Organising an online event is something every business owner should consider – especially in the current climate. In fact, attracting new customers with virtual sessions is often quicker, simpler and much cheaper than running ‘face-to-face’ gatherings. Here are our 20 tips for building an exceptional virtual event.
Many business owners don’t realise just how effective virtual tools can be when it comes to boosting sales and brand recognition. Often, taking some time to develop an online event can allow you to reach new audiences and generate a buzz around your product or service. But that’s not the only benefit of building a virtual meeting, whether you're running a B2B franchise or a children's franchise.
Why host an online event?
- Reach a global audience – Unless you’re hosting a truly ground-breaking event, you’ll probably only attract customers who live in the local area to a ‘brick-and-mortar’ show. But if you take it online, you allow people from all over the world to tune in and take part, which will help you widen your customer base.
- Save money – When you host an online event, you don’t need to rent a property, deck it out or pay for all the other costs to go along with it. This is a big plus, particularly for up-and-coming businesses looking to save some capital.
- Appeal to more people – No matter how popular your brand is, your customers are busy living their lives, and may not be able to take time out to drive to a special event. If you choose to make it virtual, your attendees can tune in from the comfort of their own home and even run other errands whilst taking part. What’s more, they’ll save money on petrol and other potential costs like refreshments.
- Analyse take-up – It can be difficult to track the success of a showcase or exhibition when you’re hosting it in person. But when you run an online event, you can use analytical tools to measure customer engagement with the session and the marketing material leading up to it.
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How to plan a successful online event
Let’s start off with 10 steps to building a great virtual event; later, we’ll run through some key marketing tips to help you get the word out.
- Start with a goal and concept. Once you’ve established an initial outline of your event, you can fill in the details to make sure your event serves its purpose. You’ll need to decide whether it’ll be live or available on demand, and whether it’ll be free or ticketed.
- Make it informative. You can entice more customers to join in by giving them the chance to learn something new. You could include a ‘how-to’ element with a step-by-step guide, demonstrate how to use your new product or answer common customer questions.
- Give an exclusive insight. If the technology allows, why not offer a behind-the-scenes tour? You could even introduce some of your business’s leaders. Use this step to build trust, showing event attendees how your company operates.
- Sponsor a charity. Customers may be more likely to join in on the fun if it’s for a good cause. There’s no downside to this step; you get great publicity and the charity gets extra funds.
- Invite special guests. Boost your viewing figures by streaming talks and appearances by guest speakers, business partners, sponsors and influencers.
- Choose the right time. Timing is crucial; remember, many people won’t be able to take part at certain times of the day or week. Think about your target audience and their lifestyle. Also, consider competing events, upcoming public holidays and international time zones, as these will all affect the number of people who can tune in.
- Prioritise diversity. Your business may attract publicity for the wrong reasons if you don’t think about inclusivity during the planning stages. If you’re inviting guests, make sure you give a voice to those from minority groups and use clear language, large fonts and high colour contrast throughout your communications. Also, try to provide subtitles, captions and sign language visuals whenever you can.
- Plan well ahead. According to research by Adobe, the highest proportion of event registrations occur around two to three weeks before the big day. Bear this in mind when organising your marketing efforts and make sure you take things up a notch during the busy period.
- Anticipate technical issues. When you’re running an online event, things can go wrong. Avoid the chances of a glitch by running some checks ahead of time and preparing easy-to-follow troubleshoots or FAQ responses for attendees.
- Introduce an interactive element. Give your audience the chance to get involved by asking questions through a chat tool, take part in a quiz or send in photos. You could also encourage them to live Tweet the online event by creating a dedicated hashtag.
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Promoting your online event is a significant part of the organisation process. These days, there are plenty of clever tools you can use to generate customer interest; here’s how you can take advantage of them.
- Think about SEO. Search engine optimisation sounds a bit tedious, but it can pay off enormously. In fact, Google searches can generate between five and 10 percent of event ticket sales.
- Create eye-catching imagery. Develop colourful but professional marketing material with professional standard photography to showcase the atmosphere attendees can expect at your event.
- Ask to be listed on event sites. According to Eventbrite, more than half of urban event-goers look at local guides for inspiration. You could also try using Spotify and Facebook Events to reach more people.
- Attend similar industry get-togethers. By networking at other gatherings, you can promote your online event to people who want to learn and expand their knowledge.
- Use retargeting technology. Although this step sounds complicated, it’s a popular tool used by many savvy businesses. By taking advantage of it, you can target people who have previously demonstrated an interest in your virtual event or website to encourage them to return and book their spot.
- Find ‘lookalike’ audiences. You can use algorithms on social media sites to scan users’ locations, interests and online behaviours. Taking this step will help you target people who match your customer profile.
- Create an infographic. Creating an eye-catching visual is often an easy way of getting customers’ attention. Infographics are usually interesting and easily digestible, allowing you to convey details about your business quickly. They can also be shared online, which should mean more people will be exposed to your business and online event.
- Launch an event countdown clock. One way of creating excitement around your online event is to count down the days or hours until it starts. This step will act as a handy reminder to people who lead busy lives but are keen to get involved.
- Introduce a free ticket giveaway. Use social media to your advantage by encouraging people to enter some sort of competition. If you’re charging an event entry fee, you could give away tickets; if your get-together is free, why not hand out special gifts or prizes?
- Don’t forget post-event follow-up activity. Remind attendees of the fun they had by publishing social media posts, blogs or other content with photos of the online event. You could also ask for feedback to improve your next event.
Examples of online events organised by franchises
You’re only limited by your imagination when it comes to organising an online event. Here are just a couple of the virtual gatherings organised by franchises this year:
- Sandstone Yoga is running an online class for beginners called Anxiety Soother: Rest & Reset
- Pretzel giant Auntie Anne’s organised a Facebook Live event, ‘Auntie’ Anne Herself In Your Kitchen
- Snap Fitness has been holding virtual sports classes for free to get customers moving during the COVID-19 lockdown
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Alice Tuffery, Point Franchise ©