Archive for February, 2007|Monthly archive page

Classy Event That Generates Revenue or Cheap Function That Scares Away Customers

Has this ever happened to you? Your business needs to have an event that wows current and potential cleintele. One month before the event, you realize that you are in way over your head and the function is going to fail before it even starts. Thousands of dollars have been flushed down the corporate toilet that could have been avoided with a little help from some forethought and organization.

Where do you start?

Start with the theme and a tentative date and place. For example, you have a master-planned community that is about to be developed. You don’t have any homes built, but you want to sell the homesites. Create an event called Sneak Preview and have it in the 2 or 3 major cities that are closest to your development.

Narrow Down the Details

Decide how many people you are hoping to attract. Create a tentative schedule of events. Next to each function, right down specific details. Perhaps you are going to have a banquet. Be sure to write down “catering”. Maybe you are going to have a meet and greet. You should write down “cash bar”. If you are going to have workshops, write down the attendance size of the workshops and any components you might need there like a white board or tablets and pencils or a projector and laptop. (Don’t forget to include microphones!)

Make sure you include registration in the schedule and put down everything that you want to be handed out: nametags, gift bags, guidepersons… whatever you think is necessary.

X Marks the Spot

You should now have a good schedule that gives you the date, times, attendance numbers and any items that you need to succeed. Now it’s time to find a place to host your event. Unless you are having a huge function, there is probably no need to look at a convention center so I would start looking at hotels. Find someone in your company that is familiar with the major cities you have chosen and ask them if they know of a good hotel that will fit the bill. Or you can go online and see if they have meetings and facilites options on their website.

Call the event coordinator at the hotel and ask if they have the dates available. If so, ask to fax them your tentative schedule and needs or you can give them a brief summary over the phone to see if they have the capability to host you. Start with the projected attendance. This will be a quick way to eliminate hotels. If they can host an event of your size, follow that up with some of the more picky items: Do they have a catering department that can handle banquets? What are their audio/visual capabilities? Do they have free wireless access or can you get a deal on a group rate? This will further save you time on finding the right hotel for you.

Signing a Contract

Once you find the hotel, you need to sign a contract as soon as possible. Be sure to talk to someone who is familiar with hotel contracts. The hotel will charge you for everything they can including electricity, tables, chairs, coffee, room rental and they like. See if there is anyone else who is hosting an event at the same hotel and contact them privately to see if they can give you any advice.

If the hotel is going to be charging you for anything extra like electricity, include those costs in your vendor application fees. This will save you some unexpected fees that you weren’t expecting.

IMPORTANT: Do not advertise your function until you have signed a contract. You never know when another group might be trying to get the same days as you and they might grab your time from under you.

Getting an Audience

Now you have the place and the date. It is time to advertise your function. Select newspapers in the cities of interest, not limited to the cities that will be hosting the event, and purchase ad space. Send out e-campaigns. Write press releases and send them to the newspapers and also to PRWeb and PRNewswire. Notify any vendors that you think may be interested. Create a section on your website that talks about the event, has a form to accept memberships and lists the schedule. (Put a footnote that it is tentative and subject to change.) Be relentless and overachieve. If you want to sell x amount, make sure you invite 3 times that amount or more!

Keeping Your Attendees Happy

At the function, you want to give promotional items to the attendees so that they remember you and also stay informed. Contact a reputable promotional expert to help you set this up. Since you will be buying in bulk, they can work with you and get you a discount.

You will want: nametags, pencils, tablets, brochures and program books. Nice additions would be: personalized golf shirts, tote bags and clocks. Choosing items that are usefull after the event is a good thing as it not only advertises your company, but reminds them of your main function message. Be sure to include your web addess and logo on these items so that your contact info is always handy.

Other items you need to create are signs, easels, schedules and anything that you will need to ensure that your event planning crew can run things smoothly.

All of your items should be top quality and your function needs to be polished. The last thing you want your attendees to do is go home and tell everyone you were cheap.

IMPORTANT: Check with the hotel about any restrictions they may regarding attaching items to walls. You might need to rethink your signs if they can’t be taped to a surface.

Maintaining Correct Records

Every person that attends your event is a potential sale. Don’t forget to have them double-check their contact info when they arrive. This is the perfect opportunity to make sure that your records are up-to-date. Always have a backup if you are planning on using a laptop to check in attendees. If your laptop is dropped and not usable, make sure that you have printouts of everyone’s information that you can then edit with a pencil.

Likewise, create a short anonymous survey to be handed out at the end of the function. Ask such questions like: What was the most valuable panel you attended and why? Was there a panel or speaker that was a waste of time? Do you have any comments for us?

You may get some negative feedback, but this feedback is extremely important for future event planning. Perhaps there was a speaker that was off-color and really gave people a bad vibe. If so, then you never want to use them again. Maybe one of your panels wasn’t as structured as you had hoped. You can key in on what was wrong and make it right.

A good idea is to video tape any panels or presentations to be used for training purposes. It is also a good chance to archive these videos or to put them on your website.

Conclusion

Event planning can be overwhelming. There are always little things that need to be handled. But using structure and organization is a good way to get above the chaos.

If you would like to talk to someone who has experience planning functions for small and big companies, consider talking to Intra-Focus, Inc. Their experienced staff would be happy to talk to you to see if their services could help you with your special occasion.

Merging Print Advertisement with the Internet

One hundred years ago, the world revolved around newspapers and magazines were just starting to become an advertisement bonanza. Families would sit around the breakfast table on the weekends and pore through the daily news, clipping coupons and reading the funnies. At night, parents relaxed next to the radio flipping through their favorite magazine. If you wanted to be known in the local market, you needed to advertise in these venues. It could take you from small business to nationally known corporation.

Now the world is moving in a different direction… the internet. Does this mean that newspapers and magazines are a waste of time? Definitely not! Families still read the newspaper and magazines have become even more important to our daily business lives. But you still need to take advantage of what the internet can offer your print advertisement efforts.

A great result of these efforts has been the print to web campaign. This campaign gives you an eye-catching print advertisement that displays an ad specific URL. Interested clients go to this URL which includes more information and a contact form.

Behind the Scenes

On the back-end of the campaign, metrics should be collected and reports should be created to let you know the success of your print to web campaign.

This will give you vital information that will help you design your next advertisement. Was the design bold and appealing? What part of the country drew the largest response? Is there a section of the country you are advertising to that appears to be a lost cause?

A report that lists the cost per click of each publication will help you to pinpoint the ads that give you the greatest amount of success. An added bonus is that this will also help you to better understand your advertising demographic.

One of the largest benefits of print to web is that you can print the same advertisement in many different publications and, by making a small change to the URL, you can track the success of all of these campaigns. This will save you money on design time and let you concentrate on what matters most… sales!

Get Started Today!
Have questions or need a quote? Contact us Intra-Focus, Inc. and ask about their print to web and internet branding services.

The Scourge of the Internet Highway: Maintenance

Working on website maintenance is a vital task that ensures fresh content and good SEO results. But what if you have 5 sites? 10? 100? Updates tend to become more of a chore. Setting up a good priority system for your maintenance schedule will help you to tackle updates and stay on top of the game.

Use Your E-mail as Your Personal Assistant
The key to good maintenance capabilities is organization. That word tends to scare many people. How do you stay organized when you are juggling 200 e-mails a day that include personal messages, legitimate edits, questions from clients and spam? And what about the changes that come over the phone or in person? Where does that fit in the mix? What about a change from another co-worker?

To keep all of this organized, you need to use your inbox as a tool, rather than a hindrance. Begin by creating the following sub-folders in your e-mail program: A, B, C, D and Personal.

Personal E-mail
Move all personal e-mail into the Personal sub-folder. Inform your friends and family that you would appreciate it if they did not send you e-mails at work unless they are emergency e-mails. If your work e-mail address is the same as your personal address, then tell your family and friends that you will not answer their e-mails during working hours unless it is something urgent. You need to set up this expectation and stick to it. You will be pleasantly surprised to find out what a relief it is to push those to the side. You should also consider setting up a filter that will send personal e-mails straight to the sub-folder so that it won’t clutter your inbox.

What is A, B, C and D?
These letters stand for your new priority system that will help you tackle your day. Each letter represents a different level of difficulty for your maintenance requests. You need to go through all of your e-mails and place them in the sub-folder that matches the level of time needed to complete the tasks.

D – 5 Minute Change
These edits should take you 5 minutes or less to complete. Examples may include fixing a spelling error, adding a link, changing punctuation or setting up an e-mail address.

C – 30 Minute Change
These edits take a little longer than D edits, but still don’t take all that long. Examples may include creating a graphical button and setting it up as a link on a page, creating a new page and adding content or adding a disclaimer to the footer of your website.

B – 1 Hour Change
These edits will take you the better part of an hour or one-eighth of your day. Examples may include adding a new menu item and page to the website, changing the font of your site (if you don’t use CSS) or major edits to the content.

A – 1 to 8 Hour Change
These edits will take longer than 1 hour, but less than 8 hours. Examples may include changing the colors of the website or converting the entire site to CSS.

What about verbal edits?
The first thing you need to do is to request all edits to be put into e-mail. Explain that this helps you to make sure you don’t miss something. Really try to enforce this, especially with your co-workers. That being said, there are going to be times when it is not possible to get e-mail edits.

TIP: Be sure that you always take notes when given verbal edits!

There are two ways to handle this. If the edits are short, go ahead and type them up and e-mail them to yourself. Then place them into the appropriate sub-folder. If the edits are long, then simply send yourself an e-mail that states the client name and a short summary. (EX: Willy’s Emporium – Work on content edits from conference call.) You can put the written edits into a folder that is kept in a designated area and file the e-mail in the necessary sub-folder.

What Should I Tell the Client?
The first thing you must do is set up expectations with your client. Do not promise them that you will have anything done in 5 minutes. In truth, that is next to impossible. Even with D edits. If the edits are D edits, tell them you will have them done in 1 business day. If they are C edits, tell them you will have them done in 1-2 business days. B edits are trickier. You can only do 8 B edits a day and if you have 8 of them, you will never get to anything else. Therefore, let your client know that it will take 2- 5 business days. Odds are, you will get to them faster than 5 days, but you never know what else might come up.

And now we come to A edits. These are nearly impossible to predict. Sometimes you will get an A edit that you think will take you 8 hours and it might take you 2 hours. Or you think an change is a C edit and once you look at the code, it becomes an A edit. In a perfect world, you shouldn’t schedule more than 2 A edits a week. The best way to approach this with a client is to let them know that you have placed them on the production schedule and their edit will be handled the week of ______. This will give you a break if you suddenly get an onslaught of many A edits. It might also help the client realize that if they have an upcoming change, they can get on your schedule ahead of time, rather than springing it on you.

It is important that you set up good expectations with your client. Consider creating a maintenance white paper with a priority schedule. Inform them at the beginning of your relationship about how many business days are required to make a change. This will alleviate a great deal of stress for you and also help you to avoid those uncomfortable moments when you are trying to estimate time.

I have all of my edits organized by folder. Now what do I do?
When you get to the office, do all of your D edits. Next, do half of your C edits. Then, work on 2 B edits. Work on A edits until an hour before you go home. At that time, finish off the C edits and then go to a B edit. If you have some more D edits come in during the day, refrain from making them until the next day. All of this goes out the window if an emergency edit comes through the door, but this should give you a good system to work with.

TIP: If an emergency change comes in, don’t be afraid to charge double.
Just be sure to let the client know at the beginning of your business relationship.

Start over the next day, making sure that you finish all of your C edits from 2 days previous.

What if a Change is Longer Than 8 Hours?
If you receive an edit that you judge will be longer than 8 hours, then you are not being asked to perform maintenance on a website. You need to approach the client about purchasing a web refresh package or something of that nature. In actuality, edits really shouldn’t take longer than 8 hours. Don’t let your services be sold for chump change. You perform an important duty to the internet community and your work should be highly valued.

Conclusion
If you create a priority plan and stick to it, you will have a system that not only flows well, but will also instill confidence in your clientele.

If you would like to speak to someone about purchasing a maitenance package, consider Intra-Focus, Inc. Intra-Focus is a full-service marketing company that integrates art and technology to deliver traditional and Internet marketing solutions. Leveraging marketing expertise and trend setting creativity, Intra-Focus helps its clients build brand strategy and market presence that generate qualified demand and quantifiable results. Intra-Focus provides innovative marketing solutions to businesses ranging in size from start-up to Fortune 500.

About the Author
Kimm Antell is a Senior Web Programmer at Intra-Focus, Inc. She has been surfing the web since 1989 and has been a web programmer since 1994. Her experience includes several web design workshops as well as customer service workshops at the University of Texas at Austin.