Promotional Events: Yes or No?

Article by Kristine CareyWhen I started my business, many people had opinions on what I should do to get clients — speak to groups, join the Chamber of Commerce, attend a networking group, etc. One of the suggestions that came up often was doing promotional events, which can mean different things. It might mean getting a booth at a trade show, or hosting a free one or two hour event to introduce yourself and your services while delivering a snack-size portion to the attendees, sort of like a Tupperware party. It could mean creating a longer event, half a day or day-long, where again you deliver value and charge a nominal fee, making it easy for people to attend. It might be hosting a meet-and-greet reception, holding a complimentary teleclass, or having a Twitter chat party.

I’ll tell you about my experiment with promotional events in a minute. First, let’s look at a few things you might want to consider before diving in.

Trade showThe point of doing promotional events is to expose yourself to people who may be interested in the services you offer. You can expand your circle of interested parties by having those you invite bring others with them. You get an opportunity to connect with people personally and give them a chance to know you better. This level of familiarity helps build rapport that can last long after the event is over, creating both short-term business as well as clients who stay connected to you over the years. When done well, promotional events can be a powerful marketing tool.

If you’re considering using this marketing technique, here are some things to ponder:

  • Do you enjoy hosting a party? Are you a good host?
  • Are you comfortable being around people and interacting with them?
  • Do you have a flair for bringing people together?
  • Are you organized, easily arranging the logistics of an event, or know someone more skilled who can help you?
  • Do you enjoy attending events?
  • Are you comfortable making an offer for your services at an event?
  • Do you have good follow-up and are you willing to contact people after an event to say thank you for coming and reiterate your offer?

Knowing the answer to these questions will help you hone in on whether or not this strategy is for you. Does one type of event call to you more than another, such as sponsoring a booth at a trade show, hosting a free evening seminar at someone’s home, or offering a low cost half-day workshop? Ultimately, your style, your personality and your potential audience will dictate what type of event will be the best for you.

Regarding my own experience with promotional events, this is something that I find myself wanting to want more than I actually want it. I enjoy attending afternoon seminars, or the occasional trade show, or from time to time an evening seminar in someone’s home. I like the energy that’s created when like-minded people get together in one place, and I enjoy learning from people who are experts in their field. The things I don’t like are enrolling people for the event, i.e., getting people to commit to come. I don’t like arranging the logistics of the event; this falls under the category of things I am capable of doing yet don’t enjoy. And I don’t like the feeling of responsibility that comes with making sure people are having a good time and feeling included; it stresses me out.

I know what I do and don’t like because I’ve tried them: hosting a day-long, low cost event, holding free teleclasses, weekly participation in a morning, drive-time radio show, manning a booth at a trade show. All of them are things I can do, know how to do, and do well –- they’re just not things I want to do on a regular basis and they haven’t been good generators of clients.

For me, that’s the distinction. I have other things that I can do, know how to do, do well and enjoy, such as speaking and writing, and those things generate clients. When slicing my marketing pie, promotional events don’t land deeply enough in the enjoyment category, nor do they give me enough return on my investment. When looking at your own marketing pie, make sure you are choosing events that light you up and yield business and clients. You’ll have more fun that way, and build a business that you, and your clients, will love.

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