Saturday, June 7, 2008

That Sounds Fair!

score_tjpg_woodard This article was written by Carl Woodard, SCORE Orange County Second Vice Chairman

Effective marketing may take many forms as you strive to maximize your small business success. There is a constant challenge to build a solid base of potential customers and much is written about new methods to reach them. Often overlooked, however, is the methodology to keep your customer base fresh.

Many businesses thrive with a well designed web site, while others continue buying large mailing lists, only to find that a portion of the costly list is outdated and the residents have moved. Let’s focus on one simple method that has been around for decades and will guarantee that you meet your target audience and have fun while you do. This works well for service businesses, as well as for those of you who sell crafts and specialty foods…. Have you been to the fair lately?

State and local fairs are plentiful and one comes to a location near you every year, generally in the fall. Attendees live locally and are relaxed and having fun while there. Why not benefit from their casual mood and possibly gain a new long-term customer? With proper planning, you can be there this year!

Here are some things to keep in mind as you prepare:

First, contact the local group that arranges the fair each year and check prices. Costs vary by size and locale, as well as by your booth size and location within the exhibit area. Remember to divide the cost by the number of people you will meet and you will see a real value.

Be with similar companies … Home repair with other home repair. Food with food, etc. and buy a space at the intersection of aisles, if you can. That way you get attention from all directions.

Next you will need an attractive booth area. Make it easy to approach. Use giveaway items as incentives for the curious. These can vary from simple, individually wrapped candies to key chains, letter openers or pens to larger offers such as sweepstakes, games, discount opportunities (fair specials), etc. If you want people to return often, give away prizes every hour with the winner required to be present. Here is your big opportunity….have a method for each and every visitor to fill out a card with name, address, phone number and email address. Record these fresh contacts in your active data base of potential customers. After all, this is the reason you came and here is your payoff!

Have sales brochures that fully describe what you are selling and present them with a big smile. Meet and greet! Give out cards that clearly show how to contact you.

Participation in a fair has some challenges that you need to be ready for. You must realize that a two-week event requires your company to have a representative there at all times, including night security if you leave merchandise on location. Standing (never sit down) can be tiring for those on duty and the weather can be warm and humid. But, your customer must see only a big warm smile.

Make your area and sales material unique so that you and your company will be remembered long after the doors are closed and the cotton candy is eaten.

For all of your business questions, remember that your Orange County chapter of SCORE has over 100 experienced counselors ready to assist you. We can be reached for an appointment at 714-550-7369, or We can help you with marketing, sales, finance, operations or other business topics. Just give us a call. All of our counseling services are free of charge to you.

Good luck! See you at the fair!