A guide to local marketing: 10 offline marketing strategies to leverage events near you

10 minutes

From vibrant fairs and electrifying concerts to adrenaline-pumping sports events and bustling trade shows, the event marketing landscape is ripe with possibilities for small businesses to make their mark. 

In this article, we’ll explore ten ways small businesses can leverage events to:

  • increase foot traffic
  • boost brand awareness
  • ultimately drive sales

Whether you’re a boutique shop, a cosy cafe or a burgeoning startup, opportunities abound when it comes to events and the local marketing surrounding them. 

What is local marketing? 

Local marketing is the strategic process of promoting your business within a specific geographic area, typically near your physical shop or service location. 

Unlike broad-scale marketing aimed at global or national audiences, local marketing targets individuals within your immediate community—whether it’s locals or visitors passing by your brick-and-mortar shop. When marketing locally, you’re not aiming to be the talk of the town in Tokyo or London. You’re focused on becoming the go-to spot for people just around the corner. 

It’s about being right there when they need you, whether it’s for a quick coffee fix or a last-minute gift. 

Why is local marketing important to small businesses during events?

Local marketing during events is a game changer for small businesses:

  • Increased foot traffic: Engage in local event marketing activities to attract more people to your shop, increasing foot traffic and potential customers.
  • Competitive edge: By focusing on a local marketing strategy for an event, small businesses differentiate themselves from larger competitors and stand out from the crowd.
  • Opportunities for partnerships: Events provide a prime opportunity for small businesses to collaborate with other local vendors or organisations, expanding their reach within the community by creating mutually beneficial partnerships.
  • Sales boost: With increased visibility and community engagement, local event marketing efforts can boost sales and revenue for small businesses, capitalising on the heightened interest and enthusiasm of event attendees.

Small businesses should keep an eye out for upcoming events in their area and adapt their marketing strategies accordingly. Ramp up local marketing efforts before, during and immediately after the event. Who knows, some visitors might decide to extend their stay for an extra day to explore the city before heading home.

10 offline marketing strategies to increase foot traffic during large and small events

Jump to:

Local marketing strategies for large events 

With large, well-known events drawing in crowds by the thousands, it can feel like an uphill battle for small businesses operating on a limited budget to secure direct collaborations. Often, the cost of such partnerships is prohibitive, and event organisers tend to favour larger corporations for sponsorship opportunities.

But fear not, small business owners! While the spotlight may seem reserved for the big players, there are still plenty of local marketing strategies you can leverage to make your mark at these events. 

Note: The following local event marketing strategies are equally effective for smaller-scale events, too. So, feel free to borrow them for upcoming events of any size! 

1. Stream the event at your venue

Streaming the event at your venue is a winning offline marketing strategy, especially for televised sports events. 

Tip

If you’re a pub or bar seeking to seize the moment during major sporting spectacles like the European Championships or the Olympics, consider this game-changing move. Invite fans who missed out on securing tickets to revel in the excitement while enjoying drinks and devouring your restaurant’s delicacies.

People watching a football match at a bar

A bar streaming a football match. Source: via Depositphotos

But here’s the best bit: this strategy isn’t limited to sports events alone. A similar approach can prove to be equally effective during music festivals, events like Eurovision, festivals and concerts. Even though most music events don’t get televised, unless it’s a once-in-a-lifetime show from a huge celebrity or, well, Eurovision, you can still make your venue a mecca for the fans.

Here are a few ideas on how you can promote your small business to music fans and boost your financial results: 

  • Launch a series of karaoke nights, whether a single event or a recurring feature, spotlighting the artist’s iconic songs. It serves as a spirited warm-up before the concert or a nostalgic session right after the event wraps up.
  • Dive into the artist’s legacy with a dedicated trivia night, tailor-made for die-hard fans. This gem of an idea truly shines when the artist boasts an active and expansive fanbase. Think Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, Harry Styles, The Weeknd and beyond.
  • Add an extra dimension to the festivities by screening films the artists may have been in or the festival’s highlights. It’s a cinematic touch that elevates the overall experience for attendees.

2. Develop an event-themed selection of goods you offer

This offline marketing strategy is particularly great for small businesses in the restaurant or broader hospitality industry. 

Connect your business to the event and attract event attendees with special offers like:

  • Add event-themed specials to your menu for a limited time. Give attendees a taste of something unique to the occasion.
  • Create dining experiences that cater to event attendees’ preferences. Whether it’s quick bites for those on the go or leisurely meals for those looking to relax, tailor your offerings accordingly.
  • Decorate to match the event and make your business social media-worthy. 
A menu with event-themed specials

A menu with an event-themed special. Source: via VistaPrint

Even if your small business doesn’t fall into the realm of eateries or bars, there’s room to seize the event’s potential. Consider broadening your product range with limited-time offers tailored to the event to maximise your impact. 

The easiest way is to assemble event-specific bundles like ‘Essentials for your X EVENT experience’. For example, bundle up hats, sun cream, fans and other must-haves for an outdoor summer event to beat the heat and enhance the event attendees’ experience.

3. Offer discounts for event attendees 

If your small business happens to snag a spot right at the entrance of the event venue, consider yourself in luck. With convenience on your side, you won’t need to break a sweat trying to stand out from competitors to attract new customers. They’ll naturally gravitate towards you, drawn by the sheer ease of access.

But what if you’re not blessed with such a prime spot? Don’t give up just yet. With a little ingenuity, you can still capture the attention of event attendees and entice them to seek out your business.

Dare to be different. Set yourself apart from the competition and pique the interest of potential customers among the event crowd. Offer exclusive discounts tailored for event attendees to capitalise on the surge of visitors flooding the area.

A special discount for event attendees

A special discount for event attendees. Source: via VistaPrint

A real-life example of this local event marketing strategy in action…

At WebSummit, an annual IT conference that draws over 75 thousand attendees to Lisbon, Portugal, businesses big and small kick into high gear, all eager to lure in as many visitors as possible. Confident in the payoff despite slashing prices, these savvy establishments roll out the red carpet with enticing discounts and special offers exclusively for event attendees.

In 2023, Sephora, conveniently located near the event venue, made a splash by extending a generous 30% discount on selected items to anyone flashing their event pass. This irresistible deal not only attracted crowds of shoppers but also transformed Sephora into a hotspot for event-goers looking to indulge in a bit of retail therapy amidst the conference chaos.

Meanwhile, bars and restaurants across the city geared up for the post-event party scene, ready to keep the good times rolling long after the WebSummit Night party had wrapped up. Anticipating the influx of professionals keen on unwinding and networking, they cooked up special packages tailored for large groups, ensuring every attendee had a night to remember.

4. Sticker bombing near the event venue

Looking for a cost-effective yet incredibly potent method to elevate your small business’s brand awareness and drive more foot traffic to your brick-and-mortar shop? 

Enter sticker bombing

By creating eye-catching stickers adorned with your brand’s logo or message (don’t forget to generate a QR code and include it in your sticker design for easy access to additional information), you can strategically hand them out around the event venue, ensuring that your brand gets noticed by attendees. 

Grabb app sticker on a window

A sticker promoting an app. Source: by harles . via 99designs by Vista

It’s a simple yet powerful tactic that leaves a lasting impression and generates buzz around your small business.

Print custom stickers with VistaPrint

5. Posters around the area

Sometimes, the classics are classics for a reason. Enter the good old poster — an offline marketing strategy staple that never goes out of style. Create a visually striking poster and hang copies all over the streets surrounding the event venue. But make sure you comply with local regulations and seek permission from the local authority or property owner if necessary!

A food delivery service poster

A food delivery service poster design. Source: by Jose Antonio Varela via 99designs by Vista

A poster promoting a restaurant

Promotional poster design for a restaurant. Source: by rendydjox via 99designs by Vista

Print custom posters that make a difference with VistaPrint

6. Guerrilla marketing tactics close to the location

When it comes to making a splash in the realm of local marketing, sometimes it pays to think outside the box. With limited funds but unlimited creativity, make waves using guerrilla marketing tactics — a bold and unconventional approach that thrives on creativity and surprise. 

  • Human billboards: Hire individuals to wear sandwich boards or costumes promoting your business near the event venue. Make it attention-grabbing and interactive to encourage engagement.
  • Fake celebrity sightings: Stage fake celebrity sightings near the venue, with actors dressed as popular athletes or sports personalities interacting with the crowd and promoting your brand.
  • Urban art installations: Create temporary art installations or sculptures related to the event theme and subtly incorporate your brand message. Think creatively to spark conversation and intrigue among passers-by.
  • Ambush marketing stunts: Execute daring ambush marketing stunts that play off the event’s hype without directly associating with it. 

Beware, though. Get creative and be tactful in order to sidestep any legal hurdles while still making a big impact. After all, you wouldn’t want to find yourself in Vodafone’s shoes, where a guerrilla marketing campaign turned sour.

Back in 2002, Vodafone rolled out a guerrilla marketing campaign that aimed to make a splash but ended up falling flat. The unconventional tactic? Two streakers racing across a rugby pitch during the Bledisloe Cup decider match in Sydney, Australia, with ‘Vodafone’ boldly written on their bare bodies. Eek. 

But, there are positive examples, too. 

A real-life example of this local marketing strategy in action

During an SXSW event, the creators of the Good Omens series orchestrated a stellar guerrilla marketing campaign. Characters from the show roamed the streets, engaging in lively performances and interactions. This immersive experience captivated festival-goers and sparked anticipation ahead of the series release.

Local marketing for events on the smaller side

While big events often attract the most new customers for small businesses, you don’t have to sit around waiting for the next Olympics or Taylor Swift concert near you. Small-scale events offer ample opportunity for experimentation with local marketing strategies. Sometimes these smaller events can be just as, if not more, lucrative in terms of revenue generated.

7. Partner with or sponsor the event

Team up with smaller events by becoming a sponsor. Whether it’s offering financial support or providing goods and services, sponsoring events gives small businesses valuable exposure to attendees. It’s a straightforward way to boost local visibility and build positive associations with your brand.

8. Set up a stand at the event and give away branded swag

Secure a spot at the event by setting up a stand. This direct presence allows small businesses to engage with attendees face-to-face, showcasing products or services and forging personal connections. 

Besides, if you set up a stand at the event, you can give away branded merchandise, like custom pens, keyrings or tote bags. By doing that, you provide leads with a tangible memory of your brand, increasing the likelihood of them remembering and engaging with your business in the future.

Branded swag at an event

Branded swag at an event. Source: via VistaPrint

9. Host an interactive experience or a pop-up at the venue 

Elevate your presence at the venue by hosting an interactive experience or pop-up. These engaging activities don’t have to break the bank for small businesses. Here are a few budget-friendly ideas:

  • DIY workshops: Offer simple DIY workshops related to your products or services. For example, if you run a craft business, host a workshop where attendees can create their own personalised keyrings or greetings cards.
  • Photo booths: Set up a photo booth with props and backdrops that align with your brand. Encourage attendees to snap fun photos and share them on social media, spreading awareness of your business online.
  • Interactive games: Create simple interactive games or challenges related to your business. For instance, if you own a fitness studio, set up a mini obstacle course or fitness challenge for attendees to participate in.

10. Send direct mail to event attendees

Don’t miss the chance to connect with event attendees directly through targeted mail campaigns. Craft personalised messages that resonate with recipients — offer exclusive promotions or discounts to entice them to visit your business post-event. Make your post stand out with eye-catching design elements and compelling content that highlights the value of engaging with your brand. 

Direct mail box

Direct mail box design. Source: by Cheeky Creative via 99designs by Vista

Bridge the gap between offline and online local marketing 

In the fast-paced world of local marketing during events, merging traditional offline tactics with digital ones is key for small businesses to shine. By combining direct mail and interactive experiences with PPC advertising and social media, you’re not just engaging with event attendees — you’re dominating the local scene. 

It’s the perfect recipe to make your mark and reap the rewards of offline marketing strategies during events both big and small.