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Marketing Your Business with Events

Marketing Your Business with Events

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: April 20, 2010

Last month I blogged here about how being socially responsible can help you market your business more effectively. Social responsibility is all about being part of a community, whether tha;s the global community, an online community, your local community or all three. Closely related to socially responsible marketing is another type of marketing tha-s also all about community: event marketing.

There are two types of event marketing. The first is organizing your own event; the second is sponsoring an existing event. Both types of event marketing are excellent tools for small-business owners because they are focused on the local community and allow you to raise your profile with customers and potential customers face-to-face. Even in toda-s socially-networked, online world, ther's no substitute for face-to-face marketing.

Event marketing can work for all types of small businesse'from a service business to a product-oriented business; from a B-to-B company to a consumer focused company. Whether you own an accounting firm, a yoga studio, an auto repair shop, a bookstore or an office supply store, ther's a way to make event marketing pay off for your business. Her's a closer look at both types of event marketing and how to make the most of them.

Sponsoring an Event: Sponsoring an event typically involves donating money, time or products to a group or organization in return for affiliating your name with the grou's event. Yo'll want to affiliate with an event and organization that are related to your business somehow. For instance, a sporting goods store might sponsor a local fitness walk or 10K race. An accounting firm could sponsor a local job fair. Talk to your chamber of commerce or local newspaper for information on upcoming events to consider.

Choose your event carefully. Being associated with the wrong event can do more harm than good. Ideally, you want an event tha's well established and whose producers have been running the event for several years. To make sure the event will be worth your efforts, contact the organizers to find out how many people are expected to attend and their demographics. You do't want to sponsor an event expecting 500 businesspeople to show up, only to end up with 50 high school principals instead.

Check references. Get contact information for companies that have sponsored the event in the past, and talk to them to get their opinions on the event's marketing value. Also find out what other sponsors have signed on, and whether you will be the exclusive sponsor in your industry or whether your biggest competitor is also involved.

Make sure you know what is expected of you as a sponsor and what you will receive in return. Will you need to donate money, or just product? Will your company logo be on all the marketing materials for the event? Do your part as a sponsor to make the event a success as well. Promote it on your Web site, Facebook page, Twitter account, e-mail newsletters, in-store signage and other marketing materials. Send out a press release announcing your sponsorship to raise the event's profile with local media.

On the day of the event, take every opportunity to get out and meet the public. If you're giving out product at a booth, be sure you also have brochures, fliers or other marketing materials to hand out with the items. Put a fishbowl on the booth table where people can drop their business cards or write their name and e-mail to enter a drawing or sign up for your mailing list. The goal is to capture all the customer information you can (keeping in mind that people at an event don't want to fill out a huge form). Have plenty of employees on hand to work the booth or mingle with the crowd. Depending on the type of event, you may have the chance to participate on a panel discussion or host a workshop.

Hosting an Event: As a small business owner, you probably don't have the time and staff to host a large event like a conference or 10K run. But there are plenty of smaller, more manageable events you can host yourself that can yield just as much marketing opportunity. To start, think about what type of event makes sense for you and what your goals are. Do you want to cement relationships with existing customers? Attract prospective customers? Ask questions of existing customers to improve your product or service offerings? Attract publicity for your business? Or is the event simply a thank-you?

Options to consider will vary depending on the type of business you own. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • If you own a children's bookstore, have a Read Aloud day where storytellers in costume read to children in the store.
  • Own a tea shop? Have an open house where customers can come in from 2:00 to 4:00 and sample the menu while chatting with other customers.
  • If you have a pet grooming business, hold a Dirtiest Dog contest where customers bring in their dogs to get washed. Take before and after photos and vote on the winner.
  • A print shop could hold a workshop for small-business owners or startups about how to create a professional business image.
  • A yoga studio could hold a Group Relaxation Day where people can come for a free hour-long relaxation session.

You get the idea. Whatever your event, the focus is to bring potential customers together in an informal environment, get to know them better and get them to try your products or services.

When planning your event, take into account space available (you may need customers to RSVP), whether you will serve food and drinks, how much staff you will need and what you will give to (and get from) customers. Promotional items, marketing materials and handouts are some of the items you may want to give away. As for getting information, this can range from asking for business cards to handing out detailed surveys (at a longer event such as a workshop). As with a sponsorship event, your goal is to capture as much customer info as you can so that you can contact the event attendees later.

Publicity is crucial to making your event a success. First, you'll want to publicize it to current customers via your Web site, Facebook, Twitter and e-mail marketing. Depending on the type of event, you may also want to invite customers via a personal phone call, postcards or printed invitations. Second, publicize the event to the local media such as community newspapers, Web sites and bloggers.

Whether it's a sponsored event or your own event, follow-up is key to success. Once you've gathered contact data from customers, follow up within the next two weeks with additional information about your company, such as a special offer, discount coupon or e-mail newsletter.

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva on Twitter at Visit to read more of Rieva's insights.

About the Author:

Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky

Guest Blogger

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at and visit to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She's been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades