For small businesses, the Internet is a powerful resource that—when leveraged appropriately—can expand the size of your customer base or audience substantially. But for all the power and reach that online channels such as social media and ecommerce can deliver, nothing will ever replace the influence that can result from face-to-face engagement.
If you want your small firm to reach people and spark brand loyalty, you have to think about engaging local customers in tangible ways. A highly effective option is to attend community events.
What Are Local Community Events?
Local community events come in all shapes, sizes, and formats. Depending on where you’re located and what the region is like, you may identify such occasions as:
- Farmers markets. Many smaller communities—and even some larger urban locales—regularly host farmers markets, where local farms and sustainable businesses market their fresh goods to neighbors.
- In bigger cities that have a lot more resources, it’s common to find conferences, trade shows, and industry events. If the likely attendees overlap with your ideal brand audience, this presents a unique opportunity.
- Holiday festivals. Whether it’s Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Independence Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Eve, holiday festivals occur throughout the year. They typically bring a broad array of people together and create an opportunity for local brands to engage with them.
- Charitable events. These activities include 5k and 10k races, auctions, or fairs, and they are all perfect for giving back to the local community.
- Artisan fairs. Craft fairs are ideal for small companies that make and sell handcrafted goods. These fairs take place on various weekends throughout the year.
The above is only a small sample of community events that you could attend to garner face-to-face time with potential customers. Most of these events are looking for sponsors and/or vendors to assist in the hosting or execution.
Some will openly solicit businesses to participate, and in other cases, you’ll need to seek the opportunities proactively.
How to Generate Positive Results
Showing up at an event is but the first step. In order to make it worth your time, you’ll need a plan for how you’re going to approach each function. Here are some tips:
- Know Your Audience
Think carefully about your audience and which community functions are most likely to attract a crowd that intersects with your target market. These are the events you want to home in on.
In addition to knowing who will attend an event, you’ll have to dig in and think about how your brand’s presence can add value to that particular occasion. What gets attendees excited?
Is there something they need before, during, or after this event? Finding the answers to questions like these will help you formulate a plan.
- Establish a Presence
If you take the time to attend a community event, you can’t afford to blend in with the background. The next solid step is to establish a presence.
These events are great opportunities to enhance brand visibility. If it’s the sort of occasion for which vendors and companies are given a specific space, use a custom canopy to create a booth where people can come in and see what you have to offer.
If it’s the type of event where you’ll be walking around and mingling with the audience, be sure to wear branded clothing that clearly identifies your connection. Whatever you do, make sure you stand out in a positive light.
- Bring Your Best People
When you’re at a local community event, people are going to associate your brand—for better or worse—with the specific individuals on site who represent your brand. So make sure to invite your best people: the most personable, authentic, and motivated members of your team.
- Generate Buzz
Finally, do whatever you have to in order to generate some buzz. You don’t want to undercut the larger event, of course—particularly if it’s a charitable cause—but there are usually opportunities to elevate your brand by doing something exciting or eye-catching.
Contests and giveaways are usually a safe bet. You might also consider setting up some type of interactive display at your booth.
Engaging Your Customers
There’s something empowering about being able to go out into your local community and engage with people face to face. Though online sales and marketing may still make up the bulk of your revenue, the brand loyalty you cultivate at community events will never be matched. Don’t neglect these opportunities!