Smarter Marketing Blog

How to Boost Your Efforts and Get the Most Out of Trade Shows


Trade shows, conferences, seminars, meet-ups etc. are very powerful marketing mediums, because they can bring together hundreds or thousands of people, in one place and in a short space of time. They do mean busy days though, with lots of people milling around and lots of conversations.

Whether you’re an event planner, a trade show veteran or attending your first event, we have tips below that will help you engage with people and make connections. If you haven’t time to read on, here’s a simple spoiler:

Maximise your time at a trade show by ensuring that all of your conversations are as meaningful as possible . Thereafter, if you are set-up to nurture leads, back at your office, then the trade show will have been a success.

Speaking of success, what’s driving me to write this particular post is the forthcoming event. Not only because it is imminent (26th April – City West Hotel, Dublin), but because I recently met with the owner/organiser, Barbara Gordon. When asked, she explained to me, why she is involved in something outside of her comfort zone i.e. she is not a formal event planner/organiser.

When the first shoots of Ireland’s economic recovery started to appear, Barbara, herself a small business owner – – felt that small and medium enterprises (SMEs), should be able to benefit from it as well as the large corporates. Her idea was to organise an inexpensive platform for Irish start-ups and surviving SMEs, to showcase their wares and attract new business.

True to her word, Barbara organised (with no professional help), the first BizExpo in 2011. Next week’s event is the culmination of six years’ experience, support from a team of friends, loads of stress and hard work.

There will be over 135 exhibitors and just over 1,000 people (no admission fee) have registered to attend next week. “I remain true to my original goal of attracting small to medium sized businesses, from around the Country, to showcase their work, to grow, prosper and engage with people outside of their normal networking area”….says Barbara.

What strikes me about this event is Barbara’s selfless rationale. She runs the event on a breakeven basis and on her own time. That being said, she has become very adept at securing ‘voluntary’ inputs. Her only mission is to ensure that Irish SMEs have a platform to grow and, oh yeah – she runs her own successful business as well. Congrats Barbara.

Register here and get yourself out to the City West Hotel on the 26th April and experience the optimism for yourself. Sure, you might even do a little business, while you’re there.

We Love a Good Lanyard – Don’t We?


Whether as an organiser, an exhibitor or an attendee, I believe that we all love a good lanyard. It can be a symbol of exclusivity, access behind the scenes, a VIP, a guest speaker or indeed celebrity. Right here, beside my desk, I have a box full of lanyards from all of these roles (not celebrity, I might add). I was thinking to myself what is it about this simple piece of plastic that binds people at an event together. With, in my mind, I thought a recap on investing your time at trade shows, might be opportune.

I intend breaking the post into three sections (types of lanyard) that will address tips for a) the event organiser, b) the exhibitor and c) the attendee.

The Organiser’s Lanyard for Trade Shows.

Trade Shows VIP Access

Events are constantly changing, driven by technology and attendees’ expectations. As a result, organisers need to stay on top of current trends. We have all attended events that have a stale feel to them, which I believe is due to the organiser using tactics that no longer work.

Here are some of those tactics that might not work for you:

  • Not personalising the message. With today’s technology, there is no excuse for sending out the one-size-fits-all email message to everyone.
  • Choosing speakers that you like to hear. Attendees want maximum value for giving up their time. Listening to a speaker splurge about their own company is not what they want to hear.
  • Using social media as poster advertising. Whilst social media is a wonderful medium for engaging people, video and images should be the focus for engagement, not text.
  • Not staying connected with past attendees. For instance, there is no excuse for not undertaking remarketing campaigns or building online groups/communities to stay in touch.
  • Believing everybody still uses their PC for registrations etc. Adapt your web design and event technology to take account of this. Think mobile.
  • Cold Calling and Spam. If people aren’t interested don’t waste your time and money. Blanket marketing is rarely effective.
  • Registration Queues. Use auto-check- ins, scanners, apps etc. and avoid annoying the very person you want to impress.

Business Events Are Experiential Brand Marketing Platforms

If you are an organiser, and the event is to be a platform offering an experience of your brand, your goal is to ensure that the attendee becomes a repeat customer, again and again. The minute you take the eye off this ball, your attendees’ needs will be unmet and your event will fade into the noise of similar shows.

So, if you are never to fail your attendees again, here are 10 simple event mistakes that should be avoidable in this day and age:

  • The event website is the event’s front door, make it user-friendly and responsive
  • Excellent external directional signage is a must have
  • Good WiFi is as much a requirement as good toilets are
  • Communicate the event’s schedule in a clear and simple way (apps?)
  • Give advance notice of the event #hashtag and twitter handle (if appropriate)
  • Use a previous year’s video highlights to promote
  • Mix-up the speakers – male, female, topic, geographic etc.
  • Cater for people with disabilities
  • Have a wow-factor during the day – for people to remember
  • Have good food options and watch the alcohol availability
  • Protect your attendees’ data from spam operators

The Exhibitor’s Lanyard for Trade Shows.

Trade Show Access All Areas

Trade shows should form part of a business’s marketing activity. With the right event, a large portion of attendees will be your business’s target audience. Other reasons why an exhibition might prove to be worth the expense would be, nurturing relationships, generating leads, sales, or because competitors are there.

I believe there are three basic benefits to exhibiting. First of all, it facilitates brand recognition. The second is that it provides an opportunity for real face time and thirdly, it offers the potential to build a prospect list.

Like the list of mistakes outlined above, for organisers, there are sins to avoid for exhibitors but there are also things to do that will help your return on investment.

Here are 16 quick tips that we have found to be important:

  1. Have business objectives in place before the event so as to quantify your return
  2. Check the exhibitor’s agreement for what’s/what’s not supplied to avoid last minute panic
  3. Promote the event like you’re the organiser
  4. Consider your stand’s design/graphics so as to communicate effectively – you have about 7 seconds to attract a passer-by. Oh, and stand, don’t sit
  5. Dress professionally and appropriately for the event but be comfortable (no chaffed collars or new shoes)
  6. Do not put a shy staff member on the stand – they are your brand’s touchpoint. They must smile and make eye contact – no chatting with friends on the mobile
  7. Never eat at the stand
  8. You or your staff must know your elevator pitch, everything about the company and be prepared to listen. The visitor should always walk away with information (e.g.flyer)
  9. Do not discuss prices of your product/service with a nod-and-a-wink. Be transparent
  10. Use technology to capture leads – it’s more impressive nowadays
  11. Offer business cards to people who genuinely appear to be interested or will accept a call from you after the event (some exhibitors leave cards on a table – I’m not one of them)
  12. Focus on meaningful conversations with attendees – not other exhibitors (unless they are a prospect)
  13. If possible, avail of the opportunity to be a guest presenter/speaker
  14. Get back to new connections quickly and have a plan for follow-up
  15. Never pack up early – it reflects badly on you and the organiser. Anyway you need to milk your investment
  16. Enjoy yourself – being relaxed portrays your personal brand in a better light

Trade shows such as the are invaluable opportunities for networking, especially if you are a start-up or building your brand presence. Making connections with potential partners, new leads and nurturing relationships is the name of the game.

The Attendee’s Lanyard for Trade Shows.

Trade Shows Lanyard

Most events will provide a list of exhibitors on their website. We would recommend that as an attendee you go over the list in advance and decide who you want to see or talk to. You might even be able to arrange appointments.

If you research the schedule, you should plan what presentation, workshop or forum you would like to attend. Also, decide what you would like to learn from a specific exhibitor. For instance, I am aware that the is planning to have a ‘Knowledge Hub’ manned with experts that can answer a myriad of relevant questions for SMEs. Attendees should prepare questions in advance.

Another time-saving method, I have used when attending trade shows, is to map out your initial route to ensure that you get to the most important exhibits (that you’ve identified) first. This saves time walking around looking for exhibits of interest.

Many people feel bad about walking by an exhibit without engaging the smiling person behind the table – don’t. Just like you, they are attending the event to generate new business and don’t want to waste time talking to somebody who isn’t a potential customer.

It can be difficult to lug around a plastic bag full of brochures etc. so choose wisely. Only take those that you actually want – and you definitely do not need 50 promotional pens. Go one step further and bring your own bag to carry brochures, catalogues and product samples, if that’s what you’re there for.

Use your time wisely to meet potential customers, get intelligence on your competition and make industry contacts. Here are some top-of-mind reasons to visit a trade show:

  • Interact with peers in your industry and discover trends
  • Get new ideas for your business
  • Evaluate competitive products, suppliers and prices
  • Place orders / negotiate contracts
  • See novelties / latest innovations
  • Get specific products/services
  • Deepen your knowledge
  • Nurture existing relationships with customers
  • Generate new business contacts
  • Attend workshops, networking or panel discussions
  • Get away from your office/place of work to a neutral environment


I have referred to the from three different points of view, symbolised by lanyards. There are many tips included above and I didn’t really get into the marketing of events, as such. So, to finish, I will address an organiser’s scenario of having only one week left to an event and a need to promote it.

We recommend you continue to use normal promo channels such as email, flyers and free listing sites. Here are 5 other tips that may be used to bolster activity:

Social – change your social media profile pics to the event logo

Website – Put a big banner on your own website to catch visitors’ attention

Sponsors – Get your sponsors to spread the word through their own channels

Competition – Develop an online competition (e.g. tickets for retweets)

Video – distribute a video of a previous event or create an animated one

Remember, today, a great event and location are not enough to guarantee return attendance. You have to make sure that your event remains top-of-mind throughout the year and pitched at the right price to keep attracting attendees.

See you at the

“Thank you for reading our blog post today – Aidan & Jim.

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Should We Look At Brand Philanthropy In A New Way?


Whether brand philanthropy should be included as part of a marketing strategy has always been a contentious topic. Arguments from both sides can be valid and our opinion is that it really depends on a company’s intention in the first place. Part of my own previous work experience was managing the brand philanthropy for a large Irish financial company. As such, it was an element of our overall CSR Programme.

Part of my role was making sure that the general public knew about the good we were doing and as a result – how our brand was an integral part of the communities in which our people operated. At times, people would complain that we were focusing on promoting ourselves and wasting funds that could be donated.

My response was always that the awareness was mutually beneficial for us and the cause. Sharing information about what we did for the greater good worked both ways as the non-profit gained much-needed awareness of their cause and their impact. In my experience, many non-profits struggle with the communication of their impact on society which can cost them in the long-run.

A discussion about impact measurement that I had with a few fellow marketers recently has prompted me to write this post about looking at brand philanthropy in a new way.

First of all, let me say that I believe companies can reap the benefits of supporting causes without appearing to be self-serving by using community outreach methods. Ways to do this would include:

  • Considering causes that naturally align with the company’s core values
  • Undertaking initiatives that allow staff partake in the cause’s work
  • Developing internship programmes for local students to work with you
  • Assisting a non-profit partner’s operation through shared business learnings
  • Matching employees’ donations / time given to local causes

At the end of the day, it’s about a company being authentic. There are always ways to give back that does not look to be disingenuous – it’s about doing the right thing. If the public are prompted to talk about it, and do – all the better,

Good brand philanthropy means doing well and doing good.

The following might sound a little harsh but it is probably fair to say that brand philanthropy hasn’t really changed over the years for most companies. The model has been – make loads of money and give some away for reputational credit (and tax purposes) and get a photo in the press with a big cheque for awareness.

Unfortunately, at times, the business owner’s intention is not really to solve a societal problem but to look good, to optimise profits or just to ‘tick’ a giving box.. When the recipient is not measuring impact either – nothing is really changing.

Whereas one could argue that this is an acceptable arrangement between a local charity and a small business owner, the problem is whether it is really having a needle-moving impact on a societal issue?

Wouldn’t it be better if an SME owner, conscious that if the business is doing extremely well, they should be doing good on a larger scale? If so, genuine brand philanthropy would have a long-term impact on societal challenges, as the business grows.

How about looking at brand philanthropy in a new way. Imagine if companies focused on bringing innovative products to market that also reduced a social problem. For instance – could Tesla’s self-driving cars be seen as a social cause e.g. reducing accidents / road deaths. Could Apple use the iPhone for natural disaster alerts? Could these be seen as contributions towards societal welfare?

Here’s another idea for you. Look at TV stations – other than a TV Licence (in Ireland) most programming is paid for by advertising i.e. the viewer gets to see programmes for free. Would it be beyond the bounds of possibility for those advertisers to allocate a portion of their ad spend to promoting needy causes. It wouldn’t cost them anything extra and the general public would be instantly aware of the support given.

A new way of giving back through corporate citizenship

We all appreciate that brands today must try and communicate with their audience through a multitude of channels and try to maintain a relationship. More and more, people are expecting something in return for their relationship/giving their attention. A company, making a public commitment to good corporate citizenship is one way of doing that.

Another way for brands to give back would be to help others donate by harnessing the power of social media. What if a company, as part of a social media campaign, donated an amount based on the volume of engagement a message received online. Possibly in conjunction with the advertising idea above this is another way of bringing people the ability to make a difference – especially if they can’t afford to do so themselves.

By all accounts, the so-called millennials generation are forcing brands to focus on genuine philanthropy. As a result, we see evidence of more brands starting to focus on causes that matter. A win-win-win situation occurs as a result. A brand’s relationship with its customers is strengthened, the cause benefits financially and the public feel better about themselves.

If this is the case, then us marketers need to climb out of our regular thinking box of lead generation, social media, website redesign, offline campaigns etc. and try to understand our business’ impact on society better.

Tips for making philanthropy part of a business model

The future is bright for brands that make philanthropy (CSR) part of their business model and not just an element of marketing / HR. They could go about this by:

Aligning core mission and values

Simply put, companies can ensure that their product / service and their mission and values are aligned and can be measured from a societal point of view

Ensuring philanthropy is not a campaign

If you cannot measure the impact of your CSR activity then it is not worthwhile. Measuring the results of a brand campaign is not what is required by society

Not having a short-term focus on community outreach activity

Mutually beneficial programmes are just that – mutually beneficial for the community and the company. Making a lasting impact on a community will take a long time to reach an entire community so short-term blasts won’t achieve much.

Developing long-term budgets

Funding models that delve deeper and not broader will work the best. Grant giving that spreads the benefit across many causes will be less effective than one that focuses on lasting impact.

Creating a self-sustaining revenue stream

At least one goal of the collaboration should be to create a situation where the cause develops a self-sustaining revenue stream to ensure long-term impact.

Creating a workplace philanthropy programme

Give employees a say in what cause is to be partnered. Ensure the cause agrees transparency and accountability, agree a suitable project and measure outputs / outcomes separately.


Nothing has changed in that everything is in a state of constant change.

Wealth is being accumulated faster than ever, but also how it is deployed for social purposes is also changing. Brands are beginning to realise that they must contribute to solve societal issues if they are to survive. Donors are realising that new models are required to ensure that the impact from philanthropy is real.

A commitment to societal impact presents challenges for non-profits and for-profits alike and it needs to be tackled head-on, together. Not only will this benefit society in general but also the people that we want to help in the first place.

“Thank you for reading our blog post today” – Aidan & Jim.

 Would you like us to notify you, by email, when we publish new content? If so, just let us know by clicking here. Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we might grab a coffee, cheers. Jim – O’C&K

Does your business practise good corporate citizenship?


I encountered a bad case of cause related marketing recently in my local convenience store. As I paid for my purchases I was told that they “were supporting a local charity” and asked would I like to “donate some of my change.” My response was to ask if they would be matching my donation and the young man behind the counter couldn’t answer my question!

Obviously, his lack of knowledge / enthusiasm (maybe it wasn’t his fault) didn’t inspire me to donate so I left feeling a little annoyed actually. I mean, even if they were to match my donation, I still might not have donated but at least I would have thought about it more. As a result, everybody lost out and that experience prompted me to write this blog post.

So, I want to write about the topic of good corporate citizenship and the use of cause related marketing mainly. I will also touch on the topic of marketing and philanthropy in our tips section below.

Good Corporate Citizenship and Social Partnerships.

In a previous life, I used to manage corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities for a large corporate. Since then it has become an even more popular opinion that companies should become good corporate citizens. The public is beginning to expect businesses to do more good. Fair enough I say but what does that mean, really? How can they?

In simple terms, I would describe a business doing good, as having a positive societal impact, and not just economic stimulation. Think about my local shop experience above – what if the guy did respond that they would be matching my donation? What if he outlined the charity’s work and explained why the shop was involved? Then, more than likely, I would have donated funds.

The result would have been awareness and funds for the charity. I would have felt better about the shop owner (and myself of course). Consequently, the shop / brand would have reinforced its community image of good corporate citizenship.

The main point in recounting this story is that while being a good corporate citizen does work, it is up to the business (and to a certain extent the non-profit) to undertake formalised communications to make sure that the partnership is a win-win for both parties. This is what we refer to as a social partnership.

We will touch on communications later but at this stage, we should highlight the need for solid research before social partnerships are agreed. Ideally, businesses should choose a cause that is a fit with the shop’s business objectives, a fit with the charity’s values and one that fits with general customer sentiment.

Other considerations for businesses to bear in mind would be how closely a cause connects with their brand e.g. children’s clothes retailer and children’s causes. In light of some recent non-profit controversies in Ireland, it is important that the charity chosen adheres to strict governance and procedural guidelines.

This is a hard one but, I believe that businesses should really avoid personal fund-raising drives as in the absence of controls it may backfire and hurt the brand eventually. They should also be conscious of the level of customers’ interest in a particular cause – perhaps there might well be a popular local cause that requires support.

The biggest threat to a business practising good corporate citizenship is apathy. This may be due to lack of customer / public awareness, a weak link to the charity or worse – the business is only doing it to raise profits for itself.

Our attitude in O’C&K is that whilst businesses might proactively indulge in good corporate behaviour – by all means, let people know about it but care should be exercised that it does not become just another way to grow profitability.

Of course, let’s not forget the other partner – the non-profit. In an increasingly competitive and noisy world, they have to constantly devise new and innovative ways to raise awareness of and funds for their particular cause.

Unfortunately, their passion being focused on providing solutions to societal problems, at times they sell their soul just to source funds for their cause. However, one way that has constantly delivered for both parties, over the years, is cause related marketing (CRM).

Is cause related marketing good corporate citizenship?

In answering this question, we should probably differentiate it from philanthropy.

We outlined our definition of philanthropy in a previous post as being “the desire to increase the well-being of others, expressed by a donation of funds to a cause. No return of monetary value is expected, by the philanthropist”.

CRM, on the other hand, is the coming together of a non-profit and a for-profit to raise awareness and/or funds for a specific cause. It should always have a communications campaign built around it so as such, it is a marketing activity and can be viewed as part of a business strategy.

So we can say that even as part of a business strategy, a non-profit partner can still benefit in ways that will help it pursue its cause. Therefore, yes, CRM can be included as evidence of good corporate citizenship.

Usually, philanthropy is associated with large corporates and CRM with SMEs but of course, a business should undertake whatever social partnership suits.

Because CRM must be understood as a joint marketing activity – both parties should benefit. The non-profit benefits from the funds / expertise / customer base of the business. The cause is promoted across a whole new set of people, across many communication channels and can even receive a % of sales directly.

Similarly, a business benefits due to exposure across a new audience and even a direct increase in sales. As long as the fact that it is a joint business promotion is understood by both parties then various types of CRM can be pursued. Here are some examples:

  • CSR, community element – community grant giving by business
  • Corporate Fundraising Events – third party events for mutual benefit
  • Employee Giving – salary deductions
  • Individual Giving – CEO using business to support cause
  • ‘Pin-Up’ campaigns – e.g. paying for a star on a Christmas tree
  • Point-of-sale donations – see my opening paragraph of this post
  • Purchase triggered donations – matching funds donated through purchases
  • Product licensing – placing a non-profits name / logo on a product
  • Message communication – business uses its channels to promote the cause’s message

As alluded to already in this post – the main challenge is to align the objectives of the cause and the business from the beginning. Also, it is really important that both parties choose the activity that makes the most sense for their organisation, resources-wise.

Based on my own experience in the past, here are 6 tips that businesses might bear in mind when undertaking cause related marketing:

  1. Align your business values with that of the charity / cause
  2. Involve all employees from the get-go
  3. Create relevant merchandise for the campaign, e.g. tee shirts, mugs, games etc.
  4. If successful, turn it into an annual event
  5. Make it social media friendly i.e. shareable
  6. Keep in touch with donors and communicate the impact

There is a caveat here that I should mention. Because CRM has been so successful and is so ubiquitous, it is almost becoming a victim of its own success.

The general public is becoming increasingly aware of the need for donation impact and a deeper level of engagement. There seems to be a move towards support for brands (e.g. TOMS shoes) that have a purpose rather than just a giving attitude towards the communities in which they operate.

The way we see it is that medium length social partnerships are the way of the future because they are based on relationships rather than monetary transactions e.g. charity of the year.

Tips about marketing and philanthropy

We mentioned at the start of this post that we would touch on the topic of marketing and philanthropy. You see, as philanthropy is the giving of funds to a cause without reciprocity, for most philanthropists, it can seem awkward to expose such activity. As a result, any form of communications / marketing is shunned.

This need not be the case.

If corporate philanthropy fits under the umbrella of a CSR programme then awareness can be generated under a marketing banner. This is because a CSR programme can help deliver name recognition, reputation management, improved staff relations and heightened recruitment efforts. The CSR programme may have its own communications campaign and central message.

If your philanthropic activity does not fall under a CSR programme then recognition for same is usually obtained in a more subtle way:

  • Increased audience reach – supporters of the cause may be different to your customer base
  • Seen as giving more than just money – recognition of time, energy and creativity inputs
  • Community appreciation– if not on the Board of the cause then definitely attending events
  • Online authority – promoting the cause online boosts both party’s visibility and recognition

The new consumer generation (millennials?) are definitely much more conscious of purposeful businesses than their previous generations. As a result, more companies are re-evaluating how they impact on society. Genuine philanthropy is one such method and seems to be working to strengthen the relationship between brands and their customers.


Yes, a business can still be a good corporate citizen using cause related marketing. CRM works but may be becoming a victim of its own success. There is a fresh breeze of doing good blowing through the corridors of business and social partnerships are becoming a reality. This is in response to people wanting to see more authenticity in return for their custom.

There is no doubt about it but when business and customers join together to make a real difference, positive change happens. Social partnerships can be a good and profitable solution for all parties involved.

“Thank you for reading our blog post today” – Aidan & Jim.

 Would you like us to notify you, by email, when we publish new content? If so, just let us know by clicking here. Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we might grab a coffee, cheers. Jim – O’C&K

Why Business Networking is the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread


If you’ve been in business for as long as Aidan and myself have individually, you’ll remember the period when a lot of marketing was word-of-mouth through business networking backed up by some element of traditional advertising.

The basic tenet of marketing has not changed but needless to say technology has influenced how we can be smarter about our marketing activity. Attending events that provide an opportunity to network, however, is still an important element of growing your business and, we would argue, still the best thing since sliced bread.

This is indeed good news if you find it easy to build relationships through networking but unfortunately not everybody does. We’ll outline some tips throughout this post to help those with the fear and to refresh those who haven’t.

If business networking is not a problem for you, great, but I think we all know somebody who absolutely hates the thought of attending face-to-face meet-ups. As an alternative, these people might resort to building lots of connections online – Facebook page likes, Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections etc. and argue that they don’t need to attend offline gatherings.

Unfortunately, this will not help grow their business. The danger is that they might fall into the vanity figures trap. Usually, social media / technology is not the answer to creating meaningful connections unless the relationship is brought offline. In our experience, to rely on online connections is a lost business opportunity as it excludes engaging real people, face-to-face.

Furthermore, if the commonplace belief that people buy from people first, is true then attendance at exhibitions, conferences, expos, networking events etc. is extremely important. Does the thought of this touch a nerve with you and get the hairs on the back of your neck standing up? If so – read on.

Develop habits that will conquer your business networking fears

In a previous blog, here, we proposed 11 good networking habits that will grow your relationships. We also suggested in other posts on networking that attitude and being prepared are the two main routes to getting over the fear about meeting people in business networking scenarios.

The personal hurdle to get over is to understand that you’re not attending to ‘sell yourself’ and not all attendees are going to welcome you with open arms. You should not take this as a personal rejection. It might be simply that both parties have nothing to offer each other.

Here’s my personal tip for business networking – just be yourself. People will always be attracted to authenticity, in others and in businesses.

If it is your first foray into the world of business networking, go to one on the recommendation of a friend or colleague. It might be one where everybody is allocated a table to mingle, or one akin to speed-dating i.e. a 30-second window to say something about your business. Whichever one you choose, do a bit of research before the event. Usually, there will be a list of attendees available by the organiser. Go through the list and see who you would like to meet for a chat.

Here are some habits you might want to develop when networking during events:

  • Single out people standing on their own – usually, they are as nervous as you are
  • If approaching two people look for the ‘V’ formation rather than the closed 1:1 set-up
  • If it is a group of three or more people – avoid the closed ‘O’ formation and look for the open ‘U’ formation
  • If you know somebody in the group – don’t steal them away, use them to introduce you to the others
  • Be friendly, add value to the conversation when appropriate and do not lead with your business card
  • Do not start conversations by talking about your work – keep asking questions

The thing is – for aeons now people have always been doing business on a face-to-face basis – we doubt that the glow of a warm computer screen is going to change that.

What about business networking for start-ups?

SMEs, founders or entrepreneurs, being caught up in the day-to-day operations of a business, can sometimes take a while to realise that building relationships is essential to future growth. You might argue that you don’t have the time or, as outlined above, you just don’t like the thought of it. Unfortunately, everyone has to do some form of networking or will have to be very lucky to grow the business.

We have come across examples where, as a means of networking, start-ups offer to do a service for free. If you can afford to do so initially, you will build word-of-mouth for an area of expertise and might even be able to move on to a barter scenario. This would involve offering some of your expertise (say website building) in exchange for expertise you don’t have (say brand design). Another way would be to agree to promote each other online.

In any of the above roles, the one thing that you will find out for yourself, and if not you should be aware of it – is that you are always networking. Whether with family, friends, colleagues etc. you never know who might be looking for what your business offers.

It’s why I always carry business cards in my wallet, even on holidays (Don’t judge …….).

One caveat here, though, there is no point in making a positive connection if you don’t follow up on your first meeting. Deliver what you promised, or at least acknowledge that you enjoyed meeting.

The more you network the more you build connections

Well, to be honest, more networking may increase your chances of making more relevant connections but the time element required to do so must be factored in. If you haven’t got that time as an entrepreneur or business start-up there are a few other ways of business networking that we would suggest trying:

  • Host your own business networking event – in your offices, in a local bar, a client’s premises etc.
  • Get more active in the community – volunteer at a charity, help with a local event,
  • Collaborate with other business owners / entrepreneurs on a project that requires your skills
  • Introduce yourself to new business entrants in your locality
  • Make sure you list your business in online directories
  • Help local media with content creation in your area of expertise
  • Build referral relationships with local influencers (not politicians)

Tips and Timesavers for Business Networking

The natural approach to increased networking is to attend more events and talk to everybody with a view to making new connections. Quite often we forget that we have a lot of existing connections / relationships already.

When is the last time you looked through your connections on LinkedIn, for instance? Did you connect with them recently? Probably not. The danger is that you’ll only touch base with them – when you need a favour / introduction.

The thing is you never know when you’ll need somebody’s help to make an introduction – so keep in touch.

Here are 10 tips / timesavers that might help you to become a better business networker / to polish up on your networking skills:

  1. Think of the bigger picture – networking is part of your business marketing activity
  2. Almost everybody attends an event to meet new people – make it easy for others
  3. Give something first without expecting anything in return
  4. Only offer your business card after a conversation – or wait until asked for one
  5. Be a bit more inventive than asking “what do you do?” Find a common topic first
  6. Listen carefully to determine what their need is
  7. If you can’t be of assistance, introduce them to somebody that can help them
  8. When you do get around to talking business, let them know your target audience
  9. Be able to describe your business in one sentence that explains a value to be gained
  10. If you promise to do something – let them know when you will follow it up and do it


There are a lot of tips in this article so feel free to record them as a reference. If you are to memorise just four things, though, we would suggest: a) be yourself – don’t attend an event with hidden motives, people will see through them, b) before you ask for something – give something, c) only ask for advice in their area of expertise and not for something they would normally charge for and d) avoid the usual pitfalls e.g. politics, religion or personal details.

Building a network can not only help to grow your business but also to improve it. Embrace the opportunity and have fun in the process.

“Thank you for reading our blog post today” – Aidan & Jim.

 Would you like us to notify you, by email, when we publish new content? If so, just let us know by clicking here. Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we might grab a coffee, cheers. Jim – O’C&K


12 Things You Want To Know About Event Sponsorship


I was chatting recently, with a bunch of my friends, about the array of large sports events on offer this year. There are the Rio Olympics, Euro 2016, the Tour De France, the Cricket Series and the Ryder Cup, to mention but a few. The conversation came around to money which led us, inevitably, on to sponsorship.

Some of you that know my background will appreciate that this topic is one of my favourites.

In fairness, my friends stayed with me as I espoused brand fit and awareness, crowd loyalty and the attitude of rights owners. They know that brand communication is what I do for a living, so they were sympathetic.

As usual, I ended up discussing (arguing) the difference between advertising and sponsorship – even if I knew they were just doing it to get me going.

For the record, guys, of course, both advertising and sponsorship have massive power and they do go hand-in-hand mostly. But, I believe there are different reasons for using them separately.

My discussion prompted me to write this post about sponsorship. I will outline 3 important pre-sponsorship agreement areas to attend to and then list 9 reasons why event sponsorship is effective.


Advertising is perfect (and necessary, we could argue) for establishing a brand and raising awareness. It usually is a campaign so it is for a specific duration with measurable results.

Sponsorship, on the other hand, is usually a long-term commitment between a business and an event. The objective is to build a strong and sustainable relationship with an audience. Preferably the audience should be mutually sought after by the business and the event. With a good partnership, research shows that good event sponsorship can lead to high levels of awareness, recognition and loyalty.

Event sponsorship is best where businesses genuinely have a joint objective, with the rights holder. In essence, it should fit both of their images, values and audiences.

From a sponsor’s point of view, they should be relevant to the nature of the sponsorship (similar attitudes as the audience). They should have some similar demographics e.g. geographical, and should be in it for the long term. As a result, they will have a greater chance of affecting the attitude of their target audience.

As I’ve pointed out in previous posts on sponsorship, changed attitudes can lead to changed behaviour. At the end of the day, with clear marketing communication objectives, a business will be able to decide whether to use advertising, sponsorship or both.

An up-front effort will ensure that you start off on the right foot.

Traditionally there have been seven sponsorship platforms:

  1. Arts & Culture
  2. Broadcast
  3. Cause
  4. Fashion
  5. Film
  6. Music
  7. Sport

You could probably add digital (eGaming), on to that list now. To a certain extent, nearly all of them can be approached in the same way. This is because the most important part of a sponsorship is that the partnership is a win-win-win situation i.e. for the audience, the event owner and you, the sponsor. You getting bang-for-your-buck is, of course, essential if the partnership is to endure.

We would suggest three essential things to do before entering a sponsorship arrangement.

The first one is at the identification stage. You really should undertake research to determine what relevant opportunities are available. Needless to say that there will be many events looking for a sponsor. However, you should only consider those that have the same values, audience and attitude as your brand. We call this, having a good brand fit.

When you have a list of potential prospects, be tenacious when meeting with them by asking pertinent questions. For example, determining the timing and place of the event is important because it must fit your business calendar or portfolio of other sponsorships.

Also, find out if there is a communications / event theme (does it match yours?), is there a marketing budget / team (will you have to do it all?), what is the size of the database (will they get the audience they propose?) and who are the other sponsors / suppliers (any competitors in there?).

The second most important thing is determining if your business audience is the same as the event audience. It’s best to have a narrow focus rather than accepting a general description such as male / female / young / old etc.

The third is, determining what value you will receive for your investment. I do not mean simple branding opportunities here. If you have certain objectives that you want to achieve (speaking opportunities, meetin’ greets, VIP hospitality etc.), make sure all of them are achieved and ignore the distractions of signage / tickets / mentions etc. if not required.

You may or may not be the sponsorship decision maker

If you are a small business and the sponsorship investment is large, the decision may have to go to a Board. In a medium to large business, if you’re not the final decision maker you will have to make the case internally. In either case, the best suggestion we can offer you is to include the results of your research, outlined above.

Your outline should include such items as, brand fit, audience profile, predicted ROI, benefit packages and your personal recommendation. These are the basic necessities and if the decision maker needs more information, at least they’ve shown an interest in pursuing the proposal further. Negotiations with the rights owner can commence.

Outsourcing vs In-house

It might be that you are a business owner and you don’t have time to undertake the research above. Your options would be to outsource the job or employ a sponsorship manager. The difference is usually experience and cost.

From my own background, I am aware that a sponsorship manager wears many hats. These hats can be business development, events manager, marketing, social media or even a CSR expert!

Anyway, whatever ‘hat’ the person is to wear, you should look for as many of the following attributes as possible. If hiring a sponsorship manager they should be / a:

– good negotiator                                                  – proactive but patient

– somewhat creative                                            – self-confident and committed

– great communicator                                         – multi-tasker (team player if relevant)

– good with people                                               – decision-maker

I’m not sure where I read the following quote but it stuck in my mind ever since.

“We hire people based on the skills we are looking for, and we fire them based on the people they are”.

If you are thinking about outsourcing, here are a few questions to consider:

– do I / my team have the time                          – look for experience of sponsorship previously

– do I / my team have the experience              – are they active in the industry and online

– do I have the budget                                        – get specific references from other experts

Tips and Timesavers for Event Sponsorship

More and more marketing communication options are becoming available due to technology. At the same time, the CFOs (or your business partner) are looking for more powerful ways of differentiating your brand from competitors. Whilst you could argue that traditional marketing channels have lost some impact, one option that doesn’t appear to have lost its effectiveness is event sponsorship.

Here are 9 reasons why it’s still a powerful way to achieve business objectives:

  1. Brand awareness and recognition
  2. Targeted marketing (see above)
  3. Brand credibility enhancement
  4. Online / offline media exposure
  5. Lead generation and new business partnerships
  6. Community impact
  7. Sampling / special offers
  8. Data-base / mailing-list usage
  9. Measurable*

*I smile when I think about the traditional ad measurement of ‘opportunities-to-see’ loved by the media so much. This is like counting how many people look at your shop window but don’t go in and buy anything. I mean, what’s the point?

Bad sponsorships have been guilty of measuring the wrong numbers also. Logo exposure, name recall, share-of-voice, anyone? Businesses now realise that these common measurements have no effect on the bottom line. An example of what should be measured would be loyalty, propensity to buy and brand perception.


Event sponsorship is still a powerful marketing communications tool. As a sponsor, however, it is important to have your sponsorship objectives linked to your business objectives. Also, a business benchmark should be agreed prior to the event (Guinness do this by installing pumps in surrounding bars before an event and measuring any increase in sales + pouring rights revenue, of course).

A final heads-up is to be realistic with your target figures. Make sure they are achievable and measurable. If you have business measurement tools in place – include sponsorship in them.

Event sponsorship offers you the privilege of connecting with people and building relationships with them through something that they care about. Get it right, at the start.

“Thank you for reading our blog post today” – Aidan & Jim.

 Would you like us to notify you, by email, when we publish new content? If so, just let us know by clicking here. Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we might grab a coffee, cheers. Jim – O’C&K