Show Promotion: Where to Find Customers

Promoting sports memorabilia shows used to be pretty simple 20 years ago.  Put an ad in the newspaper.  Put up some flyers wherever you could.  Ask the hotel or hall to put it on their marquee. Put an ad in a trade paper if your event was big enough to warrant regional interest.

You can still use those ideas, but times have changed. If you’re not in tune with promoting the modern way, don’t expect your dealers to walk away happy.

Is there more to do to make sure your show is a success?  Yup.  The good thing is that the new brand of efforts can now expand your reach to a national–even international–audience.  The things you have to do aren’t that hard, either.

There is tremendous competition these days for what advertisers call ‘eyeballs’.  People are connected electronically nearly every hour of every day.  If you’re not tuned into that or feel you could be doing more, now’s the time.  If you think you could be more internet savvy, dive in and learn.  A mailing list or an email list is great, but it’s not enough anymore.

Two of the most incredible ways to connect with potential show goers are Facebook and Twitter.  Facebook fan pages are like mini websites.  You can post information about your show.  Upload photos of past events or just some examples of products that are likely to be for sale.  You can keep in touch with your fans on a daily or weekly basis by providing updates about the show.  Use them to build excitement for the event.  Hold a giveaway for autograph tickets.

Engage…that’s the key word. And if you think the majority of Facebook users are young punks who don’t know Ryan Howard from Ronnie Howard, you’re wrong.  Facebook’s largest growth is now among older adults and even retirees.

How do you get fans?  Reach out to other Facebook users who are regulars at your show or local collectors.  Ask them to spread the word.  Post the show on the Facebook walls of local sports teams or reach out to your city’s visitor’s and convention bureau and see if they’d be willing to help you with promotion or generate interest via the social media platforms they’re on (you can be our Facebook fan here).

Twitter is even easier, although a little less flashy. Just set up your account and start tweeting.  Even once a day is better than nothing.  You can search the profiles of other Twitter users in your region who have an interest in “sports cards”, “baseball cards”, “autographs” or “sports memorabilia”.  Services like Twellow are great for that.  Follow them and it’s likely they’ll follow you back.  Once you find loyal followers, see who’s following them and follow those people. It’s a snowball effect (follow us here).

When using Facebook and Twitter, though, it’s important to not be selling all the time.  Social networking is all about connections.  Those who constantly ask and never give are not held in high regard. Post your opinions, share great articles (maybe even some from this site :).  You’ll be part of the community, not an uninvited guest.  You want to be giving as much as you’re getting.

The best thing about Facebook and Twitter?  They’re FREE.  It doesn’t cost a dime to reach hundreds or thousands of people.  Keep working at it and you’ll build nice followings on both that will help you long term.

Sometimes Facebook can serve as your “website”, but the best advice is to have both.  Invest in having someone build you a site if you can’t do it.  You should be able to find an online freelancer or someone locally who will do it for  you for a minimal cost.  Think through what you’d like to have on it first and keep it updated.  If you’re promoting shows without a website, don’t expect to grow very fast.

By now, you’re probably familiar with online forums.  Become a member at some of the larger ones.  Contribute to the community by sharing answers or opinions first and after awhile,  find out where within that forum would be the appropriate place to post your event.  Again, it’s free.

Write a press release and distribute it.  E-mail it to local media outlets in your area including newspapers, radio stations and even TV stations.  Find out who the proper contact is first, if you can.  They may not give you any advance publicity, but they might show up, giving you a huge boost for the next show when thousands of people see, hear or read about a card show in the area. If they can’t put it in the paper, on the radio or on TV, ask if it might be good website content for them.  Media outlets are always looking for content, especially those in smaller communities.

There are plenty of places online where you can submit your release for little or no cost that will put your story–and your event– into the search engines.  If writing isn’t your thing, find someone who can do it for you.  There are  press release tips online (you can also drop us an email and we’ll provide some options).

Write up a story on your show and post it on your website once it’s over.  Include pictures.  It’ll build interest for the next one and keep your site looking fresh.

Advertising online is not the wave of the future.  It’s the here and now.  There are websites (like this one) that offer ads at a cost far less than what you probably used to pay for having it appear once in a trade magazine…a dull, colorless spot that got tossed in the trash after a week.  Think of your online ad as a billboard.  Maybe it won’t pay for itself with the number of people who walk through the door after seeing the ad.  It will, however, give your show credibility and plant a seed in the minds of those who see it.  Do you drive to JC Penney when you spot their billboard?  No.  Do you think of them the next time you need a jacket?  Probably.  Better yet, the exposure online is global, even if the website is based in a small town somewhere.

The best way to think about promoting your show is to try and be the McDonalds of the online community.  Be everywhere.  Be available.  Build your show’s brand and they will come.

Have a modern idea for promoting your show or business?  Share it with us and we’ll pass them along ([email protected]).