Here at KashFlow, we love events. Although social media is great for gauging people’s opinions on products, features and ideas, you may find that you tend to interact only with people who either really love something you’ve done or really dislike it. The (sad) fact is, you might never get to speak to the other 80% of people who use your product because it just becomes another part of their routine. Meeting customers, both existing and potential, at events is a great way to confront that ‘ambivalent’ market and find out exactly what makes them tick.
THINGS TO DO:
Be different – At any given event 1,001 companies will turn up with pens, badges, t-shirts and Post-Its. Yes, these are all staples (stationery joke, sorry), but it’s definitely worth branching out a bit – at #Biz2012, for example, Colourfast provided loupes (small magnifying glasses to check print quality) which people in our office have been playing with ever since. Google even brought along a pop-up juice bar, serving refreshments in test tubes. London Web Summit also shunned the usual ‘Cokes, water and Red Bull’ lineup and had a fridge full of Vita Coco instead. If it’s endorsed by Rihanna, it’s good enough for me.
Be interested, but not desperate – Picture the scene. You’re in a bar with your friends. A girl/guy (whatever your preference) saunters over and tells you how cute you look. You get chatting, but after a few minutes they pull out a wedding ring. This is how a lot of people go about promoting their businesses at conferences and events, and it’s a huge turn off. Trying to turn a friendly chat into a huge sale isn’t a good way to do business – tell people your pitch, get their business cards and send follow-ups after the event, but if they don’t reply it may be that they’re just not that into you.
Offer something – It might be cake pops, which we offered at #Biz2012; nothing brings people together like cake on a stick. It might be an iPad prize draw. It might be a place to charge smartphones. We had those at #Biz2012 too – boy, can inadequate battery life to draw people to your stand! Whatever it is, it’s nice for people to walk away from your stand feeling like they got more than just a flyer.
Embrace your brand – A lot of people love brands like Innocent Smoothies and MailChimp because they subvert corporate culture and adopt a light, fun tone. If they were to exhibit at a conference or event you’d expect that same tone to shine through. It’s important to reflect your own brand at events – if you’re very corporate but turn up with a bouncy castle and rave whistles, you risk alienating your existing customer base. But if you’re a quirky niche startup, you can probably get away with more gimmicks. It all comes down to what you’re comfortable with – if you think something could annoy potential customers, you’re probably better off playing it safe and not doing it!
THINGS NOT TO DO:
Don’t stand in cliques – Come on guys, this isn’t Mean Girls! I know it can be nerve-wracking to speak to people one on one at events – what if they hate the product or ask you a question you don’t know the answer to?! Well, you should do the same thing you’d do in the office – be as polite as possible, and ask for help from one of your team. If all of your team stand huddled together you risk looking like those Spartan soldiers at the end of 300. And that’s not a very friendly image to project.
Have acres of empty space – There’s little worse than having a load of empty space around your stand; think carefully about banners, posters, screens and so on that you can put up to catch people’s eye. Again, it comes back to the effort thing – if your stand is uninspiring, people will forget about you and your business as soon as they leave it…
Play with your smartphone – Yes, I know keeping up with DrawSomething is a chore and it’s impressive that you’ve FINALLY almost beaten Neville on Words With Friends, but standing there playing with your smartphone sends a message to potential customers. And that message isn’t ‘look at how busy and important I am’, it’s ‘I’d rather stare at a screen the size of a postcard than talk to you.’
QR code overload – A recent study revealed that around 40% of UK consumers know what a QR code is, and only 13% of them have actually scanned one. Personally, I’m not a huge fan – until scanners are being baked into smartphones etc, I don’t see scannable codes making the splash that a lot of marketers were hoping for. I suppose the company above should get a free pass as their business is all about creating QR code tickets etc!
Put no effort in – You would think that this is obvious. However, judging from some of the stands we’ve seen, apparently it’s not the case. Rather than halfheartedly attending every business event you can find, you’re better off pinpointing those that will be of the most benefit to your organisation and putting some time into thinking about what you can do to maximise your impact at them!
This list is by no means definitive, but it’s a starting point to thinking about the best ways to drum at business events and conferences. If you have any thoughts or stories, we’d love it if you’d share them below!