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Using events to promote service and industry businesses

By Jason Freely / 6 months ago
A diverse group dressed in protective equipment tours a foundry

Most chamber events skip over the non-retail businesses. How can foundries, insurance agents and other non-retail businesses promote themselves through events? Photo provided by Deb Brown.

Events that showcase your non-retail small business 

You want people to learn about your business. Events sometimes help with that. You’re just not sure how to create an event for non-retail businesses that people will come to.

Who goes to the insurance agency if they don’t need insurance?

Who goes to the packing plant unless they work there? 

When the chamber of commerce or other groups put on business events, they don’t usually feature non-retail businesses. 

One event that can work is something like A Walk Around Town Event featuring non-retail businesses. The object of the event is to set a time frame for people to visit businesses in town.

We have a Foundry in my town, Webster City, Iowa. They love to do events. The office staff put hard hats, safety glasses and heavy aprons on everyone (and make sure you have closed toe shoes). Then the boss takes the visitors around the plant. I got to see the hot steel being poured and how it turns into a product by the end of the visit. Employees on the floor explain the process and answers questions. Everyone gets a small steel gift.

These backroom kind of tours are fascinating and create a new, fun learning experience for more people to learn about your business.

Imagine if you could combine your backroom tour with several other businesses, so people could tour more than one business in a day? That could be your Walk Around Town event!

This could be tricky to plan by yourself. Mainly because each business involved will have a different outcome in mind. You might be looking or employees. The insurance firm is looking for new customers. The construction company wants referrals. All those outcomes are related – they require people to know more about you first. Having an event to showcase your business is a great way to get started. 

You don’t need the chamber or economic development people to do all the work for you. You don’t need permission to plan an event!

Then how can you create events that people will attend? Here’s the secret: don’t plan it all yourself. Leave it half planned and have room for the other businesses to step up and add to the event. Gather your crowd, ask other non-retail business owners to join you for coffee or a beer. Talk about the big idea – having an event to bring people to your businesses to see what you do. 

Ask each other what kind of things you need to have this event. Can you do it on the same day as a community event? See if  someone has connections to the chamber or others who are doing events so you can check their schedules. Maybe check the school and sports schedules to avoid overlapping an important event there. Do you need a bus to take people around? Someone can find the bus or use their own work bus. This is building connections, and often you might use these connections for other things too.

Finally take some small steps. Not all the business owners will want to be involved. That’s ok. This kind of event works if there’s only a couple of businesses involved. Ask the business owners who are participating to prepare some hands-on activities that tour visitors could do. Remember, you are not doing all the work, they are.  Each non-retail business is responsible for their business. 

Maybe some of these businesses don’t have any idea how to create interesting or exciting activities. Why not ask your employees for ideas? Offer them the opportunity to plan it out and make it happen. A small step could be to tell your Chamber about it and see if they want to help with the marketing part of it. Another small step is to tell your Economic Development folks too. They might have some people in mind they’d like to invite on the tour. You might even want to partner with another business. Are you going to serve coffee and cookies? Is there a business in town that could help with that? 

SaveYour.Town has a video this month that focuses on creating events that people will attend. You’ll get more ideas from events I’ve planned to promote businesses in my community, and how I let go of some control and half planned events in cooperation with others. This video is available for purchase only until September 15, 2019. You’ll get two weeks to watch the video with as many folks and as many times as you want.

About Deb Brown

Deb Brown comes from a farm outside of Geneva, Iowa, population 141. Her heart lies in sharing the possibilities for small towns. Deb travels a lot, taking back roads when possible, and talking to the locals, sharing stories of other small towns and encouraging anyone who will listen. She’s the co-founder of www.saveyour.town and owner of Building Possibility.

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