Event Planning Guide Part I: Defining the Event
Planning events can be daunting. In fact, we find many of our clients avoided doing so before enlisting our expertise in the matter. From determining who to invite and how to promote the event, to hammering down the logistics, seeing an event through from start to finish is no small feat.
Despite some of the bumps that may be encountered along the way, we always recommend that our clients have an event strategy in place. Events are a great way to connect with prospects face-to-face and for them to sample your community’s offerings. We’ve heard countless stories of prospects who were convinced to deposit after attending a community event!
How to Start Planning Events for Your Community
The first step for planning a successful event is to define what the desired outcome of the event is. This seems simple enough, but it’s easy to get lost in the logistics and lose sight of the purpose.
Taking a step back and identifying priorities can give you the clarity you need to determine the right objective for your event. For example, if your current database or “pipeline” has run dry or become dated, your event objective might be to get new leads into your sales funnel. Or, if you have an abundance of leads in your database that need nurturing, it may make sense for your event to focus on converting leads to sales.
The next step after determining the event objective is to outline specific goals for the event. Setting goals will help with planning, marketing and executing the event. Having goals can also ensure that the sales team understands what needs to happen for the event to be considered successful, as well as the metrics that need to be measured to determine that. Goals will depend on the type of event and your community’s specific needs. That said, some of the basic event metrics we track include:
- Number of attendees
- Number of buying units
- Follow-up appointments
- Deposits acquired
Once you’ve determined what the objective and goals should be, you’ll be able to decide which type of event will help you achieve them. In the world of senior living, there are three types of events: lead generating, conversion and depositor. Depending on what your goal is, sometimes it may make sense to combine the different types and put on a hybrid event.
Show Off Your Community’s Lifestyle With Lead Generating Events
Lead generating events are typically larger in scale than the other types of events and are held to attract new leads. Lead gen events typically incorporate an aspirational element that will entice potential prospects to attend. Successful lead gen event themes vary; some that have proven successful for our clients feature specialty foods (such as barbecue or seasonal dishes) or beverages (wine, brews or spirits) as the main draw. Other clients have found success by bringing in well-known community leaders or industry experts to lead information sessions, centering events around activities like painting and cooking, or hosting a visit to a local area attraction.
Below, you’ll find an example of a lead gen direct mail that we created to generate interest for Phoebe Ministries newest community, Chestnut Ridge at Rodale. We sent this invite to a purchased list with specific demographic targeting to ensure lead quality.
Turn Prospects Into Residents with Conversion Events
Conversion events are small, more intimate events that focus on nurturing leads already in your database further down the sales funnel. These events are typically more product- and sales-focused. They’re ideal for hosting tours of the community and providing prospects with more information related to pricing, product availability and logistics. Themes for conversion events can include a lifestyle/aspirational feel as well, but the most important aspect of these types of events is that they’re more intimate, which allows the prospect to learn and ask questions about the product — things that are much easier to accomplish in this type of setting.
Below is an example of a direct mail promoting a conversion event where prospects would have the opportunity to learn more about Clark at Keller Lake’s newest independent living expansion. We sent direct mail to only their current database, which was a much smaller list compared to if we had sent the mailing to a purchased list — something we would have done if it was a lead gen event.
Depositor Events Where Your Future Residents Can Mingle
Depositor events are designated for those who have already converted. These events feature a mix of both lifestyle and information, and help keep your depositors engaged with their new community and acquainted with fellow depositors. Holding frequent depositor events can help retain the sale and prevent turnover especially for projects with long lead times.
Here’s a depositor invitation we sent out for Chestnut Ridge at Rodale:
Now you have the insights you need to begin planning for events that will best suit your specific needs. Be on the lookout for Event Planning Guide Part II: Getting the Most Out of Your Events which will discuss how to plan and implement each type of event, as well as the type of follow up you should be doing after every event.
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