Events have long been an effective marketing tool. You can meet with customers face-to-face, show them your products or services in person, and reveal the person behind the brand.
They offer growth potential, too. Business travellers surveyed for an Oxford Economics study estimated that 40 per cent of their prospects became new customers as a result of face-to-face interaction, compared to only 16 per cent who converted without a meeting.
Local events: connecting with your community
Graphic designer Melissa Ananiadis is a firm believer in the power of events. After moving from Melbourne to Victoria’s East Gippsland region in 2012, she became a regular fixture on the local market scene, trying to find new customers. She later launched The Pop-Up Collection: a series of events that give local makers, designers and small businesses a place to showcase their products.
“There are so many talented people running home-based businesses in our area, but they don’t have visibility,” Ananiadis says of the decision to stage these community events. “It’s not just a chance for them to meet new and existing customers; they also meet like-minded businesses, who they can collaborate and grow with.”
Selling her personalised prints at The Pop-Up Collection, markets – and, most recently, Melbourne’s One Fine Baby fair – Ananiadis has connected with shoppers who enjoy ‘meeting the maker’. “You build a better rapport with people by chatting to them in person, rather than by taking orders online,” she says. “Plus, people like to feel the products and buy them there and then.”
Getting started: Finding the right event for your business
There are all kinds of events to tap into when you want to grow your business. Depending on your industry, there are expos, fairs, conferences, markets and trade shows to consider. You can also partner with a charity or another business and contribute your products or services to their next event.
Or you might want to stage your own, suggests Venues 2 Events founder and author of That Was The Best Event Ever, Kim Hesse. “I always suggest starting small,” she explains. “This could mean hosting a breakfast every fortnight and inviting 20 potential customers.”
You don’t even need a large workspace or shopfront for a gathering of this kind. “People who work from home can hold their event at a local restaurant or café with a private dining room,” says Hesse. “You don’t usually have to pay for the space; you just cover the cost of people’s breakfast or coffee. It’s an event you can set up easily yourself without outlaying a lot of money.”
But if you want to attract larger crowds or join a professionally organised event, here are a few places to start.
Retail and hospitality
Whether you sell homemade jam or handcrafted jewellery, a market stall enables plenty of face-to-face encounters. You could start with your local market, or look for something more specific, such as a farmers market or a one-off event that caters to your niche. This could include The Big Design Market – held annually in Melbourne and Sydney for independent designers and retailers – or Melbourne’s Creators Market, which promotes the creative talents of small businesses.
Australians love a festival – and with so many to choose from, there’s sure to be one that aligns with your business. Councils are useful resources, and they should be able to alert you to upcoming festivities. Universities also play host to a number of festivals, so get in touch with your nearest campus for information.
Expos and fairs
There’s an expo for almost everything these days. Such events have been the go-to marketing tools for wedding and children’s-related businesses for years; now, the options are much more diverse. Do you produce gluten-free goods? Then the Gluten-Free Expo is for you. Are women your target market? Perhaps you should sign up for the EveryWoman Expo or Women’s Lifestyle Expo. To find out where you might be able to show off your wares, stay in touch with your relevant industry bodies and local exhibition venues.
Although industry events are more likely to draw fellow traders than regular customers, you never know who you might meet – and where such an introduction could take you. There’s a long list of trade shows for hospitality and retail businesses: think Life In Style, which showcases all the latest retail products and trends, or Fantastic Food & Drink, which caters for specialty food and beverage, packaging and equipment-focused businesses.
Festivals and fairs
As more and more Australians embrace healthy food and fitness trends, an assortment of wellbeing festivals are popping up around the country. The multi-state MindBodySpirit Festival is one of the major players; its stallholders include everyone from massage therapists to skincare specialists.
There’s also an abundance of wellbeing fairs taking place on any given weekend. One of the biggest is the Fitness Show, which is held in several states and provides a platform for a huge range of health-related businesses.
Industry events are ideal for promoting your product or service to other healthcare businesses. Key events include the Australian Healthcare Week expo, which attracts all manner of healthcare professionals, and the Naturally Good Expo, which supports the natural, organic and healthy products marketplace.
Building and construction
Australia’s obsession with renovation programs like The Block means that home shows are now popular places to be. Most capital cities host their own events, which are supported by the Housing Industry Association and welcome exhibitors from within the building and construction industry. There are also more niche options, such as the Green + Building Exhibition for businesses with a sustainability focus.
Industry events provide a great opportunity to meet new (and existing) clients. Both Melbourne’s Design Buildand the Sydney Build Expo encourage businesses involved with construction, architecture and design to network with other operators and grow their customer database. Plus, specialised shows such as the Australian Construction Equipment Expo allow you to hone in on your target market.
B2BEXPO Naming Sponsor: Officeworks