Event marketing isn’t only for large brands with even larger budgets. It’s something small businesses, consultancies, and service businesses can do quite cheaply.

Talk about event marketing, and it conjures up visions of conferences, trade shows, and hiring expensive venues decked out exquisitely. It’s often called “experiential marketing,” and well, that just sounds expensively fancy.

But when it comes to small business marketing and events, well, it turns out misconceptions abound. I was reminded of this by my wife. She’s a knitter and often goes to yarn stores for small events. They have cute names like stitch and bitch, or knit night. And yes, the store makes sales of yarn and patterns, builds clientele and all for the cost of staying open a few hours later.

Event Marketing And COVID-19

Writing this article just as businesses are opening-up, testing the waters as COVID-19 cases diminish feels strange. And yet people are excited about more human contact, and to support their local economies. Even though it might mean smaller gatherings, as I point out below, an event doesn’t need to be big.

Event Marketing Works

It’s not merely gathering a group of ten knitters and sitting around to gossip. The yarn stores set up themes, they work with the same yarn, which is sold by the store, and from the same pattern. Also sold at the store. Sometimes, guest teachers or designers will come in, and there’s a fee to attend. Plus, the store also upsells on things like needles and other paraphernalia.

And that’s event marketing. Or if you prefer, experiential marketing. To learn more, I spoke to small businesses and event planners about how small businesses can take advantage of event marketing.

Lucy Kelly is the owner at Bel Monili, a jewelry, and accessories company. She’s been doing event marketing since 2016. She says, “I gathered 6 of my fellow small business owner friends and put together a ‘Virtual Boutique Stroll’ event that grossed just over $19k for the group in 2 days at the end of March.”

But you can’t just wing it. Krystal Covington, a marketing consultant and founder of Go Lead, LLC, says, “The best results come when you have a plan. It’s easy to rent a room, buy some appetizers and throw out an invite, but real strategy means knowing the end goal and being prepared with a plan to lead your target customers down a path to that goal action you need them to take.”

Focus Is The Key Event Marketing Strategy For Small Businesses

Focus on a single theme for the event. For the yarn store, it’s usually a type of yarn that the store owner wants to market to their customer base. For a lawyer, it might be an evening discussing the labor laws around independent contractors. An IT company could discuss security protocols.

The ideas are endless, but it’s critical to keep the event’s message simple. The event needs a theme and the product to sell that fits the theme. So the lawyer could set up consultations around labor law; the IT company could sell a security audit package etc.

But with a theme and a product or service to sell, it’s time to think about attendance.

Market Your Event To Both Existing And Potential Customers

An event without attendees is like a hot dog without a bun – not much fun at all. So once you’ve decided on your theme, it’s time to get people through the door. The first place to start, of course, is your existing customers. Reach out to them any way you can, including fliers, invitations, and email marketing.

Begin marketing the event at least a month in advance. But keep the marketing going all the way up to the day of the event. For smaller events, I’ve seen business owners pick up the phone to personally invite their top customers. It sounds intensive, but it’s worth it.

For new customers, Facebook and Instagram are budget-friendly ways to get the word out. Since the event is in-person and local, it makes targeting pretty easy. But also, your local media will likely be willing to publish the event news too. Local news stations, radio stations, local newspapers, and area bloggers are often open to sharing the word about local happenings.

Partnerships Can Share Costs And Customers

Another way to bolster attendance is to partner with other businesses that share the same customer profile without being a direct competitor. A law firm might partner with an accounting firm.

I spoke to Dan Bailey, President of WikiLawn, a lawn-care marketplace. He explained, “We’ve done events in partnership with clients. One local landscaper agreed to do a live broadcast showing people the best way to edge their lawn for maximum curb appeal and other helpful tips. It was a small presentation, but we’re hoping to build on that in the future.”

Turn Customers Into Influencers

When potential customers are in the room with your happiest customers, you’re creating an exceptionally potent conversion-machine. The potential customer can talk to satisfied customers, ask questions, and feel like they’re getting trustworthy answers because it’s not the business but a customer.

Another way of turning your attendees into influencers is by setting up an Instagram-worthy backdrop. This way, attendees will share your business with their followers. When building a name for yourself, this is an effective way of creating some local buzz.

Consider Your Customer

For many small businesses, you can keep things low-cost and casual. But you might want to rent a venue, hire an event planner, and invest in decor if your brand calls for it. High-end businesses might need to invest in creating an experience, and if you do go that route, don’t go it alone.

An event planner will save you time and money overall, and help you execute an exceptional event. But even so, don’t go big until you’re sure you can fill the venue. Even with high-end products, you can start with a small exclusive, even in your own place of business.

Event Marketing Is Within Reach

Getting together with customers and potential customers is the experience in and of itself. So don’t be afraid to try event marketing.

Want to learn more about how small businesses can use event marketing to grow? Download the ebook, The Massive Guide To Event Marketing For Small Businesses.