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Author Biography:

Stephanie Taylor Christensen  is a freelance writer who covers personal finance, career, health,and small business news. She is the founder of Indebtedless and Om for Mom prenatal yoga in Columbus, Ohio. Connect with her on Twitter.@STCWriting or www.stephanietaylorchristensen.com



How to Grow from the Road
By Stephanie Taylor Christensen Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Setting up a temporary presence at local’s farmers markets, festivals and trade shows can be an inexpensive way to expand the amount of potential customer’s you can reach—and allow you to revel in a little summer fun while you work!  In fact with the many mobile tools that are now financially and operationally accessible to small business owners, there’s no reason not to hit road as a means to grow your business this summer. Here’s how

Setting up a temporary presence at local’s farmers markets, festivals and trade shows can be an inexpensive way to expand the amount of potential customer’s you can reach—and allow you to revel in a little summer  fun while you work!  In fact with the many mobile tools that are now financially and operationally accessible to small business owners, there’s no reason not to hit road as a means to grow your business this summer. Here’s how.

Tell the world your travel plans. Social media is the perfect marketing tool when you’re conducting business from the road: Impact is immediate, inexpensive—and it can be highly targeted. Tell the customers you have—and want to reach—about your travel plans with an interesting blog “travel” journal that chronicles the events at which you’ll exhibit, why you choose to have a presence there-- and follows up with some interesting highlights of your experience at each event, both on a personal, and professional level. Not only might your blog entries help to boost your search engine relevance of people searching for the event, it can help boost your own website’s search engine ranking if the event you mention chooses to republish your post—and link back to your site. Think strategically about when, what and how you’ll communicate to generate interesting, relevant and “shareable” content, which may include incorporating videos, photos, contest and discounts.

Make new friends before your event. Social media is all about cross-promotion. When you post text or image updates on social media, include the event’s hashtag (if they have one) and link to their social media account. Hopefully, they’ll also share some of your updates with their audience of followers. When you receive the schedule of fellow exhibitors for an upcoming event, “like” and “follow” them on social media. Send a brief but friendly introduction letting them know that you’ll be at the event, and would love to engage in some mutually beneficial social media exposure.  

 
Ensure that payment is professional. Convincing potential customers that you are a legitimate outfit that sells quality products and honors certain purchase policies in the case of product defects is an additional hurdle to conquer when you sell your goods at events. Though printing your website and phone number clearly on coupons, business cards, customer purchase receipts and shopping bags is one simple way to give customers peace of mind, accepting credit cards can help to overcome their hesitancy. If for some reason they are unhappy with your product, for example, they have the “extra protection” of disputing the charge with their creditor, who will conduct an investigation to determine if a “chargeback” is justified. Some of the more popular mobile payment processors that offer small business owners free and/or inexpensive devices that plug into a smartphone or tablet jack, in addition to apps that function on both Android, and iOS platforms include Square, Intuit GoPayment, and Paypal Here. With any of these payment services, you can swipe and process customer credit card purchases from anywhere, equip multiple staffers manning your booth to do the same, and email customers a receipt on the spot.

 
Because processing fees, service commitments, and the time it takes to receive the money from you credit card sales vary greatly by payment processor, it’s important that you conduct research based on the type and volume of transactions you anticipate. Beyond cost, remember there is great value to having technical support on the road, particularly when you’re doing business at festivals and events held on weekends or evenings; confirm that the payment processor you select offers live customer support during non-traditional business hours, and how it functions in “spotty” wireless connections. 

Strategize powerful giveaways. Investing money in trinkets like pens, stickers and fans can attract visitors to your booth, but most ultimately end up in the garbage. Establish an ROI based on the costs you’ll incur to establish a mobile presence at events, and devise a competitive strategy to make the events worth your while. For example, you might focus on how to make a handful of your best products the star of every show: Provide them in the form of an attractively packaged free sample to capture customer interest--and price them to sell. You may never see many of the customers who snag your product at a steep discount again—but you may also reach a lucrative audience who become your best customers, and loyal brand ambassadors who sing your praises to others.


 
 
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