By Tim Raybould

The goal of marketing, from daily tweets to monthly newsletters, is to build relationships with people who will be loyal, life-long customers. However, as marketers and/or busy small business owners, we often look for shortcuts to accomplish this. We want to find the fastest, easiest and cheapest way to find the best customers. Hosting an event is a great way to build customer relationships, but when it comes to marketing a small business event, the most cost effective way is to eschew shortcuts and focus on relationships.

Most everyone agrees that building a relationship with someone is best done in person. There’s a bond that forms when you’re at the same place at the same time with someone else. The bond is even deeper if you’re sharing an unique experience with them. There’s a term we use a lot at Ticketleap called “communitas.” It’s the sense of connectedness two people feel when they share a unique experience together.

If you’re able foster communitas, you’re forming a bond that you simply can’t replicate by favoriting a tweet or having them click on an ad. A bond we’re all chasing after with our marketing strategies. How do you encourage people to meet with you in person? Here are our top tips for creating events that build relationships:

1. If you are new to creating events, help your customers understand what they’ll be getting into by growing your events slowly. You probably won’t get 500 people out to your first event and that’s ok. Putting together a memorable experience for ten people creates ten fiercely loyal customers. How many tweets would it take to do that?

2. Create a list that includes the ten people you’d most like to see at your event. Send each a personal email with a line or two about the event, and why you think they are each a great fit for it. Keep it short and earnest. If you can’t figure out why someone should come to your event, go back to the drawing board and brainstorm event ideas until you can.

3. If your marketing budget is small, make sure to post status updates and messages when people are most likely to buy. You’ll want people to see information about your event when they are in a position to buy tickets — not on the bus, or out for the evening. Across all of our events, ticket sales are strongest at 10am on weekdays. Schedule your updates to coincide with everyone’s morning coffee break.

4a. Give people enough time to buy tickets…

4b. …and to tell their friends to buy tickets, too. The best way to market your event is through word-of-mouth. When you send out personal emails and seed ticket sales, in a way, you are putting together a street team of marketers. When early ticket buyers brag about snagging a ticket to your event, their friends will want in on the action, as well.

Tim Raybould  is the CEO of Ticketleap.