In part one of our local event marketing blog post, we touched on the importance of local events to national brands and how to prep for an event:
|I. Get Started Early on Pre-Event Work||II. Setup For Success At the Event|
But the truth is, throwing a wildly successful local marketing event isn’t the same as throwing a wild party. Sure, you need to prep your space and get people interested in attending. But to consider your event a marketing success, you need more than guests — you need customers. Whether you’re hosting your own or exhibiting at a larger show, event performance is measured like any other marketing tactic: by examining Return on Investment (ROI) and understanding if the investment you made will be replenished with topline income (also known as: SALES).
In this post we’ll focus on how to be successful once you’re at the event by enticing people to transition from event goers to customers.
III. Attracting Visitors: The Art of (Starting) Conversation
Event-goers do NOT attend for your booth. Enticing them to talk requires showing value using these strategies:
1. Use Activities to Attract Event Attendees
Games, contests, spectacles and giveaways are all great interactive ideas to get potential customers into your booth. Instead of handing out tchotchkes, make people spin a wheel to see what they could win. It will draw out the conversation and catch the interest of passers-by. When possible, keep your games tied to the theme of the event. At the Ohio State Fair? Capitalize on football-crazed Columbus natives with a football contest for customers to win discounts or branded promo items. At a food event? Try caramel apple dipping as an activity to lure people in, then casually move the conversation to “business.” In addition to attracting customers, your booth activities can also keep kids busy while parents talk shop and hear all your benefits.
2. Tie Giveaways and Promos to Your Product Pitch
If your games and giveaways are tied to your product/service line, it will be easier for you to transition the conversation without potential customers experiencing that record-scratch moment when they feel like they’re being sold to. A football toss contest that segues to your pitch about foam insulation is destined to flop. Tying your brand, product and service back to your activities takes both creativity and conversation finesse, but it’s worth the effort. Give away football tickets for attendees who make the perfect throw, but reward all attempts with a freebie or coupon for your services. You’ve made the transition easier and will still keep people’s interest.
Alternatively, look into sponsorship opportunities that help instigate conversations. For a modest investment, some events offer passport programs that literally put your booth on a map for event-goers who have to collect stamps from various booths for the chance to win major prizes. These sponsorship opportunities also connect your business to the event promo company and can come with additional event advertising or discounted opportunities at future events. No passport program? Suggest it. You’d be surprised what event promoters would be open to if it means more revenue for them.
3. Be Inviting: Get Sales Staff Out Among the Crowd
Encouraging your sales staff to get out from behind the booth is the single most important thing you can do to ensure your event presence is capitalized on. Don’t just sit there. Stand. And stand in front of the table instead of behind it. Connect with people face-to-face — it’s why you’re at the event in the first place. Even if you feel somewhat out of place, putting yourself in the path of event attendees can make the difference between getting 5 leads or 25 leads at an event. Just be selective. People walking in the center of the aisle might not be right to talk to, but attendees meandering near you are ripe potential customers, so strike up a conversation. And make sure if you do wander from the booth that another sales rep stays there to receive interested attendees
Keep in mind that you’re also competing against the booth next to you and other major attractions at the event. Make sure your booth props, signs and activities are visible, and give people a reason to visit by being enthusiastic. You can also build off the success of surrounding booths with quick conversation starters: “How did you like that cheese from the last booth? Good, huh?” OR “I just love her artwork, don’t you?” Be versatile and understand your role in the mind of the event-goer. Be outgoing but not obtuse.
4. Use Social Media To Spread The Word
If the event has a large social media presence, promotion via your social media channels can be a huge opportunity. An event that has nearly 25,000 followers on Instagram (we’re looking at you Texas State Fair), *needs* to be on your event promo radar either from a sponsorship standpoint or simply to see which hashtags you should use to promote your booth activity. Similarly to attracting visitors in person, highlight elements of the event theme and fun activities in your social media posts. Just make sure to include your booth number and tag event accounts to increase your exposure.
IV. Closing That Customer Deal
Engaging visitors in conversation is half the battle. A successful event is one that shows 100 percent ROI through sales and leads.
1. Set a Sales/Leads Goal and Stay Focused
Unless “Just Showing Up” is your ultimate event marketing goal, set and communicate a sales goal prior to the start of an event. Calculate the return you need based on the cost of the event – including booth space, staff, materials, tchotchkes, etc. – then determine how many sales you need in order to make the event cost neutral (at the very least).
Next, break out your goal amongst individual staffers at the event. Have a goal of 20 sales at a 10-hour event? Make sure your two-hour shift workers come back with four total sales. When you’re measuring overall effectiveness, consider other factors as well, such as attendance. Outdoor events with bad weather, for instance, might be considered a win if you meet 60 percent of your goal depending on turnout. Tracking this info is crucial for future planning and event staff morale.
2. Lead With the Best Product/Service Benefit
Once you’ve established a conversation, turn to the topic of your product or service with a focus on the top benefit. Keep in mind this benefit will change from event to event. Match the value proposition to audience demographics and highlight extra incentives you know they’ll be interested in. Selling insurance at a Home Show? Lead with details about your homeowner’s discount while reminding attendees about the importance of protecting their investment. Selling cable packages at a Heritage festival? Build up the Smithsonian Channel as a highlight of your premium package. Lastly, whenever possible, use technology features of your product to connect with consumers. In the days of mobile, showcasing an app or other technology features can pique interest and open wallets.
3. Personalize Your Approach: Don’t Sell. Inform.
Tying your product offerings back to the likes and interests of event-goers is just the start. Ask questions when you’re in conversation to understand personal values and understand what is in a visitor’s best interest. Once you know their personal perspective, you can give them the information they need to make an informed decision — a far more natural (and effective) approach than making a hard sell. Unlike any other marketing tactic, events allow you to build a human connection with potential customers. Also, remember it’s not just about making sales at the event. Lead generation is a HUGE part of event marketing, which is notorious for capturing the best leads. Making a connection to a prospective customer face-to-face means they’ll be more apt to purchase in the future. Just make the connection personal, per our last tip.
4. Leave Every Lead With a Reason to Reach Out
Cheap pens don’t last long, but give someone something useful and they will use it and remember you. Bags, umbrellas and water bottles are clutch because they help extend your advertising within the event and potentially beyond. Don’t stop there though — make each interaction as personal as possible right down to your contact info. A name and local phone number will go much farther than a national website or 1-800 number. Going a step farther, business cards can be seen as throwaways, but hand writing your contact information on promotional materials gives you ten extra seconds with the customer and forges a more human connection.
So what do you think? Are you ready to plan your next marketing event? Better yet, are you ready to plan marketing events for hundreds or thousands of local dealers, agents and franchisees? If the answer isn’t a resounding “yes,” we understand. Our event planning and support team has more than three decades of combined experience in the space and has perfected the approach to distributed local marketing through events. If you’re curious to hear more, just let us know.
Or, if there’s something you think we missed in the blog post, be sure to let us know in the comments below.
Special thanks on this blog post goes out to Olivia Gruntkowski, Tyler Smeltzer and again to Joanna Jones for providing expert insights.