For small businesses, smart marketing is crucial for success. But what does that mean in today’s fast paced, highly wired world? While online and mobile communication has gained importance in recent years, experts say that face-to-face engagement with people who matter to you and your organization remains invaluable. m“In a crowded marketplace, making a positive and lasting impression is crucial,” says Skip Cox, Board Chairman for the International Association of Exhibitions and Events. “There’s no substitution for an in-person meeting.”No matter the size or focus area of your business, exhibitions, trade shows and other forms of face-to-face meetings can be a powerful business tool, helping with sales, networking, education and business research.
But how do you make the most of your time at face-to-face events? Cox is offering some top tips:
• Socialize: Before the event, identify who you want to engage with while you’re there. Engage those individuals in online dialogue — retweet them, reply to their messages and join their groups. This will make the initial in-person conversation easier. Social and mobile media can help you take conversations from online to offline and back again.
• Be more than your booth: Your booth is not the only presence your brand has at an event. Without going too far or coming across as unprofessional, wear something that aligns with your company to help you stand out. Consider the standards of your industry, the image of your business and the tone of the event, and find something that fits with you and your business.
• Connect your connections: Introduce people who may benefit from knowing one another. Both parties will be grateful to you and you’ll be known as someone who “knows people.”
• Promote: Get your name out there. Use promotional products strategically. Investigate sponsorship opportunities.
• Play by the rules: Don’t take advantage of the audience attending an official event by creating non-affiliated concurrent activities or events, or use public areas to drum up personal business without actually paying to participate. This will only build negative buzz for you and your business.
• Strategize: Making connections is half the battle. Making the right connections is the more important half. Do your legwork so you can figure out exactly who you want to target.
Whether you’re just starting out or you’re a well-established player, getting to know the people who matter can help your business.
• Ask, don’t assume: Many event organizers are familiar with the struggles startups and small businesses go through and will often work with you to find ways you can participate at a price you can afford. Don’t let perceived cost deter you; ask event organizers what your options are as even a more limited presence can help you find a wealth of opportunities at a fraction of the price.