Use Event Marketing to Grow your Startup

When growing your startup, you want to get in front of as many people as possible. What better way than at events? Running a booth at a well-attended event is a fantastic way to familiarize other people with your startup and get them thinking and talking about you.

Every startup, regardless of its size, can leverage the power of events. They are one of the single best ways to get through to your target customers. In fact, one statistic says that 91 percent of successful businesses place a larger emphasis on event marketing when compared to underperforming businesses. If some of the largest companies in the world are making it a priority, you should too.

Why Table at an Event?

When you pick the right event for your startup, you have access to dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of potential customers. Getting a booth at the event allows you to reach a large percentage of them. Even if they just walk past your booth and see your logo, they are starting to become familiar with your business. There are several benefits from exhibiting at events as a startup, and they include:

Learn from Customers

Whether you set up a booth at a festival, conference, or one-night event, you will have the ability to talk directly to current and potential customers. This is a fantastic market research opportunity because you can ask questions and get feedback about your product or service straight from your audience.

You can also watch who stops by your booth to get a better understanding of the type of customers your business attracts, including their age, gender, ethnicity, and other background information. It’s your chance to test your assumptions and gather as much information as you can about your target audience. You can see which products get the most sales and which ones are not as popular. A wealth of information is at your fingertips. Having access to such direct interaction with your customers is extremely valuable for young, budding startups.

Build Hype About Your Startup

You can be playful and eccentric at events. Do a drawing, or invite people to spin a wheel or even bob for apples to win a prize. The goal is to leave an impression on visitors so they remember your booth at the end of the day. Getting a booth at an event helps build hype because it allows attendees to interact with your brand in a very unique way. There is an energy at events that can’t be replicated online.

You can get people talking about your booth by providing them with a memorable item or experience. If they post about your startup on social media, even better. Get people excited about your product or service by animating your startup with more than a table and fliers.

Be Seen as a Leader

You might not be the most popular person there, but at least you were invited to the party. Attendees will read your startup’s name and logo and maybe stop by your booth, just like they do with some of the bigger companies at the event. The fact that your startup is at the event in the first place gives you authority and tells attendees that you have something to offer. It will help you build your reputation as a leader in the industry.

Hone Your Pitch

As people pass by and stop at your booth, you will be pitching your business to them on repeat. This is a good time to practice your pitch and tweak it until you find one that resonates with your customers. Test out different ways of describing what your business does and what you sell. See how different versions affect people’s interest in your business. Over time, you will hone your pitch and discover the one with the best success rate.

Produce Content

One of the reasons it’s so challenging to maintain a constant presence on social media is because you are always in need of good content. Events provide you with plenty of opportunities for shareable content. You can take photos and videos during the event that will last you for weeks to come. They can be used on social media and on your website.

The event also gives you something to talk about on social media in the weeks leading up to the big day. Let your followers know you will have a booth at the event weeks before it takes place to build hype. Then, invite your followers to come pay your booth a visit. Once the event is over, post a “thank you” note after to all those people who attended.

Make Partnerships with Key Industry Leaders

At the event, you will likely have the chance to wander around yourself. Use that time to network with other business owners and build relationships with them. Be aware of potential partnerships, where you and a business can both get value by working together. It is much easier to build a partnership with other businesses at an event. You can meet them face to face and develop a stronger relationship with them than if you randomly sent them an email. Take advantage of this opportunity.

Build Your Email List

Email lists are extremely valuable for marketing, but it can be hard to build a solid one. At events, you can ask attendees to opt into an email newsletter or share their email for future promotions and deals. Have an iPad or even pen and paper set up for people to write in their email addresses easily. You will be able to reach out to them later and potentially convert them into a sale.

Potentially Get a Media Shout-Out

If the event is big enough, it’s likely that some form of media will be covering it. What that means for you is that there is a chance your startup will get mentioned. A newspaper or online publication might write a preview about the event and include a list of businesses who are participating. Another media outlet might cover the event live, and they could show footage of you and your startup. It’s no guarantee, but just being at the event ups the chance that the media will give you a mention.

How to Run a Successful Booth at an Event

Set yourself up for success by planning your booth carefully. Keep these tips in mind when running a booth for your startup.

Pick the Right Event

You need to be at an event that makes sense for your startup, your target audience, and your goals. One of the biggest things to keep in mind while picking an event is whether or not your potential customers will be in attendance. Without them, the purpose of your booth might crumble. You also need to consider your audience’s mood and their goals for the event. For example, if you are a B2B startup targeting business owners at a weekend art festival, your potential customers will likely not want to talk business. They are probably at the festival with their families, and work is not on their minds.

You should also take into account event attendance, what other businesses will be tabling, and the price of a booth. The perfect event for you depends on your target audience, your product or service, and your goals for the event.

Set a Goal or Two

Whether it’s to gather feedback from a certain number of event attendees or receive a specific amount of email addresses, you should have a goal in mind. Your goals will keep you on task and remind you and other booth volunteers why you are there in the first place. It will also provide you the information you need to reevaluate the experience after to see if there is anything you want to do differently at future events.

Draw a Crowd

If you get a few people stopping in their tracks and walking toward your booth, other people will likely follow. Demos and giveaways are some of the easiest ways to draw a crowd around your booth. The goal is to pull people toward your booth. The more visits you have, the more successful your booth will be. Get creative about ways to pull people in, and if you are about to do a demo or giveaway, make sure to set a time and tell people throughout the day to come back at that time. It also helps to make an announcement, even if it’s just your voice yelling over the crowd.

About the Author:

Carolyn Alder Carolyn Alder is the content manager for Zampi, a Utah-based startup that offers an integrative digital marketing campaign management software for small businesses. She graduated in journalism and anthropology from the University of Utah.

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