You don’t have to party like it’s 1999 — after all, most of those dot-com startups crashed and burned — but hosting a gala can boost business on various fronts. The festivities may raise awareness of your company, attract new customers, reward loyal fans, and build partnerships.
For example, Monster Cable, has become known for sponsoring a party and concert by artists such as Stevie Wonder and Chicago during the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It’s a fun opportunity for the audio-equipment maker to reward its staff, retailers, vendors, and customers and to woo the media and new clients. Its top-selling partners receive recognition and front-row seats, while those unfamiliar with Monster get a quick introduction to its products and history.
You don’t need to have the budget for a live concert to create buzz, either. Here are a few tips for hosting a successful event.
- Set a budget. Clearly, you don’t want to run your company into the ground like the dot-coms did by partying too heartily. The best bet is to allocate the majority of your funds for food and drink, a staple for a good party. If you need to cut back on costs, it doesn’t necessarily need to be held at a special venue; you can just throw the party at your office.
- Organize the event. Check the calendar so your event doesn’t overlap with another big party. Personally invite key partners and customers, as well as the media, prospective clients, and maybe a big name or two in your industry. You don’t want to be overrun like a college fraternity party, but you do want to draw enough people to make the event worthwhile (and so the venue doesn’t feel “empty”). Consider using an online service such as Eventbrite to keep a handle on the guest list. If you’re looking to draw a big crowd, you may also want to give a head’s up to the media and blogs that cover your business or industry. During the Consumer Electronics Show, for example, public relations executives circulate a list of parties. On the other hand, if you want to give your event an exclusive feel, you will want to communicate that to your guests, requesting that they don’t invite additional guests or transfer their invitation to others.
- Make special arrangements for VIPs. Reward your top customers and partners. Set aside staff to escort VIPs inside and lavish them with freebies and attention. Consider holding a private pre-event cocktail party or allowing very special guests exclusive or front-of-the-line access. If you’re looking for press coverage, introduce key partners or staff members to the media and make time to speak with them personally, too. Afterward, be sure to follow up.
- Offer a “feature attraction.” Monster hires a celebrity artist to perform, but your party’s main attraction doesn’t have to be a big “get.” For example, a retail boutique might invite up-and-coming designers to mingle with guests. A beauty-related business could offer free makeovers. A tech startup may rent an inflatable bounce house or hire a waffle truck. Consider your crowd — and what might compel people to attend your event.
- Promote your business. This is the purpose of the party, after all. However, don’t make it a hard sell. Set up a table where staff members can offer marketing materials, answer questions, and demonstrate your products or services. You may also want to brief your employees in case other guests — such as the media — ask them questions about your company.