You Don’t Write – Where’s The Love?

The most important thing is that once you’ve made contact with your bloggers, you never let them forget you again. That’s not to say that you should bombard them with messages every minute of the day – apparently that’s a step too far as well.

What you should do is:

  • Send out a save the date
  • Send out an official invite inc. event details
  • Send out a transport document which includes parking areas, railway stations etc.

When building the event guest list for our recent PR event, we looked at a variety of bloggers from across the country. We wanted to include bloggers from various locations around the UK who posted about travel, hotels and lifestyle, because that’s what their audience is tuned to reading.

save the date

Example from the Harington’s Hotel Blogger Event

Any information that you think might help your guests should be sent, and you should be ready to answer any questions your guests might have quickly and thoroughly. This is your first opportunity to make an impression on your guests, and you want it to be a great one.

When it comes to contacting your guests through social media channels, you should approach this with caution. Many Facebook pages will not allow you to host a private event through your company Facebook page, and therefore whilst you think you might only be sharing the details with your followers, you risk sharing them with the entire world.

If you are hosting a private event, stay clear of using your company page to create the event. Instead, host it either through a private Facebook page or set up a personal, ‘event company’ page, such as ‘Events at Exposure Ninja’ and launch a private event through that profile.

What Is An Event Partner – And How Do They Differ From An Event Sponsor?

One way of ensuring that your event remains within the allocated budget is by sourcing support from other brands, in the form of either event partners or event sponsors.

An event sponsor will likely provide you with free samples, leaflets or information about their brand without necessarily making a physical appearance on the day. They can provide credibility through association and make your event extra attractive to your audience.

An event partner is far more involved — they tend to ‘co-headline’ the event, providing either a large amount of stock, services or financial assistance with the agreement that in turn, you will promote their brand alongside your own and they will also weigh in on event decisions.

Both event partners and event sponsors are extremely valuable, and if you can secure brands who match your brand values, you’ve struck gold.

Case Study: Harington’s Hotel Event Sponsors

In regard to the Harington’s Hotel Blogger Event, we looked for event sponsors who could support the hotel in its quest to launching one of the best bespoke spa days possible, and we secured Lush Cosmetics, a global cosmetics brand; Charlotte Brunswick, a local chocolatier; and Alara Wholefoods, an online whole foods company.

These partnerships not only allowed us to keep costs to a minimum, they also highlighted the ways in which Harington’s attracts not only local businesses but global ones as well. The affiliation with a global brand name instantly launched Harington’s Hotel onto a higher platform, whilst its support of local business reiterated the hotel’s commitment to developing the local area.

In regard to the level of support from each sponsor, this differed depending on the brand: Alara Wholefoods sent samples for gift bags, Charlotte Brunswick provided treats for the gift bag and chocolates to be consumed during the event, whilst Lush Bath provided spa treatments on the day and bath bombs for the guests to take away with them. However, regardless of the size or scale of each brand’s contribution, they all contributed to building an exceptional event.

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