At one time or another, we’ve all been at a trade show, festival, fair or other event and been handed something – a flier, sample, coupon, etc. – that we really didn’t want. Some marketers may even know “tricks” and use words to get you to accept the “offer.” Reluctantly or sometimes instinctually, we reach out and take whatever is being handed over. Then, often without really even looking at the item, it gets deposited into the nearest trash bin, not only wasting marketing dollars, but also posing a missed opportunity for companies or organizations to truly engage with audiences.
I recently returned from the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival in New Jersey and BlogHer event in New York City for NST client Chicken of the Sea, where we were promoting not only the brand attributes of Chicken of the Sea, but also the company’s SuperCook recipe contest. Both events allowed me to witness different styles and approaches companies and organizations used while at the events. While many did well, others did not. I watched as one unenthusiastic “brand ambassador” deposited brochures into the goodie bags of conference attendees as they walked by, often without even saying a word to them. This was a stark contrast to our strategy at the Chicken of the Sea booth, where our goal was to engage people in conversations. Here are some tips we employed to create engagement:
- Accept quality over quantity – Many companies focus on the number of items distributed, samples given away, etc. For us, our focus was on conversations that matter. Instead of spending a second or two handing someone a coupon, we often spent several minutes talking to people about the contest.
- Pose questions – Asking someone “What’s your favorite recipe?” is more engaging than “Let me tell you about our recipe contest.” Pose questions as a way that will get people talking.
- Have personality – Nobody wants to talk to someone who looks disinterested or like they would rather be somewhere else. Have fun and let your personality show – just make sure it reflects the brand.
- Stand out – A 10×10 booth can be pretty stark. Create displays that are inviting, different and have something to offer. For us, we created a game that literally had a line forming at our booth. Contestants could “spin to win” a custom wheel to get a variety of prizes – but they had to “work” for it by engaging with our brand. Rather than simply give them a prize, we asked them a trivia question or about their favorite use for Chicken of the Sea. Some people even sang the jingle.
- Choose your talent wisely and train them well – The people working your booth are a reflection of your brand. Make sure they are well suited and well trained. They may not know every answer to every question, but they should be able to speak to your key messages and direct people on where to go for more information.
- Be Flexible – Each event and audience is different, and each person working a booth has a different way of interacting. This often requires a change in engagement strategy or adjustments in conversation starters to see what works.
- Integrate your efforts – Your engagement with the people you meet at a show shouldn’t end at the show. Think about ways you can continue the dialogue when the event is over. Direct them to your Facebook page for a special offer or get them to sign up to receive more information at a later time.
These are just a few tips to get you started, but remember the most important thing about any event is to make sure it fits into your overall strategy.