....Everyone Loves a Party!
'But the party doesn’t start when you walk through the door, no. It starts when you receive that mysterious and alluring little white envelope containing a personal request for your attendance. Whether you're four or forty the effect is the same; receiving an invitation is a thrilling prospect. These days, invites tend to come in the form of Facebook events, emails or Google hangouts which, of course, still make you feel special but lack the ‘certain something’ of a paper invitation (for a start, you’ll never see one on a fridge!).
Savvy business owners understand the impact of singling out their customers; everybody likes to feel special and an invitation to an event is a great way of encouraging brand loyalty or rewarding loyal custom. In tangible format, for instance a paper invite, the impact of an invitation is amplified. Seen by many, read by many, it is also an effective method of reaching new customers. Appreciating the merits of sending a paper invitation is easy; eliciting a response… less so.
However, whether you reach out virtually or in the good old fashioned way, some things never change. If you've ever tried to organise an event requiring an RSVP from attendees, you'll know how hard it can be to get even the slightest acknowledgement out of people.
Using printed invitations, I’ve come up with five surefire ways to overcome this obstacle (and others) to encourage customers to attend and, of course, make sure they actually show up on the day. Let’s get this party started!
1. Invites with impact - On the day, you can almost guarantee that half the people who said 'yes' will be absent, and half the people who didn't reply will show up. Unfortunately, you can't guarantee the numbers will compensate for each other.
Printed invitations send a message in the truest sense of the word, letting people know that their attendance is not just requested, but is genuinely desired too. It’s proof you care enough to go to the trouble of having an invitation designed, printed, personally addressed and delivered to them.
It's a small gesture, and it doesn't cost the Earth in the context of arranging an event on a grand scale, and yet it carries significantly more impact than a generic Facebook or LinkedIn alert.
You should, however, make it clear that an RSVP is essential. For organisers this makes the invitation worth the paper it's printed on, quite literally.
2. Dress to impress - When designing your invitations take inspiration from the weddings market. Masters of formal etiquette wedding planners and brides-to-be do these kinds of things to a very high standard. Bespoke invitations will always contain the same message: with clear instructions about the day, a no-nonsense request for an RSVP, and a handy 'save the date' card.
In business, you can draw on the core characteristics of a good invitation, so that you send out something eye-catching yet professional, which provides all the information about your event in one place.
Best of all, when you include a wallet-sized 'save the date' card, you effectively get your business card into the recipient's wallet into the bargain!
3. The human touch - Digital invitations can be sent out via social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook, or as an email template to your mailing list, but, while sufficient for an ad-hoc meeting or coffee date, I feel these methods lack gravitas.
Receiving a tangible invitation with your name and address on it makes the invite seem personal, as it should be.
You may choose to have individual names printed for a professional finish, or hand-write them into a blank space on the invite for the personal touch. Either is preferable to being one address among hundreds in the BCC field of an email (or even worse, the CC field).
4. Real feels - Receiving an invitation triggers emotions. It conveys a sense of individual value, something you just don't get from yet another 'come to our seminar' email clogging up the inbox.
The impact begins when that envelope hits the mat; your invitation will stand out, instead of it being just another marketing email the spam filter missed. That in itself gives you a great chance of grabbing a recipient’s attention.
Equally, there's something more tangible about receiving an Invitation and signing an RSVP slip to say you are going to attend. It might not be legally binding in the contractual sense, but it does feel more like a moral obligation to actually show up.
5. Don't waste the space - Finally, an invitation is a warm lead and business people don’t get many of those! It’s a way of legitimately contacting your customers, business partners and other associates without coming across as overtly ‘salesy’ so make the most of the opportunity!
Keep the details of your event front and centre, of course, but include any pertinent marketing messages too, along with contact details or at least a website URL or email address.
Even if the recipient doesn't attend your event, there's a good chance that they'll contact you about something else or end up on your website, where you may land that sale after all.
Author, Marcus Cummins, is a Director of Oriel Studios Digital Limited