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You’ve decided to you’re up for the task of hosting events for your community’s prospects. Now, it’s time to think about pre- and post-event planning.

In our previous event planning post, we discussed the various types of events for senior living prospects and the purpose of each. In this follow-up, we’ll offer more insights on how to plan and implement each type of event, and how best to follow-up with prospects afterwards.

Pre-Event Planning 101

Event preparation can be a lengthy process. But after years of helping countless clients successfully plan their events, we’ve developed several steps we’d like to share with you to help plan and facilitate your next event so that it’s a homerun with your prospects.

Who Should You Invite to Your Events?

Determining who to invite will dictate almost all other aspects of your event. If you’re hosting a lead generation event (for new leads), your best bet is to employ lead generating tactics to promote the event. For example, you could deploy a direct mailer to a purchased mailing list or even launch Facebook event ads targeted to a new audience to generate RSVPs. In this instance, you may even opt for an event space large enough to house many new leads as these events are typically larger in scale than events designed to nurture leads. When looking to attract new leads, you’ll want to make sure your event is focused on the lifestyle or some aspirational aspect of your community.

However, if you are hosting a conversion event, you will likely be inviting leads that have already expressed interest in your community. This type of event typically happens in smaller groups and has a more intimate feel/setting. Leads invited to conversion events are generally already in your database. It’s best to invite these people via a small direct mail postcard or a database email.

We’ve seen communities have even more success when their sales teams identify the top leads or “likely buyers” and directly invite them through a phone call or a more personalized invitation. Keep in mind, conversion events are typically a harder sales pitch and are heavily focused on turning leads to deposits.

And finally, Depositor events. These types of events are important for retaining depositors and having them become residents — especially if your community is in the blue-sky, expansion or renovation stages. Like conversion events, depositor events should feel personalized and exclusive since the people who’ll be attending have already invested in your community.

Here is an example of a direct mail promoting a lead generation event at Phoebe Berks. This event rendered a 3% conversion rate in the first 30 days post-event.

You’ve Received an RSVP. Now What’s Next?

Tracking RSVPs and which marketing/sales tactics they are coming from can be a pain point for clients. However, it’s a critical step for planning successful events. Furthermore, these metrics will inform your approach to future events and how to promote them. Our clients have seen the most success by capturing names, emails and phone numbers for all RSVP submissions. This makes it so the sales team has all the necessary information to follow up with each person to confirm their attendance, as well as reach out to them for further discovery after the event.

The above image outlines three steps for ensuring adequate follow-up after receiving an RSVP.

After a lead RSVPs to an event, it’s important that the sales team confirms their RSVP by calling or emailing them. Solidifying RSVPs will help ensure that the attendee knows their presence is expected. This step also allows the attendee to ask any last-minute questions about the event or the community itself. This conversation usually provides some additional discovery that will help qualify the lead. Lastly, make sure your sales team sends the prospect directions to the event’s location — just in case!

How You Can Measure Your Event’s Success

As I mentioned in part I of this event planning guide, setting goals is a critical aspect of measuring the success of your events. Defining event goals will help the sales team understand which metrics need to be measured to evaluate your event’s success. Goals will vary depending on the type of event and your community’s specific needs. But generally, we recommend you set goals related to the number of attendees you’re expecting at the event, as well as the number of buying units, follow-up appointments scheduled and number of deposits acquired.

Tips and Tricks for Making the Most of Your Events

Here are some general best practices to keep in mind for what to do during your next event:

  • Have a sign-in table or person upon entry. This will allow your sales team to know who has arrived and will allow for proper event follow-up.
  • Use table cards to subtly share information about your community or encourage them to follow you on social media or leave a review of your community.
    There are many ways you can color code the nametags you’ll be giving to prospects at your event. The image above illustrates three of them.
  • Display signage for parking and wayfinding. The last thing you want is for attendees to get lost at your events.
  • Save the presentation for the conversion events. For lead gen events, settle for a general introduction and do a slight overview of the community. Lead gen event attendees are there to experience the lifestyle component of your community, so avoid the bait and switch.
  • Always enlist a community ambassador — usually a current resident or depositor — who can speak to your community’s lifestyle or to the positive experience they’ve had with the staff, events, etc. These champions are often your best asset to converting a prospect.
  • Schedule follow-up appointments at the event. Avoid spending event time meeting one-on-one with an attendee unless they’re depositing.

Post-event Best Practices

Here are some general best practices to follow to ensure you’re getting the most out of your events:

  • Take time to debrief with your team. Discuss attendance and quality of attendees, whether event goals were met, logical or operational opportunities for improvement, etc.
  • Always follow up with event attendees. Call or email them to find out if they enjoyed the event and if they have any questions about your community. This is also an opportunity to invite them for a tour or to an upcoming event, as well as tell them about a special incentive or offer.
  • You should also follow-up with people who RSVPed but didn’t attend the event. Call them to find out why they didn’t attend and do some additional discovery about their needs. If they’re still interested in your community, end the call by inviting them to an upcoming event or to come in for a tour.

Now, you have everything you need to make your next event your best event! Be sure to tweet at us (@CreatingResults) to let you know what’s been working for you (and what hasn’t) in your community’s event planning, and how you plan to implement some of the insights from this post moving forward.

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About The Author

Allison Lloyd Dongoski

As Marketing Programs Manager, Allison implements integrated marketing campaigns and advertising strategies. She efficiently coordinates and tracks media placements to help clients achieve their goals. Allison draws on an extensive educational background, which includes an MBA in marketing from American Public University, as well as 10 years of experience in customer service and sales. Allison applies her research and analytical skills in collecting, analyzing and summarizing data for client and competitive reports.