How to market your SMB with local events

David Galownia, CEO and president of Slingshot, explains how hosting events at the its Louisville, KY office has helped the software development company reach new customers, strengthen current client relationships, and give back to the community.
Written by Bill Detwiler, Contributor

Marketing can be a challenge for SMBs.

However, hosting and participating in local events can be a create way to promote your business without busting your advertising budget. I spoke with David Galownia, President of Slingshot (a Louisville-based software and product development company), about how they use local events to reach new customers and strengthen current client relationships.

Watch the interview above or read the transcript below.

Bill Detwiler: What are some of the events that you've done so far, and how did you get the word out about them?

David Galownia: In general, we were looking to promote ourselves more. We hadn't typically done a lot of marketing. It's just an easy way to get out there. Events are not incredibly expensive. A lot of events are free, especially if you do talks. A lot of times you'll do a talk, we did a talk, and it was in Cincinnati. They paid for our hotel, our gas mileage, our food. We just showed up and did a presentation. Obviously, there's a lot of time that goes into that, but you can reach people, you can give them your expertise, and you can do it in a non-sales way, and hopefully they see that and they connect with you, and you get some business out of that.

SEE: How to optimize the smart office (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

Bill Detwiler: In terms of planning and hosting the events, would you say that they've been cost effective?

David Galownia: You can put on your own event, which is great, and do that to your own clients, your own connections, and those are really good as well if you're offering a new service, but I think if you're out there already and you want to connect with new people, events are a great way to do it. We did our own event first really early on where it was our existing connections, and that was great because it let people know, "Hey, here's the new stuff we're doing." Then we did other events where...there was an event around town, there was a local Talk Louisville--Tech Louisville, sorry, and they host speaking engagements once a month, and we went to a couple of those, checked those out, and just talked to the organizer and were able to do a talk for them. That was actually a great one because we got a really good lead out of that.

Bill Detwiler: If other small businesses were thinking about using events as a way to promote themselves, what are some of the dos and don'ts?

David Galownia: Stick to what you know is the first thing. Don't try to...(if) you're doing an event, you're doing a talk, don't try to maybe and cater a topic to your audience. You have to to some extent, but you are who you are and people are either going to be interested in that or not, and you don't really want to go outside of what you do. Do not try to make everything perfect the first time. Start small. Go to all these local groups around town. They have monthly meet ups. There's tons of groups that have monthly meet ups. They're relatively small. Those are great ones. Get your foot in the door, go to one of those. Prepare a talk, don't worry about it too much. Stick in your expertise, and you're going to do fine. Then just continue to evolve, and it's going to get better and better over time.

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