The summer season brings new opportunities to expand brand awareness, establish new relationships in your community, and connect with customers at events. Though a presence at events like farmer’s markets, festivals, and similar functions are a fun way to reach audiences you otherwise wouldn’t, they may require a new approach to your selling strategy.
Here are a few ways to ensure that your business achieves the best possible return on investment at summer events.

1. Know the audience you want to reach

Involving your business in summer events is only valuable to your bottom line if it connects you with target customers. Before you commit to a summer event, ask event organizers for specific information, including:

  • Expected attendance based on previous years
  • The event marketing strategy to attract visitors and exhibitors
  • Demographics of the community in which the event is held
  • A list of past exhibitors as well as those who are committed to exhibit again

In addition, reach out to past event participants who may be willing to share, based on their goals, their experience about whether an event provided an adequate return on investment.
Establish metrics and well-defined objectives for what you hope to get out of marketing at summer events before you plan an exhibitor schedule, and conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the events you consider. For example, popular events with a long history can deliver more certainty about attendance compared to those in their infancy, but may have higher participation costs, more competition, and regulations about booth sizes, signage, products you can display, and even whether you have to hire union labor to set up and dismantle your booth. While less-established events tend to be inexpensive, consider costs associated with travel and lodging.

2. Plan to market in advance of the summer events

The location-based, real-time nature of social media makes it a perfect medium to market your summer event schedule. Allow yourself time and a marketing budget to build a buzz before each event you’ll attend with these tactics:

  • Offer incentives.Sweepstakes, drawings for free gift cards, and product giveaways can encourage new users to follow you on social media—and existing fans to engage with your posts. Use #hashtags specific to each summer event to organize your posts. Tag the event’s social media handle in your posts to encourage cross-promotion with event organizers and other exhibitors.
  • Target your most likely prospects. Sponsored social media ads allow you to reach a well-defined audience at an affordable cost. For example, with paid Facebook ads you can specify your daily budget, audience, the goal of your sponsored message, and duration of the campaign in accordance with your summer event schedule.
  • Use videos and images. Aspirational videos that associate your brand with the theme and tone of the summer events you’ll attend can be an entertaining way to creatively tell the story of your business and its presence at a particular event. Videorama is one affordable app that allows you to add, text, logos, soundtracks, and other aesthetics to videos you shoot on a mobile device—and they make it easy to upload the finished product to social media platforms.

3. Leverage the tools that make selling easy

Once you’re at the event, you need to be armed to sell remotely:

  • Accept mobile payments. Turn your smartphone or tablet into a credit card processing tool with mobile payments. Mobile payment providers like Square and Stripe charge a nominal fee (usually based on the amount of the transaction) to securely process credit or debit cards on your mobile device using the payment provider’s app or a small card reader that plugs into the headphone jack. Customer receipts are emailed or sent via text message. Funds are usually transferred to your business bank account within 72 hours of transaction approval to help your business cash flow remain intact (especially when summer events take you out of town).
  • Actively drive booth traffic. Invest in branded, functional freebies you can pass out at your booth to turn attendees into promoters. (Think reusable shopping bags, branded water bottles, handheld fans, or balloons for kids).Creative demonstrations can also create interest around your booth during the event to attract visitors and engage customers in conversation.
Stephanie is a former financial services marketer-turned-freelance writer who covers personal finance, career, health, and small business news. Her work is published in national media outlets, including USA Today, Fast Company, Real Simple, and Forbes. Connect with her on Twitter at @STCWriting.