The unique selling point – or USP – of your event is the one thing that makes it different from anything else out there. It’s also the reason why people will choose your event over your competitors’. You probably have a rough idea of what your value proposition is, but defining it is an important part of what to consider when planning an event as well as event promotion. After all, knowing exactly what makes your event special will help you to market and sell it to the right people.
Finding a USP for event management means thinking like your target audience and creating an event that they won’t be able to say no to. Here’s how to do just that in four simple steps.
1. Create your attendee persona profiles
Personas are semi-fictional profiles. The person you’re writing about doesn’t actually exist, but they have the same attributes as your real target audience. To write your persona profiles, think about:
- Demographics: What is their age, gender, and where do they live?
- Likes and dislikes: What sort of things do they enjoy, and what are their pain points?
- Motivation: What are their goals in life, and how will your event help them to achieve this?
So, for a full-day aromatherapy course, the attendee type might be wellness professionals. Their motivation? To form relationships with like-minded people and grow their business via networking. For online wine tasting, your target audience might be middle-aged business professionals. Their goal is to impress clients with their wine knowledge during dinner meetings. A disco aerobics class might target young women. They dislike conventional forms of exercise like running, but enjoy dancing with friends. Their goal is to get fit and enjoy themselves.
2. Identify what makes your idea unique
You already likely have some idea about why someone would choose to attend your event over another option. For example, is the content of your event substantially different? Do you have better bands or artists, more senior speakers, or a unique twist on an old topic?
Maybe your USP is the format of your event. Having a unique event theme is one of the biggest points of difference, so let your imagination run wild. Perhaps every presentation will be delivered by singing monks, or the online panel discussion will be interspersed with “fastest finger first” quizzes. Maybe your event is radical because it has almost no format at all – think about the growing trend of “unconferences” with no pre-set agenda.
Location is another great way to differentiate your event. Could you host it in an animated virtual venue, rather than on a Zoom call? For in-person events, could you hold it in a golf resort, rather than a typical airport hotel? Service is something to consider, too, and it doesn’t have to mean expensive. Can you offer better comment moderation, free drinks, or a smoother registration system?
Could you even apply one concept to another? This technique is often used in technology start-ups, where you’ll hear things like, “We’re an Airbnb for pets,” or “Uber for helicopters.” Could your event be a Glastonbury for pets? How about a conference for the unemployed?
Last – and this should come last – is the possibility of differentiating on price. This doesn’t always mean a race to the bottom, although that is often what happens. Perhaps your event could be 50% cheaper than the nearest alternative. But it could also be 100% more expensive and 500% better. Don’t underestimate the luxury market – people are happy to pay more for a superior service in a fantastic location with truly exclusive content. Again, it’s all down to your target audience persona.
3. Connect the two
Go back to step one and decide whether everything aligns. It can be easy to get carried away when you’re thinking of fun ideas to spice up your online workshops, for example. But no matter how unique and special your event is, it needs to be relevant and valuable to your audience. If you want to know how to get more attendees to an event, this is your answer.
Will the type of person you want to attend your event care about the unique aspect you’ve planned? There’s no point in differentiating your event by holding it in a unique location if your audience cares more about convenience. So, tech-savvy people may relish the idea of an event held inside a simulated online world. But those who have just got their heads around Zoom might be put off by downloading new software.
Basically, you want to make sure that your USP will delight your defined audience by checking it against your attendee personas. Avoid going for luxury if your audience is budget-conscious. Try not to focus on five-minute lightning talks if your ideal attendee wants to hear a deep and complex discussion.
4. Build your narrative
Maximise the power of your event USP by turning all of this into a compelling story. An event with a strong narrative will always stand out in the market because people are moved by stories. Audiences connect with brands and the companies that tell them.
The story has to feature your defined audience – the persona you’ve drawn up. You know what their challenge is, so start with that. This is the conflict, and your event is the knight in shining armour coming to rescue them.
Whether they need to see the latest band, care about a good cause, or want to get ahead in business, these are needs that great events can fill. So tell them how you’ll fulfil it better than anyone else, by providing them with a unique and valuable experience they’ll remember forever.
To help you visualise what this looks like in practice, we’ve put together three case studies. All of them are fictional, and any similarities to real events are purely coincidental. We’ve added some event tagline examples with a short explanation of how they work, too.
Example 1: John
Event persona: John wants to learn basic accounting because he’s self-employed and wants to keep better track of his money. He reads small business magazines and forums and is an active member of small business groups on LinkedIn. Unfortunately, he has very little time or money for expensive and in-depth training, plus he finds the subject boring.
Event tagline: Master accounting basics for business owners in one day with our singing monks.
The tagline describes what it is (accounting basics for business owners), while showing that it’s short (one day) and designed for time-poor people like John. It also mentions the USP – singing monks – to draw him in.
Event narrative: Are you a small business owner who struggles with keeping track of your income, expenses, and cashflow? Do you want a better grasp of accounting, but don’t have the time, money, or patience for long and boring training sessions? Singing Monks Teach Accounting is for you. You’ll learn all of the basics of accounting in a day and, thanks to our completely unique and fun format, you’ll leave feeling excited about the subject. It’s been shown that people retain 50% more information when sung to than spoken to, so you’ll remember all of the key information much more easily.
Example 2: Lisa
Event persona: Lisa is in her twenties and lives in London. Before lockdown, she and her friends would go out dancing every Saturday. She’s always been a bit self-conscious, but has recently started following body positivity influencers on Instagram. Her fitness level has dropped over the past few months, and she wants to exercise without punishing herself. She hates running – and is a bit shy about doing it in public anyway – and misses the conviviality of clubbing.
Event tagline: Tone up, have fun, and wave your glow sticks at our weekly disco aerobics online party!
Mentioning glow sticks and disco tells Lisa that this is going to be a fun class – not one that is to be taken too seriously. But using a phrase like “tone up” reassures her that it’s not just silliness, and that there will be exercise involved. The weekly aspect taps into the routine she previously had with her friends.
Event narrative: Shake your glow sticks, it’s Friday! Every week, we play the best pop from the ’70s to today to bring the club into your living room. During our 45 minutes of dance-based cardio, we’ll work out to the beat, shake off some stress, and just have a good laugh with each other. The private Zoom class is followed by an optional freestyle dance session, so we can keep the party going and show off our new moves. It’s the perfect way to end your week in lockdown! Dressing up is encouraged.
Example 3: Fred
Event persona: Fred is a business executive in his mid-40s. He likes to appear knowledgeable but has a short attention span. He skim-reads the news to get the gist of stories. As part of his role, he often entertains out-of-town clients with meals at fine-dining restaurants. His attempts to engage the sommelier in conversation often fall flat, and his wine picks are often hit or miss.
Event tagline: Learn the fundamentals of wine tasting in one hour. Learn how to read the label to pick the perfect bottle.
A one-hour session is perfect for Fred’s short attention span, and picking the perfect bottle based on the label is exactly what he wants to do.
Event narrative: Want to impress your friends and family by always choosing the right bottle of wine? This one-hour wine session is a great foundation. We’ll fly through the rulebook to teach you the basics, covering the most popular red and white grapes, the key terms to look for on a bottle, and how to know that what you’re picking is good quality. The ticket price covers three bottles of wine, so you can sip along and learn to identify primary, secondary, and tertiary characteristics when you swirl your glass.
Now, it’s time for event promotion
With these four simple steps and handy event planning goals examples, you’ll know exactly how to appeal to your unique target audience. The next step is sharing that USP, not just with potential attendees on social media, but with potential sponsors and your wider event team (if you have one). So when reaching out to partners, consider including attendee profiles in your presentation and clearly explain how engaging this type of person could benefit their business.
Keeping your USP front and centre as you plan your event will help to ensure it stays on track. Here’s how to write an event business plan with all of that in mind.