Like other major cities, London’s startup scene is booming. The problem isn’t a shortage of new ideas or making them happen – we have the expertise and resources to design and build anything. The main problem for startups is marketing, getting their products and services in front of the people who will want them. This is where a well-planned and executed launch event can be the kick-start to an integrated communications campaign, that make the right noises to the right people, earning the startup attention that they can’t buy (and wouldn’t be able to afford if they could).

However, organising an event for a startup is different to dealing with established organisations. Today, I want to cover the differences, and tactics for event planners either approached by, or targeting the startup community. Please note: like any other communication tool, a stand-alone amazing event isn’t going to make any startup viral, but needs to be part of an integrated (long-term) marketing strategy using other tools such as PR, SEO, social media, PPC, etc – earning the startup coverage, shares and links, eventually leading to sales.

Events for startups vs. established organisations

A startup launch REALLY MATTERS

Unlike larger companies launching a new product, a startup doesn’t have any other products or services to fall back on, so organising an event that doesn’t achieve any press coverage will be fatal. So the launch event has to be a success.

Nobody cares about them yet or knows who they are

You’ll be starting from scratch – little familiarity (if any), no database of customers to invite, no followers/fans or industry contacts. This also means that the launch event should be approached differently to a typical product launch, and seen as far more than just a marketing tactic, but a strategy. The event will be the startup’s introduction to the world and should be treated as a branding exercise, a chance to tell the startup’s story rather than solely focusing on the product. You should imagine that the startup is a person, and this launch event is like the first time anybody gets to meet them properly.

Dealing with the decision maker

A major pitfall with corporate events is that the organiser rarely deals with the decision maker. However when organising an event for a startup, it is likely, you’ll be dealing directly with the decision maker. This is great for making quick decisions, but this time it’s their money you will be spending – so be prepared for that significant change in the decision making process.

Limited funds

This is an obvious one – most startups have no money, and therefore have smaller budgets than larger companies. However, still expect to be paid fairly for your services, but this first event should be about building a relationship early on with your new client, gaining referrals and an interesting case study to talk about, rather than purely down to cash. Hopefully, your startup will be the next Spotify (or even Google!) and you helped them get there.

7 Tactics when planning a startup launch event

#1 – Pitch yourself rather than the idea

You won’t be able to put a proposal together for the launch without understanding the business and product/service, which will require a large amount of time. Instead qualify the enquiry on the phone, and then use the pitch to sell yourself (experience & expertise), presenting a structured plan of actions and discuss your fee (separate from the event budget).

#2 – Make time to investigate and understand the business

Startups tend to change direction quickly, which can be several times in the space of a couple of months – so don’t just rely on the website (plus some startup sites can be thin on information). The best thing to do is interview the people working there, test out the product/service for yourself and, if possible, talk to existing/potential users.

#3 – Engaging with 50 influencers is better than filling space

Don’t fall into the trap of wasting money by filling space. Organise an event that is the best that day, with focal points that will attract and matter to influencers. Your job is to find, excite and impress them.

#4 – Set specific targets to measure

“PR” or “Sales” is not a good enough target. Your job is to find out the founder’s vision for the event and make it happen within the given budget. Turn the vision into targets, so that you will stay on track throughout and will be able to easily report back results. See other ideas to measure and evaluate events

#5 – Allow guests to experience the values and messages

Avoid presentations covering everything about the product and the temptation to plaster the startup’s logo and graphics everywhere. Instead plan for guests to experience the product’s USPs and the company values through the choices made. Check out the post: reasons why corporate events fail.

#6 – Get shit done

Time is money, and when you are not being paid as much as usual it is important to cut out wastage and work lean. You are the expert, so make decisions and avoid unnecessary communications. For example present the best venue that achieves the brief rather than offering three options.

Every meeting and phone call should only happen with a planned agenda, and actions should be written down. Remember – lean working.

#7 – Help make the news!

Work closely with the PR to make it as easy as possible for guests to cover the event. Not only through press packs, but think of other ways for journalists and bloggers to soak up content about the product.

So when organising a launch event for a startup the goal is that you help their business grow by delivering an exceptional event, through hard work, creativity without spending hundreds of thousands to do so.

Really interested to hear stories from event organisers and startups planning launch events – please share!


Michael Chidzey is the chief juicer of eventjuice and runs Event Organiser, an event company based in London, UK. He also founded the digital marketing agency Good Signals, blogs on several websites and is a visiting lecturer in events management at London Metropolitan University.Follow Michael on Twitter @michaelchidzey
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