7 Ways to Boost Your Event Marketing and Capture Your Perfect Customer

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7 Ways to Boost Your Event Marketing and Capture Your Perfect Customer

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Continuing with our "think outside the digital ad" series, let's talk about event marketing. Are you looking for a chance to get face-to-face with your ideal clients? Event marketing might be the perfect option for you. 

What is it?

Event marketing is a broad category. The standard definition is "the process of developing a themed exhibit, display, or presentation to promote a product, service, cause, or organization leveraging in-person engagement." These events are usually experiential and can be considered guerilla marketing if conducted informally. For our purposes, we're going to niche down again and focus on event marketing in an expo setting- traditional tabling or tent marketing that customers would encounter at a health fair, farmer's market, tradeshow, or expo. These are far from only location possibilities. Event marketing for our purposes includes any location where potential customers would walk by your booth as they peruse all available options. 

How to Get it Right

Event marketing can create hundreds of sales opportunities for your studio in just a few hours with the right audience, value pitch, and atmosphere. But often, studio owners feel like their previous events were a waste of time and effort. So how do you ensure your event will be a success? First, let's outline what success looks like from an event marketing lens.

 If you're hoping to sell a bunch of memberships, you will likely end up disappointed. It's rather rare that event audiences will purchase intro offers and even less likely that they'll buy high-ticket packages. On the other hand, if your goal is to increase local brand awareness and communicate your value with potential customers face-to-face, you're in the right place. If you're aiming to capture email addresses for lead recapture, you can leave with a goldmine. 

 With your goal clear, it's time to book your spot, but before you do so, analyze the following:

  1. Location. Just like real estate (and this is, essentially, short-term real estate), make sure your location matches your studio. You wouldn't drop flyers off in a random neighborhood across town, right? The same consideration should be spent debating an event opportunity. Is it nearby? Most gym-goers stay within four miles of their house, so participating in an expo on the other side of town will limit your potential sales conversions before you even set up shop. 
  2. Site setup: Where your booth, table, or tent is situated inside the event is almost as important as where the event is. Organizers will know where the main street action is (and they may charge a premium for these spots), but putting all the preparation work in to be hidden in the back corner isn't going to do you any favors. Ask which booths are available, which are recommended, and how spaces are reserved.
  3. Who is the target audience? You don't need to only sign up for health fairs to have a successful event (in fact, that will increase your competition), but you should check on the event's anticipated audience. If you market primarily to moms of small children, you'll want a family or women-centered expo. Alternatively, if your gym is almost exclusively comprised of men in their early-20's, your ideal client is going to be few and far between at that same event. Ask the organizers about who they're targeting and look at which businesses participated in the previous years before you sign anything.
  4. Cost-Benefit Analysis: Some expos can be exorbitantly expensive, and a higher price point doesn't always correlate to a more invested audience. In fact, an especially large event may mean potential customers don't remember you when they get home. When weighing whether the event is worth the cost, ask yourself:
  1.  How much do you usually spend on digital ads for the chance to be noticed? Is it comparable? 
  2. How does this event fit into your annual marketing budget as a whole?
  3. What's the breakeven? Calculate some quick estimates. How many memberships would it take to make event marketing worth the investment? If the event is $1500, and your memberships are $129 a month, you need just one lead to turn into a 12-month membership to break even. Putting it in perspective can paint a more accurate picture of your actual costs.

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You Registered for Your Spot, Now What?

What your booth offers to walk-by traffic is often the difference between a tedious afternoon and a spreadsheet full of leads. We'll focus on three key areas, client attraction, capturing contact information, and follow-up.

Client Attraction

There may be hundreds of competing booths in your immediate vicinity, and some may be direct competitors in your industry. How do you get customers to step up to your table or walk into your tent? You need a hook. Put yourself in their shoes. They've been walking by businesses for an hour and are probably carrying handfuls of postcards, discounts, and flyers. What would make you stop and look? 

  1. Signage- Make sure your station stands out with a branded tablecloth, banner, signage, etc. This seems standard, but it bears emphasizing. Spend a little more for a custom-branded backdrop with your logo and modality prominently featured.
  2. Get interactive! Give people a reason to pause or- better yet- participate in what you do best. That may look like:
  1. Push-up challenge 
  2. Sun salutation demo by one of your instructors
  3. Guess the exercise raffle. Depending on your audience and your studio vibe, you could turn this into a wrong-answer-only game where people give you the most outrageous names they can think of. 
  4. Photo station where clients can participate in an Instagram-worthy pose (bonus points for tagging you in their story).
  5. A projector or Ipad slideshow of your classes, studio, and smiling clients where they can see it as they walk by. 
  6. Get a big A-Frame chalkboard and set it at the end of your real estate. Choose a prompt that will get people thinking and put some big stick chalk next to the sign. In big letters, write, "what are your fitness goals" or anything that speaks directly to your target client while being on-brand for your business. Then add a sign to your chalk bucket that says something like "Tell us your fitness goals to win _____" (a free class, intro, $50 credit, etc.) It may be simple, but this is a perfect conversation starter and also captures email addresses to win the prize.
  1. Speaking of capturing email addresses, expo visitors tend to be people looking for a deal. In fact, 52% of attendees are more likely to engage with a booth if they're offering a giveaway, so feature your raffle to get them interested and earn their contact information for later.
  2. Stand out from the crowd. A perfect example of this is an aerial yoga studio that set up one of their silks in their tent so clients could see and touch it. If you're a modality that seems outside the average person's comfort zone, e.g., pilates reformer or barre, bring your setup and let people interact or get familiar with the equipment. 

What to Sell

Your venue will dictate your offering, but don't be surprised if you only sell a few intro offers. Your primary expo goal is often brand awareness and capturing emails, not sales. However, that doesn't mean you want to show up empty-handed if someone is ready to buy. Think low pricepoint, short expiration date for your magic event-marketing formula. Buy one get one, or buy two get one are usually a great option, especially if your standard intro offer is above that pricing threshold. Essentially, you want to offer a product that someone can buy with one or two dollar bills (i.e., a $19 offer would require a $20 bill or a $29 package would require a $10 and a $20) even if they're using a credit card. 

If you have branded retail and a portable retail rack, feel free to bring that along. Not only will it encourage shoppers to come into your space to browse, but it also supports your brand marketing goal. These should be priced to sell at an expo with tons of competition. Two tank tops or grip socks for $20 and other lower-ticket price points will make sure your retail moves, so leave your expensive athleisure or bulky items that visitors won't want to carry all day at the studio. 

What to Bring

If this is your first event, you may have more questions than answers about what you need. Every studio will be a bit different, but here are the basics:

  • Pop-up table with a branded table cloth, signage, and display
  • Low ticket expo-only intro offer- like a buy one, get one to help you compete with all of the other sales. Note: You don't want your discount to be so low that you can't convert them into paying members later, but you do want to be competitive. 
  • A mobile credit card machine and cashbox with change if you're going to make sales. If your state has tax, consider building it into your price, so you're not charging $0.87 multiple times. 
  • Raffle tickets and lots of pens. During Covid cautious times, you may want both clean and dirty pen jars with wipes to clean them. 
  • A tablet or projector to display your highlight reel.
  • Anything you need for your demonstrations or activities. If you're bringing a yoga mat, bring a cheap one because it's going to get trampled. 
  • A postcard with a call to action that they can take with them- like "redeem this card for 25% off your intro offer." They're going to have tons of take-homes; make sure they hang on to yours by including an offer. 

What to Do

Priority Number One: Capture Contact Information

If you focus on nothing else, aim to capture everyone's email address. A raffle is my favorite way to accomplish this, but practice asking people for their info when interacting with them. You're going to have to offer something of value, "sign up here for our newsletter" will not be attractive enough to convince them to part with their email address, so think about your freebie or value proposition to make it appealing. 

Get Social

When it's quiet between customers, share live on your social media. Check out the hashtags and geotags from event organizers and even consider partnering with your neighbors to go live on each other's pages. Post frequent stories and consider linking your expo offer in your link in bio for others to purchase from home if they missed out. Most importantly, encourage expo visitors to follow your page so that you can continue the conversation later. 

Run Your Dress Rehearsal

You've picked your location, signage, and client conversation starters; now it's time to practice. You do not want to learn that you're missing a crucial piece of your tent while you're in the middle of setting up or realize early in the day that your mobile credit-card reader doesn't work with your phone. Set up your entire booth or tent- everything you're planning to bring, sell, or use and role play any client interaction you may have. Practice asking people to sign up for your raffle, selling an intro special, or showing a specific picture on your slideshow. You only have a few minutes of a customer's undivided attention before they move on to the next booth. Make the most of it by having your process ironed out.

Follow Up

This is where studios trip at the finish line. You've captured all the email addresses; now you need to warm them up so they'll purchase. 

  1. Add them to your lead sheet as soon as you sign into work the following day. You'll want to track conversions and contact points.
  2. If you have a studio introduction drip campaign, add them so they can learn about your studio. Start it off with a segmented expo offer for anyone who didn't purchase your BOGO package during the expo. 
  3. Follow up. Remember, it takes multiple contact points for someone to purchase, so don't get discouraged if no one has converted at the end of the weekend. Your job is to keep the conversation flowing and share your value; their job is to purchase when they're ready.

Event marketing is an incredible way to get in front of potential clients. Keeping these considerations in mind, get out there and talk to your ideal customer! You'll be surprised how many people didn't know your studio was waiting to welcome them. 

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About the author:

Niki Riga
Industry Expert
Limitless Studio

Niki has been a client, a studio owner, and a coach in boutique fitness for over a decade, and she can’t think of an industry she'd rather be in. Her favorite part about coaching and studio ownership are the same: she loves supporting clients as they push past their limits and achieve their goals. Niki became a coach because she was regularly asked, “how did you do that!?” by other studio owners who were drowning in the day-to-day responsibilities of business ownership but didn’t have the support to grow their studio to its potential. She created Limitless Studio to partner with owners who have a vision for their business and are ready to implement systems to build the studio of their dreams.