By Laura McLoughlin

Whether you are in attendance or acting as host, an event can sometimes feel like a poor use of your time. After all, once all the scheduling and networking and running around is over, you still have a million emails to answer. The only difference is that you now have a pocketful of business cards and you’re a day behind schedule – right?

While some professionals consider it naive to expect much return for the hours you spend drinking tea with peers or frantically adjusting your schedule, it is important to remember the old proverb about reaping what you sow. Events can be a fascinating mix of people, eager to meet other like-minded individuals and engage with new and insightful information, and can, in fact, be the ideal place to find new customers and clients for your business.

We’ll be going through just 5 ways which events can actually be of benefit to your business if you use them, and go into them, correctly.

First time discoveries

The first step in any of your client relationships is discovery. In 2018, many of our discovery tools are online, such as social media profiles and a simple Google search, but when the internet is as saturated as it is, it doesn’t hurt to try another avenue. Being at an event and taking the time to introduce yourself, your company and what you do can really put you on the map when you are first starting out.

Small businesses interested in hosting an event, whether it be for industry peers, media professionals or the general public, may find that this is the ideal way to drum up some conversation about your relatively unknown company. For example, you might consider a kids-eat-free day to celebrate schools closing for summer, or inviting influencers to trial and review your product in an in-store event.

Brand recognition

When you are at an event, or in fact, hosting it, you are representing your brand. Make sure people remember it.

You can make this as simple as handing out promotional items with your logo on them, or as in-depth as decking the conference hall with your colors and branding. What’s important to remember is that this kind of marketing can actually be more powerful than your standard digital strategies.

The thinking behind this is that the internet has become so saturated with fake news and false advertising that many of us have gone back to relying on paper and ink to judge a brand’s trustworthiness. In fact, if you have managed to have a poster and stall, or even branded material at an event, many customers and potential clients may consider this a good enough indication that you are the real deal. That means that while digital continues to be one of the most far-reaching and targeted ways of marketing your company, by pairing it with carefully chosen physical and paper strategies, you may see an even better return.

Creating personable connections

At events, the facelessness of email breaks down, allowing you to make a more personal, memorable connection with a potential customer or client. This isn’t about schmoozing or smooth talking your way into a deal, but to showcase that you are friendly, open minded and easy to work with. It even gives you a better chance to explain what you do, what your company is about, if it seems a bit dry on paper.

On top of that, meeting in person is more memorable than meeting online. Some people receive hundreds, if not thousands of emails a day, and an email icon is rarely arresting enough to hold someone’s interest long. A conversation, however, a handshake, a joke shared over a coffee is different. These are not as easily forgotten.

Creating a positive experience with your brand

Attending an industry event establishes your place as part of that industry. Running an industry event, or even a seminar or workshop whilst there, establishes your place as an industry leader.

No matter your place at an event, remember that this is your chance to leave a lasting impression in the minds of those around you.

For example, if you are a brand with an interest in mental health and young people, you might run an event with different seminars on common teen issues, such as bullying and anxiety. Ideally, attendees would leave feeling more knowledgeable and capable than before, and consider your company not just caring and genuine, but insightful as well.

Another example may be that your company is in publishing, and to raise awareness about a new book’s release, you might host a blogger party. This gives you a chance to personally discuss the material, show your passion for it, and illustrate just why this is a book worth reading. Ideally, the bloggers would leave interested in the book themselves, and warm to your brand for thinking of them.

Ensuring future contact

The key to a good event is that you have information and contact details to walk away with – and not just a random bunch of business cards. Get someone’s email, tell them you will contact them.

Moreover, you might use this as an opportunity not just to network, but to better your marketing later. For example, you might give out discounts during the event to those who have liked your Facebook page, or enter customers into a prize draw if they sign up to your newsletter.  

As mentioned before, the event game can be fickle. It depends on humans and luck to make it really work, two of the most capricious forces on earth, and what’s more is that they are nearly impossible to measure accurately. However, that doesn’t mean that events have no worth for small businesses. It only means that small businesses should set themselves realistic goals for what they want to achieve from attending or hosting an event, and work to the best of their ability to achieve those. Event marketing gives spark and energy to the world of marketing, if only we know how best to harness it.

Laura McLoughlin is a Digital PR based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She nows writes for My Own Stationery, an personalised notebook online retailer and a trading name of Victor Stationery.