Throwing a big bash to generate excitement around a new company or product, especially in a crowded market is a critical component of a successful go-to-market strategy, as well as an effective way to celebrate the team’s labors. But planning, promoting, and executing an event like this in order to achieve intended business results is never as easy as a well-orchestrated event looks to attendees. It takes planning, a cool head, and a well-coordinated team working in concert to pull it off. When executed well, a launch party ignites the the afterburners to accelerate the growth of your brand and company.
Here are our top tips for a great launch party:
1. The Why – Be clear on the objective for your event
Why are you holding this event? What is your intended outcome? Do you want brand recognition, to promote a new product, reposition your company, generate leads, solicit investments, recruit partners or developers, garner the attention of press and analysts or other influencers? You need to clearly establish the objective for yourself and for your team in order to decide on the best strategy for building it and on the best way to track its success.
The most common objective is simply to raise your brand profile. The most successful events have a mix of common ingredients: A great location with the right people in the room, press and influencers excited about the message resulting in an army of ambassadors buzzing about your company and your product. In addition, you will have a energized team ready to take the next hill, feeling rewarded for all their hard work. A good, trackable goal for an event like this might be social shares or press mentions.
Many companies use launch events to build an audience, from which they will build a prospect or lead database. Others may use the launch event to recruit channel partners to expand their distribution reach or developers and services partners to extend their implementation and innovation capabilities. Another objective may be around culture development for a hard-working startup team. All of these should be taken into consideration as they will impact the program for your event and determine whether it is all cocktails and confetti or includes communications and educational components (yes, bring on the Powerpoint!).
So think about how you’ll measure the success of that objective. Here are some ways to measure success:
- Track press mentions
- Measure social media mentions from your event hashtag
- Count New developers added to your community through a unique URL from the event
- Count new emails generated from event registrations
- Count product downloads from a unique event URL
- New blog subscribers from blog promotion of the event
- Count sales meetings booked for after the event
2. The Place – Select a unique venue which fits the objective
Since this is a corporate event, your attendees have likely been to every bar, hotel, conference center and run-of-the-mill rental event venue imaginable. So if at all possible, locate the event at a unique location that has not been “done” over and over. Invitees who might be on the fence about attending will have their interest piqued by an unusual or unique venue and are more likely to attend. That said, logistics still trump every other consideration, so make sure the venue is convenient for your primary audience, transportation or parking is available, and capacity considerations are not a problem.
Tools like Peerspace are perfect for this.
For events that include a presentation or education, ensure that the acoustics and line of sight for attendees can be accommodated. But for an event that is all party, these constraints are much less of a consideration, so you can go ping pong parlor, cigar bar, aircraft simulator, aquarium, chocolate factory, ferry terminal or Hollywood Hills home – anything that fits your theme.
3. The People – select the right audience
If a great launch event includes the right people in the room, think hard about who those right people are. How do your invitees advance the objective of the event? Prioritize each audience category and design the event place, promotion and agenda to speak to the primary audience, with adjustments to include secondary audiences. Depending on your objective your target audience may include: customers and prospects, partners (both current and prospective), press and analysts or other influencers, employees and advisors. And of course, investors – Invite the money. Always invite the money. This is where your funding has come from and they want to see the return on their investment. This event is one of the more effective ways of demonstrating the “buzz” around the company or product, so make sure investors are included and given the VIP treatment.
4. Promotion – get ‘em there
Promote your launch party through social media channels, your prospect and customer lists, your corporate blog, partner newsletters, and whatever other communication channels correspond to your target audiences. Reach out to industry “friendlies” and influencers, company executives and VIP’s to promote the event through their contacts and social media channels. Provide a hashtag specifically for the event on all your event materials and encourage your attendees to use the hashtag; activate the FOMO itch!
Another way to get broader reach is to invite partners to sponsor your launch event, and for a fee, and brand recognition, they will amplify the invitation, in exchange for access to the registration list or an opportunity to scan registrants. This approach can be gamified as well, giving some type of extra benefit such as waiving the fee to a future sponsorship, to the partner that generates to greatest number of registrants, providing an incentive to the partners to really drive registrations.
5. Pump up the Volume
It’s pretty common for many guests to feel at least a little awkward at the start of an event – they are in a new room surrounded by people they don’t know after all. The best tool for easing the tension – besides a few glasses of pinot – is music.
Take a cue from the sports teams who are masters at this method – use music to set the tone, and reinforce the event theme. “Walk on” music can really generate a sense of excitement and anticipation for your attendees. A skilled DJ or musicians can transition the event through to the apex of the big announcements and on to the celebration following. Your music man can also make sure the party closes down while everyone is still having a good time, slowing it down to let everyone know the bar is closing. Because we’ve all been to THAT party that lasted just a little too long.
Just make sure your agenda is well-planned and as the event host you have a great communication system with your maestro so that any real-time adjustments can be made.
6. Give it away, give it away, give it away
Stay with your event theme, and reinforce your event message and objective with a branded giveaway that includes the event theme. It’s particularly convenient for your guests to set these up at an exit station so that they don’t have to carry an extra piece through a party. They’re less likely to set it down and forget it as well.
Ideally, you’ll have giveaways that will be durable, so that the brand message is more persistent. But if budget doesn’t allow, there are always options like candy packages and other well-appreciated treats that are easily portable and can be enjoyed later, but are also easily branded.
Finally, say “thank you”! These events are the ideal place to give thanks to everyone who has contributed greatly to the launch itself and frequently one of the objectives is a celebration of a job well done. So remember to thank all the contributors, as well as al the attendees of the event.
Summing it up
Launch parties are great events because they are the culmination of a tremendous amount of teamwork across an entire organization – not just the events team. So they are a great way to celebrate for everyone. Plan well and remain flexible with backup plans for everything. Your specific event will dictate the additional details that are required beyond what is detailed here, but with a great attitude and careful planning your launch party is sure to be a success.