As a small business owner, it can be frustrating trying to determine the best place to spend your marketing dollars. In today’s digital age, ROI on traditional media such as print and radio are simply not bringing in the customers they used to.
All-Systems has realized this first hand, but came to the conclusion from a very different perspective. Even years back when these tactics were generating sales, due to the sheer population of the Northeastern U.S. States we cover, the costs incurred to run on them were astronomical. More times than not, it was far too expensive for our local retailer base to participate. So we had to get creative, even back then.
Almost a decade ago, All-Systems started to really focus on guerilla marketing tactics. The front runner to all of them was working local events… and it still rings true today. No other tactic gives you face to face time with potential customers quite like events do. And best part is they’re a fraction of the price of the more traditional, dying ones are.
So how does a small business get involved with local events? Here’s our step by step guide to getting started with this uber profitable marketing strategy.
Tips for Your Small Business Events
Find Events to Work
First step to working an event is finding one to present at. Here are some of our favorite online resources for finding local events in your market.
This is our favorite resource to find events, because it includes all sorts of events ranging from State and County Fairs, craft fairs, and expos. Plus Fairs and Festivals search feature makes it easy to focus on events only in your area… just set the distance you are willing to travel from your zip code and you’ll be presented with all the options in your area.
Local Chambers often run community events several times a year. If you’re not already a member, find your local one and join. And also don’t be afraid to contact Chambers within your market area but not local to you personally. Many will still allow outside exhibitors even if you are not a member.
Facebook events is a great resource to find events happening in your area that may even be hosted by other small businesses. Opportunities to partner and joint promote can come into play if you do your research. Take a look and see what’s out there.
Depending on your market or state, there may be an event listing website specific to your area. Use Google with the search term “Local Events in [Location]” to find more options in your area.
Once you have your event booked, now it’s time to get organized so you are ready for the big day. Here are some easy ways to be prepared.
Create an Event Calendar
The more events you book, the more difficult it is to keep your sales team and schedule organized. Create a simple, dedicated event calendar and track all your bookings in one place. This can be an old school paper calendar, or even a Google Calendar or Spreadsheet you share with your sales team.
Once you have your calendar laid out, it’s then easier to figure out your staffing needs. It’s important to make note of the number of attendees the event is expected to have. The more attendees, the more people you’ll need to man the booth.
As an example, when working a large State Fair with a million estimated attendees, if selling a complex product like we do with DISH, you’ll on average need a minimum of 6-8 people in the booth selling at all times! Seems like a lot, but with that much foot traffic, you don’t want to let anyone walk by wanting more information but deterred by the line for information.
However, for most small County or Craft Fairs, one to two people should be more than plenty. Just be sure they’re the best sales folks you have.
If you have two great event options but they overlap, you can consider hiring additional help on a contract, per event basis to help out granted the extra event seems worthwhile. The ROI on additional temp hires vs. what you would have spent on a traditional marketing campaign could yield you a much higher return in the long run.
Purchase Displays & Attire
If this is your first event, you’re going to need a set up. When focusing on mostly outdoor fairs and festivals, a simple 10×10 tent and table setup should suffice. If your planning on working indoor expos, you may want to splurge on an indoor specific display. Figure out what works for you, and be sure it looks professional. It will be your customer’s first impression of your brand.
Same goes for attire. You’ll want your event team to look polished and professional. When we work events in the high summer event season here in the Northeast, this usually includes a short sleeve, branded polo and khaki shorts. You’ll want to be mindful of the weather when planning your attire for the satisfaction and comfort of your sales team.
Working events are often long days and no one will be happy in 95 degree heat in a suit and tie.
You’ll also want to plan some sort of a special promotion or giveaway specifically for your event. It could be as simple as a gift with purchase, a limited time discount, or a free pen with an email list signup. Key thing is it needs to be valid only for the days of the event. This gives customers an incentive to take action onsite.
We’ve had great success tying a promotion to a social media tactic. As an example, setting up a photo booth and running a contest or discount for people who post their photo online with a specific hashtag. This helps drive additional traffic to your location organically as participants help spread the message for you.
The ultimate goal when working local events is to close sales onsite as opposed to after the event. With a well thought out promotion, this becomes a lot easier.
Create a Packing List
No one wants to be scrambling around the morning of the event looking for a missing tent canopy. Take the time in the weeks before your event to create a comprehensive list of everything you’ll need to bring with you.
Include everything from the inventory/demo products you are looking to sell, to your display pieces. That way when it’s the morning of and you’re loading your vehicles, all you have to do is check it off and you can arrive to the event site ready to set up and sell.
The month before your event, it’s time to get the word out that you’ll be there. Spread the word on social media, send the local press a press release, or even mention your upcoming event on any traditional media you may be doing. A simple call out to “See Us at the [Event Here]” will do the trick. Other methods which work are taking out billboards in the areas around the event site, or even using yard signs.
In our experience small businesses who advertise leading up to the event have much better exposure and an overall better event experience. Don’t miss out on this step.
Work Your Event
The big day is here! To make your event as successful as possible, we recommend the following tactics.
Take photos of your booth, your employees working the event, your products, and even customers stopping by to check out your offerings. Then be sure to live post and tag participants as well as the event on social media. But remember, always ask for permission first! Good news is majority of people are flattered by you wanting to tag them, and when you do their friends and family will see what a great experience they had at your booth.
You could also use these images later for promotional materials for email and other forms of marketing. It’s always worth taking the photos and not needing them than needing them and not having them.
Engage with Customers
If there is one key takeaway you receive from reading this guide, make it this: To be successful at event selling, you HAVE to get out from behind the table and actually speak to and engage with people.
The days of passive selling are over. The most successful event resellers are charismatic, friendly, outgoing and love pulling people over to talk about what they’re passionate about (i.e. the product/offer/service)!
But what happens if you’re an introvert and the thought of approaching a stranger drains you? If this is you, you may be better served hiring or asking for some help. Get your most outgoing friend, family member, or a contracted sales person to come and help you. If they do a good job speaking to people and getting them interested, it’s then fairly easy for them to bring them to do the official sales close.
Close Sales on Site
If you followed our guide earlier and created a limited time, event promotion, this should be a lot easier.
You should always use a trial close, such as “what color would you like?” or “I can install on Tuesday or Wednesday next week, which works best for you?” to feel out the customer’s intent to buy. If they’re not ready, that’s ok. Instead view it as an opportunity to find out why. Ask them what objections they have so you can offer a solution to get the deal done. Because once they walk away from your booth, you more than likely will not get an opportunity with that customer again. So strike while the iron is hot, you have nothing to lose.
There will be times where regardless of your trial close attempts, a customer is simply not willing to buy on the spot at an event. This is where having a contest or free giveaway comes in handy.
Be sure to have an email sign up list that’s accessible and offer the people who take time to speak to you a contest entry, or a free gift like a pen or tchoke, in exchange for their email. People love event freebies! You’d be surprised how many people will give you that info, even if they decide not to buy.
With an email list, you then have an opportunity to turn that person into a customer at a later date. So all is not lost.
Once your event is over, it’s time to follow up on leads and track how successful it was. Here’s a few things to remember to take care of when you get back to the office.
Add Leads to your Email List and Invite to Social Media
If you were wondering what to do with that email list you collected, this is it. Just be sure to keep up communication with them.
Follow Up on Unclosed Leads
If there were specific customers who were not ready to buy on site, but told you to call them later, now is the time to do it. Just be sure you received written permission at the event to do so, otherwise you could be violating do not call laws.
Track Your Results
How many sales did your event yield for you? Make note of this, as well as all the incurred costs to participate in the event including booth space rental, utilities, giveaways, inventory, payroll and commissions, and travel expenses.
Granted you made a nice profit, make sure you add this event to your calendar for the following year. If it was a bust for reasons outside of your control, such as bad booth location, awful weather, etc. also make note of this. If it’s within your marketing budget the following year it may still be worthwhile to exhibit again.
Ready to start working events? If you’re an All-Systems Retailer, we make this easy. Contact your All-Systems Representative for assistance with finding events, receiving co-op from vendors for booking, estimating staffing needs and securing giveaways.
Have an event tip that we missed? Leave us a comment below.