Event marketing strategies for your small business

Editorial Team

6 min read
People walking through outdoor market event

Standing out in a competitive industry can be a challenge–especially for small businesses. But, for businesses that are willing to extend their reach through other opportunities, event marketing can offer a competitive edge.

What is event marketing?

Event marketing is the practice of using an event to promote a brand, product, or service to consumers. These special occasions can take place in a brick-and-mortar shop, on the road, or in virtual spaces. Regardless of the format, event marketing aims to forge and deepen relationships between customers and businesses through unique, enjoyable, and memorable experiences.

Here are 5 types of event marketing strategies to help your business attract attention, boost brand awareness, engage existing customers, and reach new ones.

1. On-the-road events

Trade shows, festivals, and other industry-specific events are a great way to market to your niche audience. The Batty Lady has built her business this way—on the road. Owner, Alicia Campbell, spends much of her year traveling to quilting shows across the West Coast. Not only does she recruit new shoppers this way, but she addresses an issue unique to her business.

“Most quilters are tactile, so online stores might have more choices, but you’re not able to touch and feel the differences,” explains Campbell. “And quilt shows rarely had a booth with just batting. This is where I saw an opening for Batty Lady.”

The opportunity to tactilely experience the quilt batting at these events has driven additional business to both Campbell’s eCommerce store and brick-and-mortar—which now exceeds over 3,600 sq. ft—to store her soft, yet bulky, inventory.

For Bruce Funderburk, owner and founder of Sweet Vine Products, traveling to events is more than just a bridge to new in-person shoppers. By his count, events and festivals make up 50% of Sweet Vine’s total revenue.

Clover’s portable POS systems—like the Go and Flex—are perfect for taking payments on the road, especially in Funderburk’s custom-built trailer. More importantly, Clover’s help with back-end organization frees up time for Sweet Vine Products to market themselves at additional events.

“Clover has eliminated a ton of manual effort on my part,” stresses Funderburk. “I can go to more events now instead of having to scale back because I knew I needed to spend all weekend balancing the books and catching everything up.”

READ: 4 tips for mobile credit card processing at trade show events

2. In-house events

While traveling to and attending events can engage a broader audience, hosting events in your own brick-and-mortar space lets new and existing customers view and interact with your storefront in a new way.

When Krystal Offord—owner of AK Cycle Chic—first opened her business in 2021, she wanted to utilize the space for more than just retail.

Now, her business hosts “First Fridays” events every month—after-hours community gatherings that spotlight local musicians and artists, encourage networking, and promote the AK Cycle Chic brand.

“We’ve got this gigantic, vaulted ceiling where the sun streams through, and that’s where our art gallery is,” shares Offord. “It’s a really beautiful space, and we’re very happy to use it in this way.”

Each event assembles a wide swath of the Anchorage, AK, cycling community to Offord’s store to share in the experience, while also giving them a chance to shop.

“When we host First Friday events, we have a lot of walk-in traffic,” highlights Offord. “If a line forms at the register, we can get the [Clover] Flex out to speed up the checkout line.”

Find creative ways to get new and existing customers into the store—even outside of business hours.

3. Virtual events

Do all events need to gather in a shared location? Not necessarily, as small business owners have learned in recent years.

Virtual events not only can help save money by eliminating travel costs, but their utilization of virtual platforms can dramatically expand customer bases.

When the pandemic hit and reduced the capacity for in-person events, the Irish American Heritage Museum—like many other small businesses and nonprofits—pivoted towards hosting virtual events. This has enabled the museum both to sponsor a wider range of international speakers and lecturers and reach an audience beyond its hometown of Albany, NY.

“We can have speakers now from anywhere. Actually, we have someone tonight in Ireland giving a talk,” Executive Director Elizabeth Stack shared with Clover.

4. Educational events 

If your business offers a product or service that benefits from educational discourse, consider taking another cue from The Irish American Heritage Museum. 

Now set up to host speakers from all over the world, the museum taps into the rich network of Ireland scholars and enthusiasts to screen films, host lectures, and curate discussions on subjects of interest to the non-profit’s patronage.

“We host our film club once a month, we do cooking demonstrations, we host a variety of academics and authors who speak about different topics,” shares Stack. “We tend to focus on history, but it can be contemporary culture, as well.”

Clover helps the museum take payments through their website and social media, with the robust App Market making it easy to sync with their preferred Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software.

“It’s great for us to be able to present these talks, because it really is through the talks that we’re fulfilling our educational mission to share the story of the Irish in America,” says Stack.

5. Fundraising events 

Events are also a great forum to raise money for your business, a cause that closely aligns with your business values, or both.

Partner with like-minded entrepreneurs or organizations to support each other’s fundraising goals. Consider hosting both live and virtual fundraising events.

Maybe that means supporting a toy drive (like Elite Practitioner did with the 100 Black Men of Chicago Inc.’s Holiday Toy Drive), a health initiative (My Mobility Medics and the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk), or a collaboration to denote a holiday (the International Women’s Day Celebration hosted by Curious Plantaholic and the Bloom for Women organization). 

Choosing fundraising partners doesn’t have to be difficult. Let your audience see the causes that are important to you and your business and give them a chance to support you.

Learn how Clover is helping businesses like yours everyday create revenue and reach more customers through their POS systems and tools like Clover Customer Engagement. Reach out to a Clover Business Consultant today. 

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