Why Fantastic Events Don’t Just Happen — and How to Plan Yours

2017-08-21T19:52:24+00:00August 10th, 2016|Startup Culture|

Ben Hindman knows how to execute a great company event — one that cuts through the crowded-noisy meet-up, cocktail party, conference calendar typical of New York City. Ben is the CEO and co-founder of Splash, an events-marketing platform for businesses. Before founding Splash, Ben was an event planner, but he didn’t understand why there wasn’t a powerful event marketing tool that could make his events look as amazing online as they did during the event. He also wanted analytics to ensure his events were generating real business results for his clients. Splash has both.

I sat down with Ben to discuss experiential marketing, event partnerships and what really makes for a great event.

Q: Great events typically don’t just happen. What are the key elements of a great event? 

A: Think about the really great events you’ve been to. You probably remember the feeling you had while you were there, right? Whatever it was, it stuck with you. It’s why every great event planner worries about this question first: What feeling do I want to evoke at my event?

Once you’ve nailed this, all the details will fall into place. For example: If you want your guests to feel like they’re part of something exclusive, then make sure everything reflects that, from your save-the-date to your Snapchat strategy. Good food, good lighting, a good venue — those are all table stakes. Focus on your “feeling” goal, and you’ll be set.

What should brands keep in mind when they are planning an event?

The brands we work with here at Splash consistently blow my mind when it comes to events. And I’m not just talking about the Budweisers and Thrillist’s of the world. I’m talking about companies like SalesLoft and Appboy — mid-sized companies that have tapped into the power of events like the “road show” as a way to build trust and intimacy with their partners, prospects and customers. Companies like Bark & Co., focus on hyper-local events as a way to grow a global community of dog lovers around the world. These guys have two things in common: (1) They attack their events with a data-driven, strategic mindset. (2) They know exactly how to gauge the success of each event, and they are constantly iterating and optimizing. If you’re not set up to track your success, then what’s the point?

How should brand partnerships for events be approached? 

We dedicated an entire chapter to this in our latest book, Events 101. If you do decide to partner with another brand on an event, I always recommend these four questions before diving in:

  1. Does their brand identity mesh with yours?
  2. Are they looking to reach a similar audience?
  3. Can they offer something relevant to your event’s audience?
  4. Do you have complementary goals for the event?

And my best piece of advice: Always always always tell your event sponsors about all the other brands you’re working with (and why). Trust me on this one.

What are your recommendations for extending the experience and gaining greater traction after an event?

The most important thing is to set your team up for success long before they walk in the door. You can’t just throw an event, blast it out to any old email list, and cross your fingers that good people will show up. You have to be strategic.

One way to guarantee a good turnout? Offer a monetary incentivize to your sales team to get quality attendees in the door. After the event, you can really get creative. For example: Split your list into three buckets: A “thanks for coming” to all your checked-in guests, a “sorry we missed you!” email to those who RSVP’d but didn’t show, a “nice to meet you!” email to surprise +1’s. The more personalized, the better.

I recommend including any combination of the following in those emails: A link to your post-event page with event photos, a blog recap of the event, and maybe even a special offer, like 20% off your next purchase.

And keep an eye on those open rates: 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.

Why did you feel Splash was needed? What problem is it solving?

I founded Splash 4 years ago out of my biggest frustration as an event planner: There was nothing that could help me make me events look as amazing online as they did in real life.

At the highest level, Splash is a badass platform that can help anyone do exactly that.

However, in the last two years, we found ourselves smack in the middle of this experiential marketing renaissance. Today, brands are spending more money on events than ever before. As a result of this seismic shift, brands are facing three major problems:

  • They need a way to control the entire event experience end-to-end.
  • They need a way to tap into their own, unique event data-sets to make smarter business decisions.
  • They need to know whether their events are actually working.

Today, the Splash platform is perfectly suited to tackle all three. Over the last 18 months, we’ve been laser-focused on scaling our product to our users’ imaginations. We’re now a powerful event marketing platform that can power anything from doggie-themed get-togethers to events fit for a Pope.

At the end of the day, we’re shifting the perception around events. Smart brands are already there, but there’s still a long way to go.