By Ashley Kornee
A few weeks ago, I attended an event titled “Art Uncorked” at our local library. The event was to feature local artists and also included wine and cheese tasting. But here’s the thing. The event was “sponsored” by a slew of local businesses, each of which had a booth and had either free items, coupons for discounts, or drawings for free stuff.
I discovered businesses I didn’t know existed in my area, and they were cool. I’ll visit them now.
Small businesses need to all take a lesson. While we are so obsessed with online marketing, the face-to-face marketing that can take place at events can achieve the same results – establish relationships, get conversions, and turn customers into brand ambassadors. Small businesses need to take advantage of this opportunity, and here are ___ ways to do just that.
1. Attend an Event but Have a “Draw”
What kind of free stuff can you offer? How about a small musical group? Or a juggler who will teach your visitors? What about a huge mural to which they are all invited to add? You need something to draw your target audience in, and the more creative and unique you can be, the better. And if you can find entertaining activities that will involve them, the longer they will stay. They will remember you after the day is over.
2. Support a Cause and Attend Its Events
People want to feel they are doing “good” for the less fortunate. That’s why the one-for-one business model is now so popular with online retailers. For every item purchased, one is donated; for every item purchased, an amount of money is donated.
You can do the same thing at charitable events, and it can be more effective, because consumers are meeting you, interacting with you, and a relationship can be established much faster. It also helps to give away free “gear” with your brand name and logo on it.
3. Sponsor a Local Sports Team
This marketing ploy is old but still effective. Of course, you can donate the jerseys with your company name of them. Everyone does that. Maybe you should think “outside the box.” “Programs” at sporting events are infamous for containing lots of printed ads, but let’s face it. They’re boring and rarely given more than a glance. How about you do something different? Memes with funny or inspirational sayings, for example. And if you are not creative, there are any number of translation services with creatives whose life work is this. Check out this professional translation company The Word Point and get some talent at a reasonable cost. Make your ad memorable, and your brand will be too.
4. Hold Contests or Drawings
People like competition, especially when it doesn’t cost to participate. If you attend a trade show/fair, offer a high-value prize. Drawings are rather common, but contests are not. Have visitors submit original limericks; how about a paper plane competition? Remember, the more you can involve your visitors, the longer they stay and the more opportunity you have to talk with them.
5. Guerilla Marketing
A lot has been written about this type of marketing. It is perfect for a startup with no budget, if the owner(s) are “risk-takers,” some of these ideas can be fun. Here are a couple of successful ones:
· “Crash the Registration Table:” If you cannot afford to attend a conference or other event, and your target audience is there, here is a low budget idea. Buy some nice drinking cups, print out stickers with your brand and logo, and put them on those cups. The same can be done with other items too – notepads, for example. Place the items at the very beginning of the registration table when people are busy and not noticing. If there is no room, pull up a couple of chairs and set the items there.
· Capture an audience before it gets into the registration process. Two young entrepreneurs set themselves up in the hallway down which conference participants had to walk. One was in costume; the other had a polaroid camera. They stopped attendees and took their picture with the costumed partner – when the picture was printed out, they put a sticker with their company information in the lower corner. They stuck around for break times and kept it up. Who can resist a picture of themselves with Captain America? This is even a good idea if you can afford a booth.
6. Plan Your Own Event
If you have the budget, great. If not, partner up with another small business or two and sponsor a music event – a local music group perhaps that performs the type of music your target audience likes. Get out those drinking cups with stickers again, or, if there will be dancing, small sweat towels with your logo on them. You can sponsor business events too, but just make sure that your audience will be engaged in exciting ways.
Marketing does Not Have to be Serious
One of the things that online marketers have come to realize over the years is that brand awareness is built not by selling but by developing relationships and getting audiences to interact with brands in fun and/or inspirational ways. Often, this can be accomplished “in the flesh” to a greater degree than by producing content and online interactions. If you are a small business, get out there and have some fun with your audience.