How to Make Events and Fairs Work for Small Businesses.
A detailed guide to help you determine which fairs and events work for your small business and how to make the most of them.
I am pleased to have you here. My name is Esther and I am the Executive Assistant at TVP World of Wonders - yes, the travel and game design company. Here, I wear the hat that attends to the planning and execution of several aspects of our company from travel planning to operations management to people operations and overall general management. Internally, I am known for my resourcefulness, strong organizational skills, humor and WhatsApp stickers. Whew! Sounds like a lot, but on some days it is, and on other days it is a breeze.
Now, let's discuss how events and fairs can help you as a small business. Since 2020 our team at TVP Games has rolled out a portfolio of games from Fill In The Black (the card game that celebrates blackness) to Fill in the Map (a collection of kids' puzzles) and more recently Fanboree: a hilarious card game for football fans! We've had our fair share of events and fairs as a game and toy company and many times, these events have been a hit while at other times, they've been a miss. Our goal with fairs is to build a community of people using games to discover the world, network with industry leaders, and make sales of our products. In this article, I will share with you how your small business can take advantage of events and fairs, how to spot the right event for you, how to determine whether to pay for a booth at an event and how to make sure every event is a hit, not a miss.
Do your Research Ahead of Time:
I like to call this the 'genesis of events and fairs". Events and fairs do not just happen. It takes months for the organizers to work through their plans for the year, and as a small business owner, you should be intentional about utilizing this marketing opportunity. Research the events or fairs in your community and look for relevant associations or societies within your industry. Here at TVP Games, we registered with The Toy Association and that registration opened us to the Toy Fair in New York. It is important to note that not all events attract a large or your target audience, so when you do your homework, find out how successful their previous editions have been. What kind of delegates would be attending? Are they people who could be interested in your product? Who are the co-exhibitors? What can exhibitors from previous sessions tell you about their experience? Are there social media hashtags that can give you some more insight into the previous editions? Answers to these questions would help you make informed decisions about whether this event is ideal for you as an exhibitor or a delegate.
Green Flags: events that have a good testimony from previous exhibitors or which will target the specific audience that your product serves.
Red Flags: events that have poor attendance, poor testimonies from previous exhibitors, or attendance from people outside your target audience.
Identify Your Goals:
Once you have identified the event you want to participate in, the next step is to determine what you want to get out of the experience. Is your primary goal to make sales or sign up potential customers? Are you trying to network with businesses you'd like to work with? Perhaps you'd like to learn more about competitors in the industry? Deciding what you want to get out of an event will help you determine whether to participate as an attendee or exhibitor and what level of financial commitment you need to make to participate successfully. Last year, we signed up for a games festival where we hoped to make sales. However, the exhibitors were planning for a daytime event with direct access to beachgoers at a popular spot, while the organizers were planning for a nighttime party at a secluded part of the beach. At the end of the day, we disappointedly packed up our booth with zero sales and a lot of stuff. It was also a first-of-its-kind festival so we will be better prepared for the next one.
Green Flags: Events where there is clear and detailed communication about the location, start time, and target audience by the organizers. This will help you set realistic goals based on the nature of the event.
Red Flags: Events where there is unclear information about details of the event or buzzwords are used without any clear information to back them up.
Prepare Your Space:
Events and fairs open a myriad of opportunities, so after highlighting what your goal is for the event, it is important to prepare your space to fit this goal. I specifically like to ask the organizers these questions:
What is included in the vendor's package?
What is the size of the event venue?
Will you be providing the tables and chairs for set up?
When will we receive our vendor's badge as well as other equipment?
While some events offer businesses a whole stand, others allow them only a tiny table to promote their products. Finding out the exact measurements helps you determine the type and amount of goods to bring. It also lets you know whether you want to take up a whole booth or share a booth with another complimentary business in your network (confirm that this is allowed before you do so). If your purpose is to generate high-quality leads at the event, one of the best tools in your arsenal is your sales and marketing materials. These materials help provide a first impression to your guests and could help seal a sale. Make sure that your space is well decorated, enough to attract customers without distracting from the actual products you are showcasing.
Green Flags: Well-organized event planners will be able to answer your questions on what's provided and what's not.
Red Flags: Events that require a lot of cost or investment from you without providing basic infrastructure for you to set up.
Tap Into Your Community:
Your community can be powerful. Once you are confirmed for an event or fair, share this information on Social Media. Remind people to come see you in person and ask them to join conversations using the official hashtags. You can even offer a discount to those who purchase from you at the fair. Remember, you will be saving on delivery fees so there's an opportunity to give your customers really good deals at these fairs.
Also, give people an experience to look forward to when they come. At our game stands, we offer large versions of our games for people to play and we might even offer rewards for those who beat play records. People love to solve puzzles and play games at our stands and this helps give them more information about the games they are purchasing. Take lots of photos (and permission) so you can share them on Social Media.
Green Flags: If you find high engagement on your social media announcements, feed into this engagement and prepare people for activities at your stand.
Red Flags: Poor engagement on your announcements might mean you need to reformat your message or adjust your plan to be more engaging.
Collect Information About Your Guests:
When you attend events or fairs, the marketing opportunities don’t stop when you pack up for the day. On the contrary, as a small business owner, you can invite prospective customers to sign up to be the first to know about your juicy deals, contests or giveaways. Collect customer email addresses in a database and use it to keep your community engaged after the event is over. When you have their email addresses, don't bombard them with promotional emails, or else they’ll unsubscribe. Only contact them when you have something of value to say to them.
If you figure sign-ups would not work for you, try passing a unique coupon code that’s only used for the event. Later on, you can measure how many coupons converted to orders.
Green Flags: When more people order immediately because of a coupon or discount, that's a good sign that your product is loved and considered worth the purchase.
Red Flags: Lots of underpriced offers or 'awws', and 'I'll be backs' could mean that you are speaking to the wrong audience or outpricing your customers.
Collect Feedback and Keep Your Ears on the Ground:
How do people interact with your products? This is a great opportunity for you to see whether people read your instructions or how they interpret them. What comes to mind when people first see your product? At events and fairs, you'll be able to collect feedback from customers, colleagues, other businesses, competitors, and possible investors. Make sure you document these insights and make plans to work on them when the fair is over. While collecting this information, step out of your booth and investigate what others are doing to get sales at their booths. You may stumble on gold.
Green Flag: Make changes or adjustments to your products based on feedback that is based on what paying customers want and how they act.
Red Flag: Keep an eye out for trends or inauthentic requests that may tamper with the vision of your brand. Then avoid them.
If you use them correctly, events and fairs are great opportunities to grow your brand. Don't miss an opportunity to meet face-to-face with your customers and introduce your products to a new audience.
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. 😊
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TVP Games is the modern brand that designs games and puzzles for adults and children to discover the world. Our bold and creative games turn adults and children into global explorers and cultural discoverers. We are building the world’s most diverse community of people who explore the world through play.
With love and everything nice,
A well detailed information! This is very insightful Esther!
Great insight Esther!
Loved how you flags from the outcome of each steps provides insights on what actions to take next. Bravo!