Shopify-focused events organized by partners are popping up all over the world. There are a lot of reasons why a partner might want to host a meetup, but sometimes it’s difficult to know exactly how to plan, organize, and execute a successful event.
To help you prepare, here are some insights and tips for hosting a killer Shopify meetup.
Why host a Meetup?
There are many reasons why it can be valuable for you or your business to organize an event focused on Shopify. Here are two:
Hosting a meetup is a great way to get to know the local Shopify community and find potential clients. Meetups act as a platform for merchants to discuss the problems they are experiencing. At the same time, they allow you to communicate your services as a solution to those problems. Taking advantage of this opportunity to showcase your skills and expertise may help you land new business for your company now or down the road.
Collaborate with other partners
By organizing a meetup, you’re also opening the door to network with other Shopify Partners. By inviting partners skilled in areas complementary to your business, you’ll be better suited to offer creative solutions to any potential problem a merchant may have. A meetup can be a valuable starting point in for a long-term collaborative relationship where you can tag-team complex issues with other local partners. Pool your resources together, and complete all the jobs!
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Planning your meetup
Begin by picking a date. Try to host your meetup during the work week, but avoid Mondays if you can as most people will be rushing to get home. In our experience, we’ve seen Thursdays get the best attendance for a fun, but still work-related, style of event.
Start the event at a time that works with typical work schedules. Starting at 6PM or 7PM is common, but it depends on whether or not you are providing food (starting at 6PM means you might lose a few attendees who want dinner, while starting at 7PM means some people might go home after work and not come back). In addition, don’t waste time once your guests arrive. Set the event to be two hours in length, but be ready for it to last as long as three hours if everyone is enjoying themselves.
Consider whether or not you want to provide food and drink at your event. Go for appetizers and finger foods, rather than a seated meal. Forcing your guests to sit and eat will take up a significant amount of time at your event and will naturally discourage networking. Beer, wine, coffee, water, cheese platters, chips, or small sandwiches are all good options. Don’t break the bank, but remember that happy guests could become happy customers.
Finally, make sure you choose a good location. Find somewhere central or that is easy to commute to by public transit with a great layout. Also try to choose a venue where you can host the event for free or at a very low cost. A lot of local businesses are more than willing to host external events in order to increase traffic on slow days throughout the week.
When picking a venue, try to think to yourself: “Is there a local workspace that would appreciate some joint publicity? A bar that could use some extra business? Or maybe even the office space of a generous larger partner?” All of these are great options that won’t cost a fortune, as long as you’re willing to do a little bit of negotiating.
Make your event worthwhile
While having a nice venue is definitely a must-have, you’re going to need a reason for people to actually attend your meetup. A generic mix and mingle over drinks might draw a small crowd, but you’ll attract a larger audience if people feel like the evening might offer something of genuine value that they can’t find elsewhere. Consider focusing your meetup around two or three speaker presentations featuring interesting people or an exciting discussion topic. Follow up these presentations with a time dedicated for networking. This will increase the likelihood that your meetup will produce business opportunities.
When asking people to speak at your meetup, it’s important to consider what you want them to speak about. What kind of topics are your clients interested in? How would your speakers’ presentations add value to the Shopify community? Reach out to people in your personal network or to someone you respect in the industry. And don’t be afraid to reach out to a few big names that would draw a large crowd. Chances are these individuals will be flattered that you consider them an expert in a particular topic and will want to help you out. If not, be sure you are prepared with some key negotiation points as to why they should take part in your event without payment. One opportunity could be in the form of increased visibility in the local market through co-branding and promotion.
Here are a few presentation ideas:
Ecommerce: Why it’s a good idea to sell online
Conversion: How to design product pages that get you more sales
Retail: The advantages of brick-and-mortar and pop-up shops
Branding: How to set yourself apart from the competition online
Design: How to create a store that fits your brand (and how a Shopify Partner can help)
Shopify: Why Shopify is a good choice of ecommerce platform
SEO: Showing high on search engine results
Product photos: how to take the perfect one
Web trends: What’s hot and what’s not
Shopify POS: Everything you need to know
Spread the word
There are a few different ways you can promote your meetup and get people to show up on the big day.
First and foremost, you need to make a webpage dedicated to housing all of the important information about your event. If you’re planning on hosting more than one event, it might be worthwhile to create an account on Meetup.com. Not only will Meetup.com keep track of your RSVPs, but each person who RSVP’s to the event also becomes a member of your unique meetup group. That way, the next time you host a meetup, every person in your group is automatically notified of the new event.
If Meetup.com isn’t right for you, then you can also try Facebook, Splashthat, or nvite. All three have great event planning functionality and allow you to track RSVPs or sign-ups. Nvite is even set-up to automatically send a reminder email to all guests 24 hours before the event.
Once you’ve set up a landing page, you’ll want to think about a promotion strategy. If you have an existing email list of people you want to invite, sent an initial invitation email 3-4 weeks in advance of the event. Send one more email 1 week before, and a final reminder 24 hours before the event gets underway.
Then be a social butterfly! (or come out of your chrysalis if you haven’t already). Share your event on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or any other social media platform you can think of. Ask your speakers to promote your event through their own networks.
But be warned, you should expect about 50-60% of confirmed attendees to actually show up. If your venue capacity is 100, it’s okay to keep the sign-ups open past that mark since you’ll need to reach at least 200 RSVPs before you actually need to be worried about going over capacity.
At the meetup
Greet people as they arrive at the door. Introduce yourself and welcome them to the event. Make sure to sign everyone in so you can get a full list of attendees. A table at the entrance with a blank sheet asking for names and emails will get the job done. An ipad (if you have it) with a pre-made google form is an even better option and will save you from having to decipher everyone’s hand-writing later on. Collecting guest information as they arrive will help you evaluate the success of your meetup, and it guarantees that you leave the event with the contact information of your leads so you can follow-up.
Consider printing out nametags, or having a table set-up with colourful markers where people can write their own. This can be a good way to get people mingling and chatting before the presentations begin.
Don’t be afraid to approach people when it’s time to mingle and introduce yourself. When you are talking to your guests, try and engage them in purposeful conversations. While you might think your meetup is the opportunity to pitch your company’s services, use this time to ask your attendees thoughtful questions about their business and actually learn about what they need. Save the elevator pitch for a follow-up email. Ask people why they came, or what they’re hoping to accomplish. Hopefully, this will lead to some genuine conversations and connections (and probably a good lead or two). Plus, you’ll be setting a great example for other attendees who will be more likely to mingle after seeing you doing it.
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After the meetup
The work doesn’t stop once your event has concluded. Send a personalized thank you email or card to each of your speakers, thanking them for helping you to make your event a success. And remember that list of contact information you got from your guests at the door? Now’s the time to use it. You should also them a thank you email that includes a post-meetup survey letting them know you appreciate their attendance. You can use the feedback from the survey to fine tune the next meetup you plan to host.
What’s the outcome?
Hosting a meetup is a great way to create and connect to a network of Shopify merchants and partners. Not only can a meetup help you find new leads or forge new business partnerships, but you can establish yourself and your business as a local authority on Shopify.
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