Events can be a powerful marketing tool. They provide something new, timely, and interesting you’re your customers and prospects to talk about. By building some excitement around your event, you build excitement about your business. Because of this, it is important for your small business to plan events that help with both marketing and customer service.  The following are some ideas to do so both in the real world and online.

  • Monthly clinics or seminars about a product or service you offer – These can give you a chance to highlight chosen products/services, bring in new clientele, and network with others in your community.  If done successfully, these types of regular events will also create buzz about your business and expose it to potential customers. 
  • Host an after-hours gathering for your employees and friends/families.  If you have a brick and mortar location, after-hours events can be effective marketing tools, but even if you are home-based, you can tweak this idea to work for your business.  Provide refreshments, music, and put together some special displays on which to focus the event.  Be sure to provide business cards, brochures, a free sample or giveaway, and other promotional materials to your guests. 
  • Host an Open House for your community. Consider holding an open house with city officials (mayor, congressmen/women) and local press in attendance.  Center the event around a theme or cause that is of interest to your community. 
  • Sponsor a holiday window design contest for art students at a local school.  Involving the young people in a community is a surefire way to spread word about your business.  You can even modify this idea to include technology students competing to design your next online ad or website graphic.  The announcement and celebration of the winner could be incorporated into the unveiling of the finished product.
  • Host an open-mike night for local business owners.  Most comedy clubs reserve their slowest nights of the week for amateur open-mike nights.  You can use this idea by hosting a forum for other local small business owners to exchange ideas for marketing and customer service.  Each participant could take a turn at the mike to offer input and take questions from the audience.
  • Do a Twitter Q&A about your industry or products.  This obviously requires you to have a moderate following on Twitter, but with the right promotion among your customers and preparation by you, it can be done fairly easily.  You can even offer a reward or incentive at the end for participants that can be tweeted about intermittently throughout the session. 
  • Host an online suggestion box via video chat headed by a panel of related industry experts.  Choose like-minded people in your field and/or fellow small business owners in your community with which you have no competition for your video chat using a program like Skype or iVideo.  Invite customers to “call in” with suggestions for what they think would improve their own shopping experience.

What events you have sponsored or attended which you have found to be informational and fun?  Tell us about them in the comments section below!