Making the Most of Your Event Budget
A recent study by Freeman found that more than one in three CMOs intend to allocate 21 to 50 percent of their budgets for brand experiences, such as "events, trade shows, sponsorships, exhibits, permanent installations, virtual or augmented reality experiences, and/or pop ups."
Another study, this one conducted by Bizzabo, revealed that the most successful businesses spend 1.7 times the average marketing budget on live events. Marketers clearly believe that events are an essential part of their promotional efforts. In fact, that same study found that 41 percent of marketers believe that events are the most effective marketing channel (over content marketing, digital advertising, and email marketing).
Yet this belief and that budget allocation need to be justified to earn execs’ continued support. Here are some tips for ensuring that your events budget goes the distance and you get the results you need.
Understand Your Objectives
Event budgets serve two functions. The first is fairly obvious: to ensure that you spend the fixed amount of money allocated toward the event without exceeding it. The second is subtler: to distribute funds so more emphasis is placed on the elements your guests value.
For example, if you know that sustainability is important to the majority of your attendees, then you will want to be sure that enough money is allocated to procuring food from local sources and securing a venue where green initiatives are a priority. However, if your attendees are more likely to focus on being entertained, you may want to place your emphasis on acquiring some big-name entertainers and creating elaborate activations.
While you are deciding on this resource allocation, be sure that you are in constant communication and remain completely transparent with all stakeholders in your company. You don’t want to get months into planning only to discover that your CEO had a completely different idea about this event. You also need to communicate with the team members in charge of finances to ensure that your plans for the money align with their willingness to write the checks.
This level of consistent communication needs to extend to everyone you are working with outside of your company because you are more likely to get tripped up by a misunderstanding with a vendor. When it comes to your budget, it is impossible to be too detailed. As long as you track every communication, both internal and external, you will be able to settle any disputes that arise by going through your records.
This level of detail should extend to the budget itself. It’s not enough to list large chunks of money for, say, the venue. What is that money for specifically? How much is going toward the rental of AV equipment, for example, or chairs? Being as detailed as possible, as early as possible, will help ensure that your event stays on track.
Establish a Calendar
Once you understand your goals for your events, it is time to establish an events calendar. You will have a wide range of occasions to select from, including creating your own events (pop ups, product launches, etc.), trade shows, special industry activities, etc. Sort through all of your options to determine which ones are high-priority, low-priority, and worth skipping altogether.
When the calendar is set, you can then start determining what each activation will look like. To do this, identify your key performance indicators and how they align with your attendees’ goals, then create a strategy for each event on the calendar.
Uncover Potential Sponsors
Acquiring sponsors for an activation is a win-win, it helps to offset some of your costs while building partnerships that benefit you, the sponsor, and the attendees.
To find the right sponsors for your activation, you need to be extensively familiar with the audience for your events. That is the first thing a sponsor will want to know: their average age, income, interests, spending behaviors, etc.
You will also need to know about the sponsors themselves. Really dig into these companies because the more you understand them, the better you will be able to explain how your goals align with theirs. The key to securing sponsorships is similar to securing an audience: know their needs and then help them achieve their goals.
Create the Budget
Whether you are acquiring space for an individual brand activation or pop up or securing a spot at a trade show or conference, you will need to allocate money and time for this venture, often a significant amount of both.
If you are renting a venue, be sure to do your research. Because every decision about the layout and flow of an event is dependent on the venue you choose, this is one of the most important decisions you will make. For example, if food is a significant component of your event, you will want a large kitchen that is easily accessible. If you booked a speaker that is going to draw a big crowd, you will need an area that can accommodate that amount of people – and a decent AV system, to boot.
Speaking of food, if you are catering your event, be sure to include all of the surrounding charges that can accommodate food service. For example, there may be an upcharge for certain beverages – and there definitely will be additional costs for alcohol. Also, you will likely be responsible for tipping the servers and bartenders. Don’t forget to include this as a line item.
Speakers and Entertainment
These elements are often a primary draw for an event. Remember, the bigger the name, the bigger the price tag – and there may be pricy add-ons and riders that weren’t listed in the initial quote.
Still, the price may be worth it, as long as the speaker or entertainment aligns with the message of your event. You don’t want to book an orchestra for a punk rock crowd.
If you are purchasing SWAG for your event, you want to do it right. Chances are that every attendee has plenty of pens and USB sticks. Make sure if you have giveaways, they are items that people will want to keep.
However, the things that people will want to keep, often cost more than a bunch of USBs. When deciding on SWAG, you need to determine if the expenditure is worth the results.
Likely the first thing an attendee will encounter at an event is a staff member at a registration area. Since these folks are, in many ways, the face of your event, it is essential that you include enough in the budget to staff your event adequately, so it runs smoothly. Also, be sure to incorporate any ancillary costs, like meals and travel.
The look of your experience is an essential component, especially in today’s Snapchat and Instagram environment. Make sure that your event has plenty of areas that make people want to share them on social media – and that your branding is clearly visible at all of them.
In the end, the one thing that is certain about every event is that nothing is certain. Despite all of your planning, the chances are that something will go awry. Do not let this (hopefully minor) setback derail your event and budget by setting aside an amount that is only available for emergencies.
For any event, organization is critical. Having a carefully designed budget will help ensure that you have a successful event or series of events. If you would like some additional advice for balancing your budget or putting on an engaging, show-stopping brand activation, give Event Architecture a call at 972-323-9433.