As we head into 2017, and look forward to the spring, small business start-ups might be looking to stage an event or exhibition, or more likely pay to be part of one, in order to bring in much needed new business. So how can you be sure that the time and effort – and the money you spend – are worthwhile?
It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of getting ‘out there’ and meeting people who may already be customers, potential contacts and those who as yet know little about what you do, but it is important to do your homework first.
- As a small business, you may have attended craft or business fairs for example, and before you embark on being part of one for yourself, you should think about what makes you stop and take notice as you drift around what is generally a huge venue. Is the position of the stand? Is it the way the products are displayed? If it is a person’s business ‘brain’ that is being ‘sold’ what attracts your attention? The banners? A digital display? A video on a loop? Leaflets to take away? Freebies? Just because you don’t have a visible product it doesn’t mean you can market without them. Don’t be afraid to go to an event and take notes from what others are doing, especially if there is a crowd around their stand!
- Make sure the event is one that your potential customers will attend. You might think it looks interesting, but will your customers see value in attending? It will usually cost them an entrance fee. Are your competitors there? If they are it is a good sign, not a bad one.
- Your finances are an important consideration too – stands cost money, and your time in attendance must be taken into account too. Make sure your customers know where you will be and when, give out flyers and make sure you have enough marketing information for the event itself, but don’t go overboard with freebies – they can be expensive. Everybody loves a free pen…
- Think about the total time spent on organisation. Getting yourself seen at these events is very important, but not so important that you should neglect the day to day business. If necessary, rope in a friend to help, or even consider paying someone to help you in the run up and on the day.
- Remember to post regularly on social media, highlighting the events you are attending. Many potential customers will want to see what you have to offer ‘in the flesh’ so make sure they know where you are.
- Consider making special offers available on the day, and ensure you take as many emails as possible to add to your mailing list. Then you can follow up on the big day and hold their interest.
- Events like these are also great networking opportunities. If you make wedding cakes, a wedding fair will offer potential business links with hairdressers, car hire companies, dress makers and make-up artists, just for starters.
As a small business, it will be more cost effective to be part of a big event than try to organise one yourself. But as you grow in confidence you may find there are inexpensive opportunities to get your products to customers, and who knows, one day you might be holding a celebratory party of your own…