Thursday, June 6, 2013

Live Marketing Events For Any Size Business

By Courtney Marie Smith

A common misconception in the small business world is the notion that only big brands and companies can
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benefit from live marketing events. Furthermore, most businesses doubt they can afford to host or participate in events, as common belief views publicity-geared events as expensive and time-consuming. Fortunately, any business owner or manager can implement the following strategies to expand awareness, enhance customer relations, drive sales and maximize media exposure.

Host a customer appreciation event
Whether you own a small fashion boutique, an exclusive diving venue, luxury salon or thousand-room hotel undoubtedly have loyal customers. Perhaps they frequent your venue so often you know them on a first name basis, or maybe you recognize them from a couple of visits throughout the year. Either way, they represent your biggest fans, most able connectors and willing word-of-mouth promoters. Host a fun thank you event with light food and drinks, special offers, contests, giveaways and feedback opportunities.

It does not have to cost an arm and a leg. Simply tap into your preferred vendors list and ask them to participate and support your event (they, in turn, gain product and brand exposure). So the saying goes, "I scratch your back, you scratch mine." A little appreciation goes a long way.

Create buzz with a product launch or promotional event
Is there a new product that no other local venues offer? Are you bringing in a new spa line that will wow your customers? Perhaps your property is offering a summer rate special at your hotel? Whatever the case, you must effectively publicize your promotions. Sure you can advertise, but ads can be a bit costly. Why not host a publicity-geared event to maximize media coverage and exposure to your customers?

My advice? Get creative, but keep it simple. A friend of mine created a highly successful spa and salon happy hour that featured mini spa and salon treatments at a reduced rate. Of course, there were special sales, bites of food and cocktail samplings that made the guests feel welcomed and well...warm and fuzzy. The warm and fuzzy feelings lead to impressive ROI and valuable customer feedback. The end result? An increase in sales, exposure, measurable analytics and prime media coverage in local lifestyle publications, television spots and radio mentions.

Implement an Event Calendar
Event calendars are great ways to drive traffic to your website and keep your brand fresh in customer's minds. If you feature an ongoing happy hour special, exclusive trunk shows, live entertainment or books signings, you must have a method for delivering the information to your customers. Many website plug-ins are available free of cost and can be easily integrated into your website or company blog. Post all relevant information including date, time, cost (if any), RSVP directions and a contact number or email for questions. Your business' event calendar serves as a promotional foundation and can be easily linked to additional promotional channels, such as social media.

If you have a computer and a heartbeat, you have undoubtedly heard the term social media. My recommendation is to use it, and use it often. Social media promotes highly personalized referrals and recommendations through viral means at a mind-blowing pace. "Monkey see, monkey friends usually do," as I like to say. Chances are if one or two friends attend your marketing events and have a great experience, they will tell their entire social network about it. Bingo! Welcome to the influential world of social media.

Link your event calendar to your blog, micro-site, Facebook fan page, Flikr account, etc. (the list goes on and on). These days, social networks are growing rapidly and can provide valuable momentum for buzz campaigns.

Measure the results
Live events put you face to face with your customers, providing an opportunity for interaction, sampling, feedback and data collection. Be sure to collect contact information including name, email and phone number. Ask attendees their opinions on new products, current products and special promotions. Many guests are eager to provide feedback, but collect it in a professional manner and organize it after the event to be used in future outreach campaigns. Many businesses have incentivized survey participants with give-aways or promotions in order further enhance the feedback process.

As you collect contact data from attendees, be sure to ask them permission, especially if you plan on sending email, mobile or direct mail campaigns. This will ensure you have creating an opt-in database, which will lead to fewer bounce-backs and unsubscribers, while also ensuring you have obeyed spam laws. Lastly, have fun! Marketing events are creative, social and engaging. When you plan them, put yourself in your customer's shoes. What would you want and expect from your favorite businesses?


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