community events

Make the Most Out of Fairs and Festivals

We’ve all been there: the local oktoberfest, school fair, or chamber of commerce sundowner. You invest in a booth so your company can participate, hoping for new leads and greater visibility. However, community events sometimes feel like more trouble than they’re worth. How can you make the most out of fairs and festivals? When you’re faced with scores or even thousands of people who could potentially become customers, seize the opportunity! Here’s how.


Set Goals

Like with anything, community events work best when you set goals. You may wish to generate leads or make actual sales. You may simply want to increase your Facebook following. Whatever you choose to pursue, define it in advance and plan your event presence accordingly.


Brand Your Booth

Don’t just hang up a banner with your logo on it. Cultivate a feeling. Make sure the people staffing the booth look and act the part. If you offer giveaway items, tie them to your brand. Don’t give out candy if you’re a weight loss company. Don’t give out pencils if you’re a tech company. Make sure everything on your display table or hanging in the background matches your brand identity, in terms of style and color, and contributes to the overall feeling.

Arrange your booth to reflect your brand. If you want people to feel warm and cozy, rent or borrow big, comfy chairs and serve lemonade (in hot weather) or hot chocolate (in chilly weather). Let’s say you’re a tour company and your brand is adventurous and active. Set up a treadmill or exercise bike with a video screen showing breathtaking scenery. Or invest in virtual reality goggles. Even on a small budget, you can engage the senses in your brand. Use appealing scents and sounds. If you make a tangible product, let people touch and use it.


Collect the *Right* Contact Information

It may go without saying that you’ll want to collect people’s names, email addresses, and possibly addresses. You want to grow your mailing list, of course. But take the time to learn how your target audience wants to be contacted.

Not everyone uses email, or they ignore the bulk of the email they get. Some people really hate to be bothered on the phone, while others prefer it. Learn in advance, if you can, whether your target audience engages more through email, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or some other platform. Perhaps there’s a message board dedicated to just your area of interest. Then, at community events, offer people the choice for what contact information to provide.


Distribute Usable Information

Most people leave a street fair or festival with a handful of papers — flyers, brochures, bookmarks, and whatever else has been shoved into their hands. Best case scenario, it will all end up in the recycle bin. At the other end of the spectrum, those marketing materials that you invested heavily to design and print become litter on the street.

If you wish to hand out information, make sure it’s in the most useful format. This might mean asking the person to follow you on Facebook or Twitter in the moment they’re standing in front of you, so they don’t forget. Similarly, you might suggest that they enter your next event into the calendar on their phone. That way, they remember you without having to hang onto a piece of paper.

Another option is to print your information on a useful object that the person will keep for later. Again, make sure it’s relevant to your brand. If you’re that outdoor adventure company, maybe it’s a carabiner or water bottle. Also tailor giveaways to the environment. If it’s an outdoor event in the summer, hand out mini bottles of sunscreen. If it’s raining, hand out ponchos.


Get to Know People

Go beyond finding out their names and email addresses. Learn what they’re truly interested in. Simply ask what caught their eye about your booth. If it’s relevant, ask whether they live in the area. Find out what brought them to this particular event. Train anyone staffing your booth, throughout the event, to engage in friendly, productive dialogue. Share a little about yourself, too, and not just your product or service.


Behave Professionally

This might go without saying, but how often have you seen a booth attendant at a street fair leaning against the back of the booth eating a slice of pizza and checking their phone? Train your staff in advance and set clear expectations. Decide whether they should stand the whole time or be permitted to sit. Ask them to dress in accordance with your brand, whether that means business casual attire or a T-shirt with your name and logo. Explain what is expected in terms of interacting with the crowd. Should your workers yell like carnival barkers to grab attention? If that M.O. fits your brand, do it! If simply smiling and waving at passers-by is more your speed, try that.


Explore the Event Yourself

Make sure your booth is amply staffed so that each person has a chance to wander around. By exploring the rest of the event, you’ll get a feel for the vibe and see what works for other vendors. You’ll also gain conversation starters for when people visit your booth. Ask them if they’ve tried a tasty food you sampled or what they think of the band. In addition allowing your staff some downtime reward their hard work and ensures they get to have some fun.


PHOTO: Peter Stalker /  CC 3.0

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