Marketing your business at a conference

August 15, 2008: 10:23 AM ET

Tips for turning leads into sales.

Tony Manci, Nashville
I run a small, two-year-old consulting business and have the opportunity to place a flyer in each participant's package at a state annual conference for my industry. There will be about 225 attendees - 85% of whom are potential clients. What should I put on the flyer?

By Kathleen Ryan O'Connor, Fortune Small Business contributor
Dear Tony: Unless your firm does analysis on finding lost dogs, you'll probably need more than just a flyer to sell your business. So think of the one-page insert as an attention getter, and focus on ways to convert eyeballs into requests for more information.

You've already achieved the first goal of any marketing campaign - you've found your target audience.  "The attendees will be self-selecting, and many - or most - are viable prospects," says Andrea Wojnicki, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Toronto's school of management.

Woljnicki advises you to do everything in your power to entice these prospects to read your flyer. "Be creative," she says. Rather than printing a bland description of your company, consider asking a client to write a testimonial, or publish a short case study of your work and pair it with a photograph. Make sure that the flyer's basic design elements - the logo, font, and color scheme - are consistent with all of your business' paraphernalia.

You should also use your (relatively few) words to differentiate yourself from your competitors. "Your firm needs to present a very compelling reason to prospective customers for them to make a switch," Woljnicki says.

To enable attendees to get in touch with you, make sure that the flyer offers different types of contact information. Print your phone number, e-mail address, Website, and showroom location; include the names of company members that will be at the conference.

Kae Groshong, founder of North Star Marketing in Lancaster, Pa., says you shouldn't put all of your eggs in one basket. "A flyer is just part of a larger effort," she says. "You have to open up and think of other ways to touch prospects." Once you've distributed the insert, you should find the attendees who have the strongest potential to become clients and introduce yourself. Then, call them to follow up.

Groshong advises you to think of the conference as a tripartite marketing plan: "visibility, awareness, then action," she says. Use different marketing methods to make your business' name memorable to attendees - even after the fliers get tossed into the trash.

Give us your advice: Check out recent "Ask & Answer" questions.

Related links:

Getting your message across

It's all about presentation

Devising a winning package for your product

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