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42 Tips For Producing A Memorable Small Business Event - Part 3

Posted in Tips on 30 September 2014
29. Follow up – and follow up again.  Check in early and often. Though no one wants to be micromanaged, make sure that employees and vendors are on track with their event duties. As long as people know you expect updates from time to time, they are less likely to become frustrated when you call or email for one.
 
30. Sponsors are royalty – make sure they feel like it.  If you have sponsors — treat them like kings. They fund your event and enable you to do it (if that’s your business model). Be very clear before the event what they will get as sponsors.
 
31. Always underestimate turnout, for sponsors. If you think you can get 100 attendees, base your sponsorship pitch on a lower estimate — especially if this is your first event. It’s better to give sponsors a pleasant surprise than a disappointing one.
 
32. Ask people what they think, and be ready for feedback good or bad. Ask for critiques. If you’ve done half a decent job, you’ll get lots of kudos. Say thanks, but then ask for the CRITIQUE and be ready for it.
 
33. Have a skilled social media team cover your event.  Don’t forget a social media team. While not imperative for every event or industry, more and more events are focusing on harnessing the viral power of their audience. If your audience is tweeting, Facebooking and taking pictures on Instagram — you should be doing the same and you will need a trained team to execute.
 
34. Look for vendors who serve your niche and are willing to get involved. The best vendors you can work with are those who are familiar with small business culture. Look for vendors who work with small businesses frequently or who would get involved on a bigger level than their role.
 
35. Set expectations carefully – then deliver. Ensure that the audience has a GREAT (not good) experience; and that you give them what they expected from attending.
 
36. Attitude is contagious.  Your guests in large part will play off your attitude and dynamics during the event. Lead by example and have a good time.
 
37. Let crowd reaction be your barometer.  Read the audience during the event. Ask people how they are doing. If things are going great, and if they are not, you’ll know.
 
38. Always ask yourself: How is this relevant to attendees?  Make sure you are offering content that is relevant to over 80% of the audience. The audience must walk away with tangible tactics to improve their business and career … and they must feel the speaker’s energy. Speaking about your business and what you do — without offering the audience what THEY need — is a waste of time and money for all.
 
39. As the master of ceremonies or a speaker – practice.  You know your business, but do not assume that you know how to put on a presentation. Practice giving your presentation, answering questions and handling difficult and confrontational members of the audience. The more prepared you are the better.
 
40. Look your best. Look the part… be comfortable but fashion forward. Even if you are an accountant or lawyer, choose your most distinctive suit or tie. People remember how comfortable you are in your own skin.
 
41.  Imagine the event, step by step, and make a 2-column list: what could go wrong in one column, and your contingency plan in the second.  Be prepared for the unexpected. Maybe the sound system fails. Maybe your keynote presenter bails. Can you cope and move on?
 
42. Be ready to lend a hand to fill any gaps. Although planning ahead is a great formula for success, it is never enough. Something unexpected always comes up. Thus, it pays to put in a little extra elbow grease for extenuating circumstances. This applies to catering arrangements, printing requirements, guest accommodations, weather forecasts, entertainment and more.
 

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42 Tips For Producing A Memorable Small Business Event - Part 2

Posted in Tips on 30 September 2014
15. Learn how to talk to the media. Journalists are very busy and always on deadline … they don’t have time to hear a sales pitch. Let them know that the information exists and — for future stories — that you are an expert in that field. Include that information when you reach out.
 
16. Use Twitter hashtags. Twitter is terrific for promoting events and for creating a sense of online community around an event. Set up a unique hashtag early on. Search Twitter first to make sure it’s not already in use. Put the hashtag right on the event website, and if you use the Tweet button for sharing on the site, work the hashtag right into the premade verbiage. When people tweet, it promotes the event automatically on Twitter.
 
17. Use online social pre-events to promote the main event.  To build interest in your event, trying holding a Google Hangout or a Twitter chat a few weeks before the main event. Invite a few of your speakers to participate in the online social event. Give a preview of what’s to come at the main event, by doing some discussion of what speakers will cover, or highlight the activities. It generates anticipation.
 
18. Buy advertising on social media networks.   Buying advertising on social networks is often overlooked by small events. Social advertising platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter above all) offer in depth targeting options that can significantly help to reach our target audience in our geographical location. The good news is that no large budgets are required and ticket sales can be easily measured.
 
19. Use YouTube to promote your event. YouTube is the second search engine worldwide after Google. Uploading videos from our previous events or interviews with our speakers/performers is a great way to convince prospective attendees to click on buy. Video provides significant visual cues thus impacting heavily on our decision making process. With events we always feel the risk of not knowing what will happen, video eases that tension.
 
20. Create an awesome low-budget promotional video. A little creativity with some poster board, a royalty-free music clip, and a good smartphone video camera will create a fun video to help publicize what’s to come.  Here’s a good video example, that did just that on a shoestring budget, to promote a small business event.
 
21. Get local bloggers involved.  Be smart with bloggers. Involving local bloggers to participate at the event is usually a great strategy to gain audience before, during and after the event. Bloggers usually count on a wide reach and do not usually follow traditional media rules.
 
22. Leverage event registration platforms like Meetup. Use existing platforms. If this is your first attempt at running an event and you lack the skills to promote it, have a look at Meetup.com. Other than offering a suite to manage events online, Meetup is a great referrer for relevant audience in your area. It also features registration and RSVP management capabilities that are particularly handy if you are inexperienced.
 
23. Use online registration. The easier way to scare people away is by having analog registration (faxes, bank draft or at the door only). Offer online registration to secure as many attendees as soon as possible, that will help to forecast numbers and release budget soon.
 
24. Get listed on sites catering to your group. Once you know who you want to attend, the next step is to put yourself in front of them. There are websites that specialize in listing events nationally (e.g. Meetup, Lanyrd) and locally so start there and research which are the most appropriate to get listed on.
 
25. Offer local partners incentives to promote you. Press releases sent to the relevant media outlets will help generate news buzz and you could look at getting media (online and offline) involved as partners. They get exposure at your event in return for publicizing it. If they don’t want to get involved at that level, approach them with the idea of running a competition for their readers to win tickets.
 
26. Make it easy on your speakers to publicize to their followers. If you have any experts/speakers attending,  encourage them to publicize their attendance to their social media followers/email subscribers.
 
27. Give early bird incentives. Early bird tickets at a cheaper rate are a great way to get early sign ups by giving people an incentive to act now rather than wait and forget.
 
28. Delegate responsibilities.  No matter the size of your business, always try to delegate responsibilities. Having one person in charge of every detail typically doesn’t work out well. Whenever possible, let people take control of the areas they most enjoy. For example, let the foodie in your company handle the catering details. The more someone enjoys their responsibilities, the more likely they will carry them out with success.
 

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42 Tips For Producing A Memorable Small Business Event - Part 1

Posted in Tips on 30 September 2014
Memorable events don’t just happen.  Organizing and holding an event takes planning. Whether it’s a conference, seminar or a customer appreciation day, and whether you have three weeks to plan or an entire year, your event’s success is in the details. We’ve collected 42 small business event planning tips from the experts, including some of the organizers of the annual Small Business Influencer Awards.
 
1. Decide upon your target audience before anything else.  The first step — before you do anything else — should be to clearly define who your target audience is. From this all the other decisions will fall into place in terms of format, content, prices, location etc. This structured approach will also help you to stay focused on achieving specific goals and not allowing the scope to become too broad or watered down.
 
2. Make a list of details — everything including lighting and public transportation, to content and refreshments.  When you decide to have an event, everything matters. From program content and lighting to transportation and parking — everything counts. And your audience will attribute everything to you and…your brand.  Making a list will ensure you don’t overlook things.
 
3. Have a clear business purpose for holding the event.  Before you can begin planning a successful event, be clear on why you are doing it in the first place, because every decision after that should support your main goal. Is it lead generation? Is it to create awareness of your company or a particular product?  Is is to develop customer loyalty? Or do you simply want to make money (which is okay too)?  And make sure the team is aware of the purpose, so that you don’t have “scope creep.”
 
4. Watch out for other industry events when scheduling.  Check the calendar. Make sure you don’t schedule your event on or too close to holidays or popular vacation times. It’s just as important to check for other events that your target attendees might be going to.
 
5. Be flexible with changes in size, location and other details.  As you get into the event planning process, you may find that your event changes in size, location, and many other ways than you originally envisioned. This is natural and perfectly fine as long as you don’t lose sight of the reason you’re doing all this work in the first place.  Some flexibility is necessary.
 
6. Know your limitations. We all know the goal is to throw a great live event. To that end, we also have to be aware of what we can or cannot realistically do — be it budget … or time-wise. If you decide to throw a live event in a week’s time, plan for a more intimate affair. If it’s a big event, prepare several months ahead. If the budget is small, you may have to counterbalance with creativity and a lot of do-it-yourself work.
 
7. Create SMART goals. Always start with strategy. Just like building any business, great events start with a strong, thoughtful and measurable strategy. Live events are an amazing way to share your brand, connect with your target market, get feedback on your product (and more!), but you need to know what you are trying to achieve. Stick with SMART goals and outline what you are aiming for. Then make sure that you proceed in line with reaching these goals.
 
8. Develop a “financing plan” for your event, and estimate the numbers. Know how you are going to pay for the event. Most events are funded by sponsorships, ticket sales, internal marketing budgets — or a combination of all three. When you create your budget for the event, you’ll need to estimate how much money you can realistically raise from each area. Before you book your venue or sign any contracts, it’s a good idea to start signing sponsors first, or selling advance tickets to make sure there is enough interest in your idea to fund it.
 
9. Create an expense budget  – and save money through “in-kind” sponsor donations.  Events tend to cost more than the average small business owner thinks — primarily in regards to the venue and food and beverage. Remember to price out all the permits and licenses you will need as well. (This is where an event planner can help you avoid headaches.)  Make a comprehensive list of all the expenses and then highlight areas where you think sponsors can play a role to offer something “in kind.” The more you work with other brands and partners to host your events, the more you can save.
 
10. Consider crowdfunding as a new option to raise money for an event.  If this is your first time running events, use crowdfunding platforms to ease the risk. By publishing your events on these platforms attendees will need to pledge for tickets for the event to take place. If the minimum number of attendees required is not met the event does not take place.
 
11. You’ll need a DETAILED marketing plan. Create a marketing plan for the event. The more organized you are, the more professional your event will be.
 
12. Be tireless in your efforts or your event will fail.  If you don’t want to be at your event alone … then market, market, market, market … and market some more.
 
13. Define good reason(s) for people to show up.  What’s the draw for attendees? You need to define WHAT you’re doing at the event that will bring those target attendees in the door. For a consumer product it might be a party with entertainment and product demos and freebies. For a business crowd it might be educational content or an exciting, well-known expert speaker. Whatever it is, don’t lose the connection with why you want this particular audience clamoring to get in.
 
14. Lay out in writing why your target market should attend – don’t assume the benefits are obvious. When promoting an event be sure to tell your target market what they will learn, who they will meet and why they should be there. Don’t assume your friends will tell their friends. If you are using speakers, give them advertising copy so that they can promote the event to their audiences.

 

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10 Tips For Organising A Successful Fundraising Event

Posted in Tips on 30 September 2014
Whether you regularly host paper based auctions, live auctions and fundraising galas or you’re looking at organising your first fundraising event, Team iBid have helped charities #RaiseMore for over five years now and we are here to help you too. In the last 12 months alone we have supported 650 events raising over £20million for a range of global charities and therefore, literally re-written the silent auction text book! With all this experience and knowledge under our belt, we always advise our clients on best practice options, tips and tricks to ultimately raise more money on the night.
 
We appreciate that every event is different and therefore some of the below may not apply to you and your events, but we hope you find the majority, or even one or two, useful.
 
1. All eyes on your auction:
 
Do not run the silent auction during post dinner entertainment (e.g. brands, DJ’s etc.) as barely anyone will get back to the table to bid once they are on the dance floor. We typically suggest to close the silent auction after the live auction, so that you still have guests’ attention while they are seated.
 
2. Don’t be shy of announcements:
 
Be sure to allow enough time during the night for announcements about the auctions – introduce, remind and conclude. Make follow up announcements throughout – it works and it helps raise more.
 
3. Ensure a brilliant MC:
 
Don’t underestimate the role of an MC. To keep the event moving, communicate key messages to guests and help build the atmosphere for a superb fundraising event. They are worth their weight in gold!
 
4. Offer something different:
 
There are lots of fundraising events happening throughout the year and you want to stand out, so provide something different that will get guests talking and coming back for more next year. Different style food, cool photography booths, brilliant interactive technology and acts, etc.
 
5. Who is in the room?
 
When sourcing lot items try to consider your audience and the demographic in the room as best as possible and not what you (the client) would like to bid for. Target your audience with lot items they would be interested in!
 
6. Offer a wide range of auction items:
 
Don’t narrow your fundraising potential by only having memorabilia or experiences. In our experience the best events from a fundraising perspective include a wide range, from holidays and experiences to signed pieces and art.
 
7. Quality not quantity:
 
Focus on sourcing quality items rather than a larger quantity. It’s a fine balance but turning the auction list into a ‘shopping list’ will not raise you more money, but limiting the number of items to increase the bids on each item will.
 
8. Use the leaderboard:
 
Try and show the leaderboards on the screens as much as possible and also ask the MC to really push the system and encourage competitive bidding.
 
9. Think about a live pledge moment:
 
Remind your guests of exactly where their money will go and what difference their donation will make. Live pledging on tablets enables your guests to easily donate throughout your fundraising event and will be displayed on an instant leaderboard.
 
10. Organise your payment collection:
 
Build a time into the end of your event to allow sufficient time for collecting the money from your guests. It’s so much easier when they are sat at their tables rather than on the dance floor!
 

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EU Accuses Ireland of Offering State Aid to Apple

Posted in News on 30 September 2014
The European Union has accused Ireland of being a tax sanctuary for Apple, Reuters is reporting.
 
European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia, in a letter, told the Irish government that it is offering the U.S. iPhone maker illegal state aid through tax arrangements that have “no scientific basis.” Rather, the provision helps the iPhone maker to avoid paying international tax on tens of billions of dollars in revenue.
 
Almunia said the tax deals agreed to in 1991 and 2007 are pretty much state aid, which breaks EU laws.
 
“The Commission is of the opinion that through those rulings the Irish authorities confer an advantage on Apple,” reads the letter from Almunia, who added that the money could yet be demanded from the U.S. company. According to EU competition law, if a government is found to have doled out state aid to a company without justification, it must then recover that money from the company.
 
Analysts said the deals struck with Ireland have saved Apple billions of dollars in tax.
 
Neither the Irish government nor Apple would comment on the matter, but have in the past denied any tax sheltering was occurring.
 
This is not the first time Apple has been accused of such measures.
 
Apple CEO Tim Cook appeared before a Senate panel in the U.S. last year to defend his company’s tax practices.
Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan accused Apple of using “ghost companies” in other countries to avoid paying more tax in the U.S. He described Ireland as a “tax haven” for Apple.
 
A Congressional report last year about Apple’s practices indicated that some of Apple’s overseas holdings had no employees and, instead, were run by Apple executives from its headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. By setting up shop in Ireland and other countries, Apple was able to find tax exemptions.
 
Cook, however, said Apple pays “all the taxes we owe — every single dollar.”
 

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5 Ways to Create Fresh Perspectives at Your Next Event

Posted in Tips on 29 September 2014
Meeting planners and event managers know the drill – jam-packed event schedules, multiple-day conferences, and lots of sitting for attendees. We see our clients and guests struggle with it every day. As an event planner, how do you keep your audience engaged and active during long conferences and meetings? Here are a few ideas we’ve gathered from observing our clients in action.
 
Team Building + Exercise = Fresh Perspectives
Studies show that a short aerobic workout gives your brain an immediate boost. Just doing one workout has been proven to immediately increase higher-order thinking skills. Imagine what your next event or conference would be like with increased thinking!
 
In addition to brain stimulation from exercise, team building activities create learning experiences attendees can apply to their everyday life. Team building is a beneficial approach to improve communication and problem solving. For event guests, team building activities provide opportunities for networking.
 
Make your conference, event, or meeting more productive and hands-on with these fresh perspectives designed get your audience moving and interacting.
 
Fresh Perspectives
Whether it’s indoor or outdoor, physical or mental, activities for team building are designed to break up the classroom atmosphere of a meeting or conference. Follow these fresh perspectives to incorporate puzzles or games, physical activities, and interactive and experiential learning activities into your next event, conference, or meeting.
 
Outdoor Break
There’s nothing like stepping outside after sitting inside at a conference or meeting for hours. Give your attendees a breath of fresh air with outdoor interactive or physical activities. Take a short walk, plan a brief outdoor activity or take a portion of the event outside and help break up a long day. Attendees will appreciate the fresh air and feel energized when they return to the event or conference.
 
Mix It Up
If outdoor space isn’t available, stimulate productivity and engagement inside the meeting space with puzzles and games. While puzzles and games may sound simplistic, they are useful tactics to inspire creative thinking. Puzzles and games use scenarios to encourage intellectual problem solving and attendees can immediately apply what they learn during the conference or event in a simulated real life situation.
 
If you have short breaks between event sessions, try classic ice breakers to liven up the agenda and get people moving in these brief timeframes.
 
Get a Brain Boost
Getting the heart moving improves blood flow to the brain and, as a result, improves cognition – the process of acquiring knowledge.
 
Charles Hillman, professor of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois, found that as little as 20 minutes of aerobic exercise at 60-70% of your maximum heart rate is enough to boost your brain power and learning ability for the next few hours.
 
Whether it’s a group jog in the morning or mid-day yoga, incorporating physical movement into events and conferences gets brains stimulated and thinking. Quick spurts of movement, such as having attendees stand up and stretch, can also be a positive method to boost thinking and engagement.
 
In Conclusion
Integrating team building and exercise into events and conferences engages and motivates attendees. Look for ways to get up and get moving, and even get out of the conference room.
 
Create a fresh perspective at your next event!
 

 

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Fill Conference Bags With Things People Won't Throw Away

Posted in Tips on 29 September 2014
Conference bags must breed in the dark. Everyone seems to have at least a dozen stuffed in the back of the closet. But they can be much more than a container for “stuff” during an event. They can be effective, desirable and memorable. Here’s how to pick a smart one and fill it with things attendees will keep, so your time and budget won’t be wasted.
 
A conference-event swag bag is nothing more than a hole surrounded by cloth with handles. Yet it’s one of those traditions that meeting professionals just can’t seem to leave behind. Promotional bags and products are a $19.4 billion industry.
 
A functional, stylish conference bag can make a strong first impression. After all, who doesn’t want cool stuff? But an ugly bag filled with lame, useless things will end up in the nearest rubbish can when no one’s looking. So sharpen up before your next event. Do not underestimate the event marketing power of the bag.
 
The conference bag is the first gift you give an attendee.
 
Make It Personal
When you hand attendees their bags, you are saying that you appreciate their attendance and this event is going to be something special. Don’t let them down. The key to improving your bags is to make them an integral part of the overall event strategy. Have a communication plan for the conference bag and solid reasons for its contents.
 
Set a goal that you want the bag to achieve. Just giving people a place to stash junk and office supplies is a wasted opportunity.
 
Communicate the strategy to workshop leaders and exhibitors. Enlist them in the plan.
 
Start With A Smart Bag
There are literally thousands of options at different price points. Before you select one, do this quick exercise. Think of three or four of your top clients or typical attendees.
 
- Would they truly want the bag you are considering?
- Why would they want to take it home after the event?
 
Let that be your guide. I’m not in the promotional products business, but here are some suggestions and a few free ideas from a guy who’s done decades of events:
 
1. Avoid any bag design that’s commonplace, boring and forgettable. Don’t make it black!
2. Think style first and marketing second. Go for attractive colors, interesting fabrics and a stylish look. Surprise attendees with the design.
3. Bigger isn’t better. Remember, attendees have to carry it around all day.
4. If you display a logo, make sure it fits the design and doesn’t look stuck on.
5. Don’t put a date on it! That makes the bag outdated the moment the event’s over.
 
What About Recyclable Bags?
I am 100% behind green events and managing event waste. However, you need to be careful to separate the philosophy from the marketing. Just because something is recyclable doesn’t always make it the smartest bag choice. Remember, another word for recyclable is: toss-it-before-you-leave. Is that what you really want?
 
Reusable is the better goal. You want to make the conference bag a part of a positive overall event experience. You want every person to see new ways to use your event bag after they get home. Here are some free ideas you can try.
 
Free Ideas
Have several designs. Thanks to new technology, you can have beautiful printing on your bags. Offer attendees a choice of bag. Research shows you have a better chance of the bag making it home if the person can pick the one she/he likes best.
 
Have the bag designed by a local artist. This makes it unique, distinctive and personal. Plus, it gives the bag a story and people will view it as exclusive.
 
Use logo tags instead of printing on the bag. Add colorful luggage tags with the logo. They will look better and make the conference bag more desirable. Plus, you can use several for conference sponsors.
 
Killer Free Idea
Use a backpack or book bag instead of traditional shopping bag or tote bag designs. I saw this at a show and it’s brilliant. Events and conferences are filled with people with children. Every child wants and needs a backpack for school, so make it your conference bag! A colorful backpack with bold graphics will be taken home and used. Your attendees will see and remember the event every day. I realize the initial cost may be higher, but no event bag is a deal if it ends up in the trash.
 
Fill It With Value And Not Junk
Remember, a great-looking conference bag is just half the communication strategy. Part 2 is filling it with great stuff that’s meaningful, functional and relevant.
 
You can and should share your conference bag strategy with sponsors and trade show exhibitors. They have their own objectives, and they will appreciate anything that makes them look and feel like a part of the big picture. You can’t control what sponsors and exhibitors give away, but you can influence them.
 
Take It Or Toss It
A few years ago, I asked the venue hotel to show me the trash from 20 attendee rooms after the event. It was both revealing and depressing. The trashcans were filled with conference bags, workshop materials, promotional items and the client’s $100-a-piece product demos. What I learned was there’s a giant difference between picking up something on an impulse and making the decision to take it home and use it.
 
The choice is Take It or Toss It. Here’s how you can decide what’s worth your time and money.
 

Take it or toss it

Take It
The key question every attendee asks is, “Do I need or want this?” So you have to help them to see themselves using it. Here are the top things people will keep and take home.
 
Attendee-specific information
Electronics
Attractive clothing
Anything for children
 
Toss It
You may notice this list includes some of the obvious and traditional event items. Attendees see them every time. Just how many water bottles, coffee mugs, ball caps and pens does anyone need? Here are the top things people will toss before they go home.
 
Printed collateral
Anything that won’t pass airport security
Super-branded items
Cheap, low-quality items
 
The airport security issue is important. I saw this not long ago. An event sponsor gave away souvenir bottles of hot sauce. They were fantastic – custom labeled, funny copy and made by a small company that was used as a business example in one of the general sessions. The bottles went fast! The next day at the airport I saw hundreds of bottles had been thrown away. The hot sauce was in 5 ounce bottles. In the US the largest size you can have in carry-on luggage is 3.4 ounces. The lesson is – you have to think things through.
 
One More Free Idea
Use conference bags to encourage early registration. Create a special swag-bag version that includes high-end items like gift cards, tickets to shows or sporting events. You know how this works. Then offer these exclusive conference bags to the first 100-500 people who register. You are building the perception that your conference bags are valuable before the event.
 
In Conclusion
Whether it’s the conference bag or the items you fill it with – make it matter. The conference bag is the first gift you give an attendee. It becomes personal. So make it too good to throw away. Just imagine how it could increase the image of your organization and the impact of your conference if the attendees loved your bags and considered them filled with unique, exclusive, valuable items and information?
 
Maximize the potential of your next bag. Make it part of your overall communication strategy and use it to support and enhance your event message. Oh, I have one more new free idea for you – Edible Conference Bags. Sounds like a winner!
 

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Where's My Money? Five Sneaky Ways to Get Paid After an Event

Posted in Tips on 29 September 2014
Doing a wonderful job on an event is great. Getting paid is even better. But sometimes getting paid on time is tough. Here are the top five sneaky ways to get paid and keep your client relationship strong.
That sense of personal satisfaction you feel at the end of a successful event is rewarding, but you can’t pay the bills with it. That’s why the last step you should implement in every event is your own “get paid now” strategy.
 
Why It Pays to be Paid Quickly
If you’re like most planners, your best friends are your credit cards. They’re an easy and convenient way to pay for events and track costs. I work with one production company that manages a series of large events every year. They literally charge the events on American Express. Can you imagine the cash-back points you could earn on a seven-figure conference?
 
The problem is that the interest on a credit card balance can quickly eat up your profit margin. If you are carrying expenses for 90 days after the event ends, you are actually lending money to your clients!
 
- 90 days – A $20,000 balance at 15% interest costs you $500.
- 90 days – A $50,000 balance at 15% interest costs you $1,255.
 
Wouldn’t you rather have your money in the bank, drawing interest and building profit?
 
The Time to Think About Being Paid is BEFORE You Do the Job
There’s always a big rush to respond to an event RFP or project offer. But slow down and be as professional and objective as your clients are about the financial side of the business. Here are the biggest things you should do – right up front – to make sure you get paid promptly.
 
Check out the prospective client in advance.
Contact one of the credit reporting companies and pay for a report. According to Experian, about 70% of businesses don’t check out the credit of a company or client before accepting a project or contract. A simple report usually costs less than $20. If the project is over $5,000, the odds are the client has checked your company out. Return the favor.
 
Talk about money early.
Ask about the company’s payment policies before you accept the job. How should you submit invoices? What is the payment cycle? You can and should negotiate how quickly you get paid, right up front.
 
Have a solid contract or work agreement.
Put everything in your contract or work agreement. Please don’t use a generic contract, and don’t even attempt to play lawyer and write your own. Invest in an attorney and make the contract or agreement as simple and informal as possible. You want the client to sign it immediately and not send it to the corporate legal department for a couple of weeks.
 
Sneaky Tip #1
Ask, “What’s the easiest way for you to pay me?”
This is a fantastic way to open a comfortable financial discussion. You are suddenly making things more efficient for the client and putting her/his convenience first. But, in reality, the client is becoming your advocate.
 
Sneaky Tip #2
Offer a discount for 100% payment up front. This really works. Offer a 2% discount for 100% payment up front. To decide if this is a good idea for your next event, answer three questions.
 
1. How long will it take to complete the event?
2. What out-of-pocket costs and expenses will I have to carry?
3. Based on my cash reserves and credit, how long can I carry the costs?
 
In many cases, even with a discount, you’ll come out ahead.
 
Sneaky Tip #3
Offer to send several smaller invoices instead of one large one. This comes out of your money conversation. Many clients can personally approve invoices under a certain amount. One of my regular clients can handle anything under $5,000 without going through Purchasing. So I send smaller invoices as we go along. Unless the entire job takes just a few days, ask about incremental invoices.
 
How to Make Sure You Get Paid on Time After the Project Ends
Invoice immediately.
I have found that this is the Number One reason people don’t get paid on time. According to FreeAgent, just one week’s delay in sending an invoice doubles the time you wait for payment. Yet, more than 50% of companies and contractors wait a month or more before they send an invoice. How long do you want to wait?
 
Prepare the invoice in advance and send it 90 minutes after the job is over. I’ve never known a client who was insulted by being invoiced too quickly.
 
Send smart invoices.
Don’t assume that simply putting “Net 30 Days” on your invoice is automatically binding. The work agreement or contract trumps the invoice every time. Make sure the invoice reflects your agreement and the terms you discussed with the client before the event began.
 
Be professional and polite.
FreshBooks found that businesses that are polite on the invoice are paid about 5% faster. “Please” and “thank you” work!
 
Sneaky Tip #4
Make the person who pays the bills your friend. Usually there are associates or assistants who take over the process. They are the gatekeepers to Accounts Payable. Be sure to introduce yourself and become a person – not an invoice. They will tell you the inside story on how the system works.
 
Sneaky Tip #5
Don’t use “Net 30 Days” – Use “27 Days to Pay”. You’ll be amazed how well this works. Why? Because 27 is an odd number. Suddenly, there is a specific deadline. It seems to start the clock ticking in the client’s mind and may actually move your invoice closer to the front of the line. I hate to say it, but many organizations see “Net 30” and think “I’ll worry about this later.”
 
Collecting
Okay, what if the invoice hasn’t been paid according to the agreement? Where’s your money?!!? Before you do anything crazy, take a moment to decide if you want to preserve the relationship. What is this client worth in the long term? Keep that in mind as you try to collect.
 
1. Be personal and not antagonistic. First, forget nagging emails and just pick up the telephone and call the client. Remind her/him of the event and how well you worked together. Then ask if there is any reason the payment is delayed. You want to have a sense of authority but still be respectful.
 
2. Be persistent. Statistics show that the longer an invoice is unpaid, the greater the chance you won’t be able to collect. The goal is to agree on exactly when you will receive the check. Stay calm and don’t make threats you can’t deliver. The moment you threaten legal action, the issue goes to their lawyers – and they usually have a bunch of them. It’s simpler to just make it easier to pay you.
 
Getting Paid is Smart Business
It doesn’t matter if you are creating a small reception or a giant corporate event – the name of the game is cash flow. Your employees and suppliers expect to be paid on time, and so should you. Don’t feel you should apologize for being professional.
 
In Conclusion
The trick to getting invoices paid and keeping the relationship is planning ahead and focusing on clear communication. Hey, you’re an event planner – that’s what you do! Talk about payment before the project begins.
 
Ask for as much of the payment up front as possible. Then invoice immediately once the event is over. Use these tips to make the client your advocate in the relationship and put him or her at ease. Your big payoff will be to get paid on time – AND get the next job.
 
DISCLAIMER: I am not an attorney. This article is based on my decades of experience in the event business. It isn’t legal advice. When needed, contact a lawyer to advise you on your specific business practices.
 

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How Twitter's 'Buy' button will shake up social media

Posted in News on 29 September 2014

In today’s digital environment, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t shop online. 

Retailers tempt with exclusive products, special deals and shipping incentives; and Cyber Monday is quickly on its way to taking over Black Friday, just about the biggest brick-and-mortar shopping day of the year. E-commerce has the world wrapped around its proverbial finger, but what about s-commerce, or social media commerce?  

Platforms such as The Fancy (sort of like a purchase-minded Pinterest) are in on the game, and Facebook started rolling out a "Buy" button in July. But people today move at a rapid-fire pace, and need something to keep up. Enter Twitter’s new Buy button.

“We are beginning to test a new way for you to discover and buy products on Twitter,” the company announced last week. “This is an early step in our building functionality into Twitter to make shopping from mobile devices convenient and easy, hopefully even fun. Users will get access to offers and merchandise they can’t get anywhere else and act on them right in the Twitter app.” 

Already tested out by influential retailers such as Burberry, nonprofts such as The Nature Conservancy and music acts including Parrell Williams, the “Buy” button works like it sounds. Within the Twitter app, users can view a tweet offering a product. If they like what they see, they simply need to tap “Buy Now” to pull up more details, enter shipping and payment info and, done.

Although results of the test run haven’t been provided, I think this will be a game-changer in terms of how brands do business on the Web, and on social media to boot. It’s a streamlined and straightforward way to make a purchase, and it’s intuitive. It speaks to the ever-present need to get things done and get them done fast. Where networks such as The Fancy and Facebook encourage browsing, Twitter’s buying feature works just like the platform itself: real-time and easily consumed on the go.

This tool is in beta for just the elite members of the Twitterverse for the time being, but it doesn’t mean you can’t plan ahead. Brands with marketable goods and services are wise to start thinking about how they can make use of the "Buy" button for success once it’s available to all. Sure, clothes and music are a great fit for this, but ponder how you can step outside the box and be an early adopter in your industry.

For hotels, for example, this feature could act as an excellent sales tool. When new seasonal packages or meetings promotions roll around, tweet them out with the option to buy. Booking directly isn’t supported (yet), but a Twitter follower could easily purchase a voucher and connect with you to arrange their visit. You could take it one step further and create a great first impression, as well as maybe secure a true social media evangelist. When Twitter-sourced fans check in, greet them with a special treat and a note encouraging them to tweet about their stay with a preset hashtag. 

Nonprofits could use “Buy Now” to sell event tickets and make donations by creating buy amounts. It would be much easier to manage, and perhaps more likely to make people feel at ease, than a buy-with-hashtag situation. Or, for agencies or inidviduals touting expertise, you could peddle whitepapers and access to webinars reserved just for your loyal Twitter fans. Any brand could build excitement and high-quality followers by releasing regular specials on a certain day, too – people would quickly look forward to “Travel Deal Thursday” or “Webinar Wednesday.” 

 

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What's the cost of digital marketing?

Posted in News on 29 September 2014

When you think of all the pieces of brand marketing that go out today, it can get overwhelming.

It’s actually more noteworthy when a brand declares that it won’t engage in social media platforms, since it’s basically a given these days that all reputable brands are engaging in social media.

But how much does that activity actually cost?

That’s exactly what Percolate addresses in its latest infographic, where it breaks down the actual cost of various marketing activities: 

 

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