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BusinessColumnistsJamie Herzlich

Get creative to maximize summer marketing dollars, experts say

Angela Carillo, owner of Bethpage-based Alegna Soap, says

Angela Carillo, owner of Bethpage-based Alegna Soap, says she uses an electric bubble machine to attract interest to her table at fairs and other events. Photo Credit: Jeremy Bales

Summer is a peak time for many small businesses to reach their target audience, particularly if they can have a presence at the events and venues their customers frequent.

But showing up isn’t enough.

To maximize your event marketing dollars, you need to get creative and find ways to engage your audience, experts say.

“People want an experience when they are at an event,” says Maggie Ellison, director of creative experiences at Event Marketing Strategies, a Columbus, Ohio-based experiential marketing agency.

Gone are the days of tables and literature, she says.

“Consumers nowadays demand something interactive,” she says. “The more interactive your booth can be, the more people will want to engage with your brand.”

For example, consider an interesting photo backdrop that will encourage people to take a picture and then share it, she says.

You might also consider a spinning prize wheel or a plinko board where they can win give-a-ways, says Ellison, noting you can ask them first to provide some sort of customer information before spinning the wheel.

“Lines draw lines,” she notes.

When Angela Carillo, owner of Bethpage-based Alegna Soap, displays at events she often has an electric bubble machine set up at her table.

If traffic slows down, she will turn on the bubble machine and people will often see the bubbles and follow them to her.

“It helps me stand out,” says Carillo. “People who know I have the bubble machine, look for the bubbles at events.”

She doesn’t just rely on bubbles, though. She also sends out a monthly newsletter to her email subscribers and tells them what events she’ll be at, says Carillo, noting she is considering doing the Pine Walk Fair in July on Fire Island.

But attending multiple events can get costly, so sometimes it also pays to consider utilizing guerrilla marketing tactics outside key events, says Nick Stetz, senior strategist at Moderne Communications, a Rockville Centre-based event marketing and media agency.

For a beverage company, Stetz might recommend handing out drink samples in the surrounding area; another type of brand could hand out water bottles branded with its logo.

Moderne has also done chalk stencils and powerwash stencils on sidewalks, so as people walk to the event they see the client’s brand name, he says.

If you’re looking to target younger audiences, consider using Snapchat and creating a custom geofilter (i.e. a special photo overlay that relays where the photo was taken) or even launch a Snapchat scavenger hunt, says Stetz.

A brand could provide clues on its Snapchat account leading participants to various spots in and around an event, where they can then be prompted to take and share a photo with a branded geofilter that then gives them the opportunity to win something, he says.

Of course you can also consider creating your own events this summer, says Jack Mandel, an East Norwich-based marketing consultant and a marketing professor at Nassau Community College in Garden City.

For example, a kids clothing store might create a family day and hire a Mister Softee ice cream truck and combine it with a summer sidewalk sale, he says.

A bank could buy a kiddie vinyl pool and have a bank representative sitting on a chair inside of it handing out candy or pens to passers-by, says Mandel.

You could also have a Christmas in July sale and put out a Christmas tree and decorate it and promote sale items, he notes.

Just be sure to send out an email three days before the event promoting it. And make sure, too, that you have the right staff working whatever event you promote, he says, adding they need to be dynamic and most importantly, smile.

“It’s going to be self-defeating if you don’t have the right personnel,” says Mandel.

FAST FACT

98%

Percentage of consumers who say they create digital or social media content at events and experiences

Source: 2016 EventTrack report, Mosaic/Event Marketing Institute

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