Thursday, 19 September 2013 13:16

Event Marketing 101

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This past weekend I had the opportunity to trade the political hustle and bustle of Washington, D.C. for the familiar blue-collar grind of Chicago, IL. Coming home is always fun, but this trip was special as I was attending one of my favorite events, the 2012 Printer’s Row Literature Festival; one of the largest literary events in the country. As I strolled through the crowds, I was reminded of my childhood growing up in Chicago. As a kid I worked a lot of the major fairs and neighborhood events in order to make a little extra spending money. However, my marketing efforts paled in comparison to what’s possible today. Today’s events are more sophisticated and entrepreneurs looking to effectively capitalize on events both large and small should plan accordingly.

What Are Your Objectives?

Initially my goal for the Lit Fest was to grab a booth, post myself in whatever location I was assigned and catch passerby’s to discuss the company. But several weeks before the event I switched my strategy opting to give my assigned booth to someone else. My new strategy involved being mobile, giving me a greater opportunity to roam around connecting with the never ending groups of self publishers, independent bookstores and national publishers. My number one goal was to identify those individuals that could help our company more effectively advance its publishing efforts. With that in mind, make sure you go into any event with a plan of action for what you hope to accomplish.

Location, Location, Location

Just as location is important for the success of any bricks and mortars operation, this applies to events as well. If you wind up getting a booth at the far end of the event then you run the risk of seeing marginal amounts of traffic. Try focusing on attending those events that have the best attendance numbers and that you could expect the greatest return from. It’s important to register quickly for your event in order to have a shot at the prime locations. If you want to increase your odds of being positioned near maximum floor traffic, try getting a copy of the event’s floor plan during the early registration process-then choose the best location available.

Lure Potential Customers

If you were lucky enough to get the location you wanted then try investing in a table skirt which can make your booth more inviting. A plain skirt might be enough to make an impression but some color along with your name and logo is the way to go. Exhibitors and attendees often make the mistake of not bringing enough business cards so be sure to stock up. People love filling their bags with information at these events so be sure to go beyond the business cards and bring some extra marketing collateral about your company. One thing that an exhibitor can do to greatly improve their efforts is to better engage attendees. Instead of letting potential customers accidentally wander to your booth, try asking questions that start a conversation. Once that conversation has begun it opens the door for more business.

Focus on Partnering & Promotion

If the event permits, try getting away from the table in order to make some new friends. Locate some like minded individuals that might be open to having some of your marketing materials at their table and be willing to reciprocate. Many exhibitors attend the same events year after year so if you find some good partners it could pay off for many years to come. Start promoting early by letting past and potential customers know about the event well in advance. Also try doing some live promotions at the event such as entering attendees in a drawing for a free copy of your book or giving away an electronic reader such as a Kindle or an iPad. Make every effort to sign-up attendees for your newsletter so that you can keep the conversation going after the event has concluded.

Cavanaugh L. Gray

Cavanaugh L. Gray ( is the Director of Business Development for The Entrepreneur Café, L.L.C (877) 511-4820.  For more information on what makes a great start-up or to read a chapter from his new book The Entrepreneurial Spirit Lives: 25 Tales to Help Entrepreneurs Start, Grow, and Succeed in Small Business log on to  For more information on how to start, grow and succeed in small business, ‘Like’ on Facebook, ‘Follow’ on Twitter @TheECafe or ‘Connect’ on LinkedIn.