Posted: 11th May 2015
In this article Rubana Ahmad draws on the experience she has gained and offers her advice on how to organise a business launch. She covers a range of issues, including who you should invite to your event, how to go about promoting it, and how to price your tickets.
A successful launch can be very effective in building up awareness of your business and lending it credibility, but it does involve a lot of effort on the part of the organiser.
The whole experience of starting my online business was at once challenging, thrilling and stressful. I had taken the project through from conception to launch. In hindsight there are many things I could have done very differently, but I found it very difficult to obtain good advice. So if you are thinking of staging your company launch, but don’t know how to go about it, please read on!!!
You need to decide on the type of image you wish to cultivate. Are you going to sell high class, expensive products, or cater for the lower end of your market? Whatever you decide, reflect this image throughout your launch. Be aware, though, that this decision will have a big bearing on the costs you will incur.
There are some key questions that you should ask yourselves. Do you really need a public launch? What are the benefits of spending money on this launch? What will you gain by it? After all your aim must be to benefit your business, not merely put on a festival for people to have fun!!!
Start planning at least two-three months in advance of your event. You need a lot of time to get in touch with your target market, check out venues, and all the other things you’ll need to do. Get your event listed with your local chamber of commerce as a unique Networking event. This is a key move as you will get many more people registering, and looking specifically to go to events to reach more clients. Also look at the WiRE website, which will inform you about local networks in your area. Tell them about your exciting event, offering them a chance to buy a ticket before they sell out. They can in turn promote the event to their contacts.
This may sound obvious, but is your product refined, perfect and ready to go, and do you have enough of a range for people to buy? I discovered very quickly that people may like your company, but if they don’t see enough of a product range to like anything, they will not buy.
Consider inviting other complementary companies to sell their goods or services at your event. For example,in launching my ethical fashion company, I could invite ethical jewellery companies, shoe shops, hat companies and the like, to come and spoil your clients. When you approach complementary companies, explore the possibility of them sharing the costs of the event with you. Consider offering to put their logo alongside yours on your promotional material for the event.
You may find that the complementary companies you contact would be willing to send an email to their local customer contacts, inviting them to your event. Most companies hold a database of contacts, so this would probably be easy for them to do.
Does your company have a unique story to tell? Have you been through a nightmare getting to your launch? Can you feature a presentation that will relate to your companies aims? As I was launching an ethical fashion label, we give 25% of profits towards building an orphanage and supporting earthquake victims in Pakistan, in association with Kyds Foundation. I therefore invited Rafina Ashaq, the founder of Kyds Foundation to come along and show a BBC documentary that had been recorded in Pakistan, as well as inviting women from the social-enterprise sector to speak about how companies can give something back. If you can do something like this you can create an event covering a broad range of topics. That way you will reach out to more people and have a better turn out.
You may be able to raise the profile of your event by inviting your local newspaper editor or MP. Be persuasive! I sent an email to Clare Short, which she didn`t respond to. I then sent a personal letter, telling her how much I had had to struggle, as a Muslim woman in some very difficult political circumstances, to get this company set up. At that time in Birmingham our community had just experienced police raids and felt very insecure, which made it a very challenging time for me. Clare Short related to this, and agreed to support me!
Sell your tickets at a price that your target market will be happy to pay, and make sure you sell enough to cover your costs! Sell tickets well in advance of your launch, and allow entry by ticket only!!! If you don’t sell enough you may consider cancelling.
Speak to as many people as possible when issuing invitations. A personal voice nearly always has more impact than an email, which may be identified as spam and get deleted! Do this from the early days of your project, calling at least 20-30 people a day.
Another huge lesson – ask other small businesses to recommend a reliable printer and order the flyers 3-4 weeks ahead. My printers were very polite, but they were so busy I ended up getting my flyers far too late. Make sure you organize the delivery of your flyers in advance. Search for Flyer distributors, or even approach other small businesses that you have just received a flyer from and ask them who they used to give out their flyers. BOOK THEM TWO WEEKS IN ADVANCE!!! Unfortunately I did not know this, and ended up wasting 5,000 flyers!
Take enough business cards on the day to give out to all your visitors. When visitors arrive take their address details and send them a thank you note containing offers aimed just at them.
Get a professional photographer to take some great shots, and feature them in a press release to your target market. Give it to a local newspaper with an interesting personal story, on what you can do if you put your passion to work!
I managed to get Ethika`s story featured on a prestigious New Consumer website, as well as local women`s networks who used my event as an example for their members Company events and launches can help build trust, brand awareness and credibility, but they may not be successful in bringing in sales, which, of course, are the lifeblood of your business.
The truth is that in organizing your launch you will learn some great lessons about event organization. However, you shouldn’t feel pressured to organize a launch. It is very tiring and emotionally draining!!!