On BITE 2015 and the power of events by accountants

Last week one of our clients ran what one of the Xero team remarked was “the largest event of this kind run by an accountancy firm in the UK”. There were well over 400 registrants (424, to be exact, for you accountants), 70% of which showed up at the event.

The concept began early in 2015 in conversations with Carpenter Box, and the idea was to run almost a “mini Xerocon” – but for business owners rather than accountants, and run by an accountancy firm in Brighton. They came to us at the Profitable Firm for assistance with marketing the event.

The idea was ambitious, certainly – but with well over 1000 clients to invite, Carpenter Box was confident of success, and so were we.

Here are a few marketing tips for you and your firm, based on our experience helping Carpenter Box with an event of this type and size:

Your theme and event title are critical.

The biggest challenge came at the beginning, when we were brainstorming event names and then logos. Our entire team was involved in the event naming process, and over 30 designers in the logo process. The original idea was around business efficiency, and the initial name suggested to us was “Be Efficient”. Over time, as we brainstormed and discussed and thought about what we really wanted the event to be about, we realised that efficiency wasn’t the only element we wanted to encourage business owners in.

The name itself was borne out of a conversation with one of my team in which we were discussing “the shark slide” from last year’s Xerocon. We went from shark, to words about sharks like frenzy and Jaws and bite, and then the light came on. The resulting name, BITE, stands for Business, Innovation, Technology, and Efficiency – all the areas of importance to Carpenter Box, to their clients, and to Xero and the add-ons.

This was also the most complex part of the marketing process – because until you have a clear name, theme, and graphic or logo, all the other marketing must wait. You can’t write email content without a theme, or design a website without an agreed logo and colours.

Good branding makes your event stand out

The resulting logo was simple and subtle – more of the ‘shark fin’ concept than a large shark looming out at you – and it matched the simple, focused style of the Carpenter Box logo. There were literally hours spent agreeing font, spacing, and hex codes – and that is important.

BITE logo

Collaboration is more important than ever

All told, the BITE event had over 30 exhibitors and sponsors, which is a massive undertaking. Carpenter Box were thrilled with the response, and the keen interest of those who exhibited there.

This is the type of event in which you discover the power of the Xero community.  The level of enthusiasm and support before and during the event was incredible – and that has a good impact on your firm and your clients.

The number of attendees does not prove success

It’s easy to look at an event like BITE and think, “Our firm couldn’t run something of that size, so oh well.”  BITE was indeed a massive undertaking – but there was a great deal of thought that went into it before the marketing began.

For your firm, if you get ten people who are already clients to sit around a boardroom table, or come to a local coffee shop, your event can be just as much of a success.  In some ways having 400+ people to contact and build relationships with is even harder. It has the opportunity for massive success, certainly, over a period of time – but it does take time. Which leads us to…

Half of the work is done after the event is over

I’ve written an entire marketing tip on event follow up (read it here), but the short version is not to walk away from your event feeling happy and excited, and call it a success.  This is when the real work begins – when you:

  • Send out feedback surveys
  • Call attendees and discuss the event
  • Contact registrants and keep the relationship going
  • Provide a follow up offer to encourage them to engage
  • Run follow on events to keep the enthusiasm alive
  • Prepare for next year’s event (if applicable)

Event marketing involves far more than you realise

I took a few minutes at BITE to speak to Nathan Keeley, the Carpenter Box partner who was responsible for the event and its success.

“For me it’s been a steep learning curve in terms of exactly what’s involved in putting on an event of this kind,” Nathan said. “From branding, to the venue and the layout, and everything else.”  The list is long when it comes to event marketing, and in Nathan’s experience it seemed to grow with each passing day!

Kindly, Nathan did add “But we wouldn’t have done it without the help of the Profitable Firm, and it’s leading us to see the benefits of outsourcing our own marketing rather than doing it entirely internally.”  Which was fascinating, considering Carpenter Box have a marketing team in-house – and yet their responsibilities cover a great deal of ground, so having extra one-off support made a big difference.

Ask people for help

One of the things we saw whilst working with Carpenter Box on this event was the genuine willingness of people in the Xero community to help. 

But it’s critical to ask.  You can’t just sit back and hope all goes well and wait for others to contribute – as the (very) old saying goes, “You receive not because you ask not”. 

We were thrilled with the enthusiasm of the exhibitors and sponsors to share the event by social media and email – and we helped them along by providing a “Shark pack” of social media posts, logos and images, the hashtag, and email content.

Social media is massively important to the success of your event

People love to share good and exciting news, and the best part of an event is that everyone gets a little of the limelight.  Here are a few quick social media tips for your event:

  • Provide a hashtag. Make sure it’s one that is not in use (there was some bizarre Chinese exhibition with a similar hashtag that we had to steer clear of), and put it all over everything – event slides, handouts, goody bags, emails, website.
  • Schedule posts regularly. As the event nears, you’ll be posting on a daily basis.
  • Use good imagery. Social media posts with engaging images are nearly 90% more likely to be clicked on than those without.
  • Invite people personally. A quick DM on Twitter or a message on LinkedIn could be the difference between someone thinking, “Oh, that sounds interesting” and “Okay, I’ll go.”
  • Engage with your followers.  Don’t just share the same posts – “come to our event” – “book now” – reply to others’ posts and engage with them on a personal level. 
  • Share content related to your event. If your event is about technology, share the newest Mashable posts about cool technology. If it’s for creative agencies, share what others are doing in that industry.  Think about your audience, always.
  • Consider social media ads.  We ran just a day or two of Twitter ads to boost numbers for BITE, and we saw an immediate spike in the registrations on that day. It’s often not expensive, and with a clear call to action and good marketing, it can be an easy win.

This is a long term marketing process – not a one-off event

“BITE has helped us with our brand awareness certainly, in the Brighton area,” Nathan said, “and it’s helped our clients to see that we can offer more than the traditional accountancy approach, and to show them that we care about these sorts of things for them to get benefit from.”

Nathan could see far beyond just a one-day event in October of 2015. He saw ahead to a conscious change in the way their accounting firm relates to its clients, and the discussions they will have on an ongoing basis.

We’re already in discussions with Nathan about follow up BITE workshops, Xero setup and free trial offers following the event, and of course #BITE16!