Kanye had "The Yeezus Tour."
Decluttering guru Marie Kondo is on a never-ending "Sparks Joy" tour.
Facebook's "IQ Insights Live" tour last summer swept New York City, Chicago and LA.
Comcast NBCUniversal inspired the "Tomorrow Tour", a multi-city event series convening entrepreneurs and technology and innovation influencers in Philadelphia, Denver, Miami, Chicago, Detroit and Atlanta.
What do these events have in common? According to Splash co-founder and CEO Ben Hindman, quite a bit actually.
They're all some version of a multi-city "road show"--one of the greatest ways, according to Ben, to build trust and intimacy with enthusiastic fans and to target your next great customers.
Ben is a fan of road shows, when they are done well (and timed right). As Ben sees it, the act of hitting the road to bring a product straight to the people is an incredibly effective event marketing strategy--particularly for small to mid-sized companies - if you follow these 12 tips to ensure your investment actually pays off:
1. Make a big deal about your "guest of honor" coming to town.
The key to a successful road show is to create some magic around your company's arrival. Ben's advice? Make sure the world knows your company's VIP (like your CEO) is a big deal. Several weeks before each city stop, encourage your sales team to sound the trumpets: "[XYZ] is coming to town, and this is a limited-time opportunity to connect one-on-one."
Why?: It's a great way to create that coveted "velvet rope" effect. The more difficult it is to access the CEO, the higher the demand.
2. Pick a venue that is awesome.
Don't skimp on the venue. It is absolutely worth the extra $20 to $30 extra per person to make sure the food, beverages and experience is on point - and the location is one people will come to, rain or shine!
Why?: Experience is everything. If your venue doesn't excite your guests, neither will your company or product.
3. Make the event bigger than you.
No one wants to go to a happy hour and listen to a PowerPoint presentation about your product. Think bigger. Think about what would get your guests excited. Educate them. Expose them to new ideas. Connect them with like-minded people. Ben is adamant on this point: never put the product front-and-center. It's tacky and a huge turnoff. Know where your product fits into the market, and design an event around the most relevant, interesting theme, idea or debate in your industry.
Who has thought bigger? According to Ben, Facebook's "IQ Live" event series is a great example. As is SalesLoft's Rainmaker event down in Atlanta. Appboy hit it out of the park last November with their LTR event. Tapad's "Unify Tech" event is also a good one, if you need some road show inspiration.
Why?: Emotions play a big role in decision-making. If you want to influence someone, you have to design an event that appeals to their emotions. If your event is a straight sell, you've lost them at this event and any future event you're thinking about hosting.
4. Maximize your face-time while you're on the ground.
Your top prospect can't make it to your event? No problem. Find a time to take them out for coffee or a drink while you're in town. Have your team set up at a coffee shop and take meetings there. Plan ahead and make the most of every stop. There's no reason why with a little planning and imagination, you can't hit every touch-point in one or two days.
Why?: Just because someone can't make it to your event doesn't mean they're not interested in what you've got to offer. Don't hesitate to make the most of every moment you're in town.
5. Incentivize your sales team.
How do you get quality attendees to RSVP to your event? Incentivize your team to get them. Here's a great reward system Ben suggests you try: Challenge your team to get $500K worth of opportunity in the door. If they succeed, they each get $500 cash.
Why?: Your sales team should absolutely have a stake in the success of your entire road show. If you give them an incentive up front, they'll have even more reason to hit it out of the park at each city stop.
6. Get your best guest to spread the word for you.
How do you get your RSVPs to actually show up? In Ben's experience, social klout is the #1 influence mechanism. First, identify a few influential people who are guaranteed to come, and then encourage them to do one of two things: (a) Bring an influential +1 with them, and (b) get them to publicly affirm that they'll be there.
Why?: If there are two things I've learned after more than a decade as an event planner: (1) Smart guests have smart friends, and (2) if they Tweet or Post or Pin about it, they'll actually come.
7. Know your "feeling" goal.
We all know this but it is worth hearing it again: when it comes to events, people don't remember details, they remember how they felt. Ben suggests that as you plan your road show, ask yourself: "What feeling do I want to evoke?" If you want your guests to feel like they're part of something exclusive, then be diligent in making sure everything reflects that, from the invitation to the event photos.
Why?: Every single little event detail is a factor in whether your guest has a good or bad experience. If you're not paying attention to your "feeling" goal, you could unknowingly host a (gasp!) unmemorable event.
8. Know that your most important event is your next event.
The devil is in the data! Make sure to collect event data that will inform your next visit. For example: Send a post-event thank you email, and keep an eye on those metrics.
Why?: The people who engage with your thank you email are the ones you want to help spread the word for your next event in that city.
9. Plant a seed.
If your company is headquartered is in NYC, road shows are a great way to show that you're not just a NYC company.
Why?: You're where your customers are - which matters to them.
The best way to solidify that feeling? Ben says to show your guests that it's not goodbye, it's "see you later." In your follow-up emails, give guests an opportunity to subscribe to future events (yes, you might even set up a Splash page for your next event to start capturing interest ahead of time).
10. Get local.
Know the local customs! People in San Francisco don't like to get up early, so Ben always thinks twice about an early morning breakfast event when he's in the Bay Area. It's kind of uncool to host a BBQ event in Austin (it is the home of Franklin's after all, and while that is novel to the rest of us, not to Austin residents). If it rains in LA, you'd better have valet (and don't even think about hosting a weekday event in LA after 7pm).
Bottom line according to Ben, if you're unfamiliar with a city, don't make assumptions. Make it a point to connect with two or three locals in your network and drill them on everything.
Why?: Showing your prospects that you've done your research goes a long way. If your event is hyper-local and incredibly thoughtful, people will notice. If it's not, they'll see right through you.
11. Don't just bring the suits.
A great event thrives on diversity. As Ben reminds us, your guests aren't there to meet the sales guy. They're there to meet your designer. Your engineer. Your account execs. Give them a well-rounded view of who your company really is. It's so much more interesting (and diversity may just be your biggest selling point).
Why?: Potential customers feel more comfortable if they know who's beyond the initial point of contact, which is often a salesperson. Bringing along a diversity of roles and people is a great way to convey the feeling that they will be in good hands.
12. Nametags are an absolute must.
Ben doesn't care what anyone says: Nametags are the best. Ben suggests keeping it simple when it comes to nametags: Just first name and company. Nothing more. My suggestion: ditch the lanyard and invest in a decent nametag holder that clips to a lapel. No one wants to search for someone's name mid-torso.
Why?: Nametags are a selfless thing, really. They're not for you; they're to help the person across from you gather that little bit of data they need to strike up a conversation. Nothing wrong with that.