There’s nowhere quite like a county fair. In small towns across America, they’re usually the highlight of the summer. But county fairs aren’t just for rural farmers — and they’ve got a lot more to offer than petting zoos and pie eating contests.
County fairs and state fairs are also crucial opportunities with which to extend your brand reach and connect with a diverse range of would-be customers.
Some business owners are understandably wary of getting involved in the fair circuit. After all, accounting apps might not feel like an easy sell when you’re competing with a glitzy Ferris wheel for attention. But the truth is, there’s a spot at the fair for businesses of all shapes and sizes — you’ve just got to play to your strengths.
To help get you started, we’ve rounded up a few top tips that will enable you to make the most of your annual fair.
County and State Fair Promotion Plan
1. Become a Web Sponsor
One of the most common and cost-effective sponsorship opportunities will be to enlist as a web sponsor. This will typically earn you a logo or brand mention on the fair’s website, which will enhance your SEO and hopefully increase your own site’s traffic.
2. Get Your Name in Print
They say ‘print is dead’. Yet the fair is one of few places on the planet in which a print advertisement may still generate a bit of business. Event programs are widely circulated and read at these sort of events, and so an affordable advertisement is usually a pretty safe bet.
3. Get Creative with Ad Space
Bigger county fairs are always on the hunt for financial aid — and so just about everything is up for sponsorship. Parking barrels, tractors, picnic tables and horse rings all provide great banner space at affordable prices.
4. Distribute Materials
Every successful business needs a good, old-fashioned street team. The county fair is a perfect opportunity to put that team to the test. If you’ve got promotional materials or fliers, get down to the fairgrounds and make sure they’re getting in the right hands. But don’t just people fliers in silence. Engage with people, work the crowd and give sparingly.
5. Sponsor an Event
We all love fairs for the cotton candy and petting zoos. But at the end of each day when the sun goes down, everything revolves around one big show. Some nights it’s a Cornhole tournament, other nights it’s a demolition derby or a big concert. Either way, each and every event is a brilliant opportunity to get your company name up in lights. Bearing that in mind, you should definitely contact your local fair organizers and ask about event sponsorship opportunities.
6. Become an Event
If money is no object, go all out and turn your company name into an event in and of itself. Plenty of fairs offer event sponsorship deals that will ensure your brand name is tagged onto a big event. You’ll appear on tickets, programs, websites and social media. Although these sort of sponsorship deals may seem quite dear, they’re actually pretty cost effective.
7. Donate an Auction Item
Getting a bid of publicity at your local fair isn’t all about bright lights and tomfoolery. If your budget is fairly non-existent, you can even earn yourself a bit of brand recognition by simply donating free goods or services to the fair’s silent auction. In fact, that’s the easiest way to win customers over one at a time.
8. Set Up a Table or Booth
If your business does have goods or services that can be aptly demonstrated, sold or advertised at a booth, then you should get on board. Food businesses, this is a great time to reach a huge audience. You don’t have to offer your whole kit and caboodle, though. Maybe a food stand that offered a limited range of your offerings. It’s a great way to get your name and great products out to the masses.
Contact organizers about booking a table or booth for peak days across the week, get a few staff members together and show revelers what your business has to offer.
9. Do Some Decorating
County fairs are typically places where rural tradition rings true. All of the bunting, balloons and loud banners might seem overly stereotypical. But at the fair, it’s all part of the fun. Place your products in bushel baskets filled with hay, go crazy on the gingham and incorporate plenty of interactive games.
10. Play the Part
What’s the point of spending ages decorating a booth if the people standing behind it don’t look the part, too? You and your staff have got to embrace the atmosphere and dress accordingly. If your booth has got a theme, run with it. Otherwise, simply capitalize on your typical fair thoroughfare.
11. Give Out Free Samples
If your business has products to sell, it’s always with letting customers try them out first-hand. By incorporating a few free samples as loss leaders, you’ll be able to rope in potential leads, establish brand loyalty and become a very popular vendor.
12. Engage, Engage, Engage
If you’ve got something to sell, rope visitors in with a ring toss – offering product discounts as a prize. This will help to replicate the fair’s carnival atmosphere on a smaller scale and ensure that your booth stands out from the crowd.
13. Plan Ahead
More practically, you should be sure to get yourself a reliable portable card reader. After all, county fairs might be all about tradition, but the tradition of carrying cash is in rapid decay. Likewise, you’ve also got to have all of the resources you might need right there on hand. Don’t forget price lists, product specifications or any necessary replenishments.
14. Keep Customers in the Loop
First and foremost, let your current and established customer base know you’ll be going to the fair. A few friendly faces and known customers popping by your stall could generate a bit more buzz – so you should get on social media, update your followers and create an event that they can bookmark. If you’ve got a regular company newsletter, draft up a new HTML and send out one or two reminders that you’ll be appearing at the fair or sponsoring an event.
15. Work the Crowd
There’s no point sponsoring an event or spending hours setting up a booth if you aren’t going to engage with potential consumers. It’s great if you can rope revelers in with a fair game of your own design, but it also helps to have an identifiable team member working the crowd near your booth. Be friendly, get people chatting and use intrigue and entertainment in order to peak their curiosity and lure them over. Be fun and be outrageous; after all, people have come to the fair to have a good time.
16. Cater to Impulse
Once you’ve caught their interest, it always helps to cater to impulse. That means you should be stocking your booth with a couple of low-priced and easy-to-carry items. Two-for-one offers perform particularly well at fairs.
17. Push Newsletters
Meanwhile, a sign-up sheet is also a brilliant way to get the most out of your county fair presence. Families passing by will usually be clinging onto quite a few things already – meaning your business cards and cumbersome fliers will probably end up getting tossed in the bin twenty feet away. Instead, simply ask people if they’d like to join your mailing list.
18. Offer Incentives
Sometimes it can be difficult to try and coax personal contact details out of potential consumers. That’s why it always pays to try and sweeten the deal a little bit by offering up a special incentive. Offer an exclusive deal or a one-off discount in exchange for signing up. Your conversion rates will skyrocket.
19. Follow Up
Once you’ve made contact with potential leads at the fair, be sure to follow up with unique and engaging content. If you’ve registered a few dozen new customers for a mailing list, create a follow-up letter devoted specifically to your new customers, what was discussed at the fair and items that might appeal to them in particular.
20. Have Fun
County and state fairs are all about getting together, celebrating the great weather and admiring all of the hard work that your community has been putting in to their respective trades. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in or what county you’re based in – there are going to be members of your community that will want to check out your business and see what you’ve been getting up to.
Once you’ve finished up pushing your wares, it’s always worth getting involved, too. Grab some cotton candy, enjoy the live music and toast a drink to a job well done. After all, the fair only pops up once a year.