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Grow: Mia Wedgbury

Turning your business into a good time Add to ...

Years ago I attended a software user conference. The event attracted thousands of people, and there were long lines for food and free swag.

But the longest line by far could be found outside the building. There conference attendees waited for a chance to get a quick motorcycle riding lesson or go for a spin around the city on the back of a bike, all courtesy of a local motorcycle dealership. It was unexpected and had nothing to do with the event, but it was a big hit. Everyone took photos, and it was a topic of conversation among attendees over the following days.

I was reminded of the incident recently after I hired staff from a local bar to do something fun with our employees. A bartender, who happened to be a friend of mine, dropped by and gave everyone a crash course in how to make the perfect cocktail, and led staff into groups so they could build their own custom drink. Everyone sampled the concoctions and voted on a winner. Everyone had a great time and, for the bar owner, it didn’t hurt that a bunch of twenty- and thirty-somethings now knew about his bar.

There’s a lesson here for small business owners, especially those who offer a product or service that people generally perceive as fun. There could be hidden opportunities for promoting yourself just by tapping into events that companies have for their employees or customers. Coming out of the recession, many are wary about holding “big bang” events and are looking for creative ways to boost morale while keeping costs low. Your business could be the solution they’re looking for.

Start by offering your time or service to someone you already know, then be sure to blog about it, take pictures and get them on your website. Then build on that momentum. Tap deeper into your network and let people know what you can offer them – maybe it’s onsite neck massages, jewellery making, or lessons in home repair – and offer to package into an ongoing program.

Not only will you get free advertising for your brand, people may blog about the experience, take photos, and get conversations started about your brand without your having to do a thing. It doesn’t stop at PR - you may uncover some new customers.

The model doesn’t work for every business, but it’s a safe bet that if people get excited when they hear about what you do, it’s something worth investigating

- Special to The Globe and Mail

Mia Wedgbury is president of the Canadian region for Fleishman-Hillard Canada and its sister company, High Road Communications. She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing award-winning communications agencies. Her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle. She works in partnership with her clients to build brands, mitigate risk and shape communications strategies.

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