When is it ok to use personal events for business promotion?
June 3rd marked a momentous occasion for the world as I know it – it was my birthday. We don’t need to discuss if it was a milestone or not but it was my birthday and I had a great time. Working. At a networking event. A rogue tradeshow in fact (more on that later). So how do we turn that in to a positive? Well I wondered about that too.
As a business owner, you are always looking for ways to promote your business to potential customers. I’m fairly new to the whole entrepreneur thing so it’s still taking a while to realize that it’s all up to me and that I need to make the most of every opportunity to share the story behind my businesses and how they can help people. BUT – I won’t do just anything. And I’m horrible at using myself to promote myself. Weird right?
I started promoting At My Office Canada via social media, interviews with potential service providers from my network and word of mouth two months before I opened. After I opened, I hosted an open house. I thought, “Great! Lots of people know. Lots of people will come!” Nope. Lots of people who love me and want to see me succeed came – but no one looking for office space. For this open house I made up thank you bags. A bit of PR material, some quirky office supplies and some treats. Let’s just say I had quite a few left over but I knew they could be used again.
On June 3rd, SFN (the Social Fusion Network) was hosting a tradeshow. We offered tables for people to buy and have exclusive access to the attendees. Again I thought, “Great! Lots of people know. Lots of people will want the tables!” Nope. So I proposed that we open up the show to all attendees being allowed, for one night only, to bring their PR material. Why? Partly because it’s the nice thing to do. Partly because I had a lot of thank you bags to use up. But how to really make those bags be an effective marketing tool without looking hoky and feeling cheesy – that was the tricky part.
Then I discussed the issue with a client of mine (thank you Tree Ryde) and she gave me the best suggestion – turn the thank you bags in to loot bags! Fantastic! That idea initially scared me but because it was actually my birthday, and there was no obligation to attend a workshop or any other catch other than to thank people for coming to network, I could in good conscience make this happen. I posted a message on the meetup board that to thank everybody for spending my birthday with me, I was giving THEM a present. And then proceeded to run like a lunatic to make up over 70 bags to hand out.
I stood at the registration table with my loot bags looking all pretty and welcomed every body who had come to network with a gift. 99% of the folks who got the bags were so excited! I only had one person wonder if it was actually my birthday. I offered to show her my licence and that seemed to convince her. That was the kind of “cred” I needed to make this work. That’s what made this an authentic marketing tool that I could honestly promote. That’s what made this idea so easy to make happen. We had a great photographer at the event and as I go through Moussa Faddoul’s photos, here’s what I noticed – my loot bags? Just about in every shot.
My point? It is hard to market for your business. It is hard to come up with authentic ideas that resonate with people without making them feel uncomfortable. It is hard to decide to use a personal event to market your business. But sometimes, maybe just once a year, as long as you are truly giving for mutual benefit, I think it’s ok. In fact, I’ve got 363 to plan for the next gift I can give away to celebrate me, my businesses and how I can help you succeed.
Got any ideas for how to turn a personal event in to a sincere marketing tool? Love to hear them!