Free candy – people love it. If you ever made the mistake of opening a pack of sweets in elementary school, and proceeded to have all your classmates descend on you like a flock of ravenous seagulls, then you would likely know this (of course I own this mug).
So then, have you ever considered leveraging this sugary, instant popularity booster for business purposes? I have, and it’s been one of my most successful promotional stunts to date. Allow me to set the scene…
Two years ago, I attended the Canadian Music Week conference in Toronto for the first time (this was where I first came up with the idea for Pop of Colour!). During the five days I was there, it seemed like every flat surface in an open space (and in the occasional washroom) was covered with business cards, logo stickers, and brochures. Conference delegates – bands, producers, business people – would leave their paper advertisements all over the hotel, with various calls to action (go to my showcase! book my sound services! try my new music tech software!) for other delegates to take.
I am happy to report that the ones that got the most attention were those that provided value to potential fans/clients – whether it be a free digital song download, a discount off services, or simply stickers with a cool design. I was inspired, and determined to come up with something of value for the next time I attended this conferences.
Flash forward 12 or so months. I photocopied 40 brochures at a big box office supply store. Titled “Networking Tips For Shy People,” I figured it was mainly delegates who were too nervous to jump into a conversation with strangers who would be the ones sitting in the hotel lounge area, reading brochures found on tables.
Each of my little brochures contained a motivational pep talk, a bullet point list of tips, a link to my blog, and two lollipops in my signature colour (turquoise). The pages with the free candy featured the text “share a lollipop… and make a new connection!” These brochures with free candy were a hit, and I will now present to you four general guidelines to acquiring sweet bribes for your networking purposes.
Aim for individually packaged sweets.
After coming home with my pillowcase full of Halloween bounty, I remember having to lay it all out on the dining room table for my parents to inspect. If anything was homemade or unwrapped, there was a possibility that it could have been tampered with (whether by teenaged pranksters with ghost-pepper sauce, or much more sinister possibilities), and it would get thrown out – just in case.
The same guidelines most North American parents use after their kid brings home candy from strangers apply at big events too (just think of the number of accidental drug overdoses at music festivals every year). If someone doesn’t immediately know that your candy is sealed, sanitary and safe, they’ll probably turn it down.
Avoid common allergens.
Obviously, you can’t please everyone when it comes to your free candy offerings (#ChoosingBeggars). But do use your common sense and avoid chocolate covered peanuts, for example. You don’t want to be known as that conference delegate who poisons people (even if it was by accident)!
** READ NEXT: The Musician’s Networking Event Cheat Sheet**
Buy in bulk.
You’ll need to amass lots of candy (and hopefully not eat it all yourself before the event). Even if the individual price is low, prices from full-sized treats at the local corner store or dollar-mart add up quickly.
An option to cut down on costs is to hit up all your drugstores a few days after a big holiday (Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween, Christmas…) and empty their clearance shelf. This can work if the candies are in large value packs, and not specifically tied to a holiday – handing out candy canes in March is a bit of a giveaway).
My best tip, however, is to go to your local party supplies store! Somewhere between the warehouse aisles of costumes, novelty balloons and themed paper napkins lies an oasis of candy in every colour imaginable… at bulk prices.
Use your brand colours to your advantage.
Now that you know where to find candy in any colour you can dream up, you need to decide which to pick. I chose turquoise lollipops, the same colour as my logo. This branded both my brochures, and the people who found them useful.
How, you may ask? Because the consumption of bright blue food colouring leads to bright blue tongues. Anyone who enjoyed my brochures (plus the new friend they found) would be visible from across the conference hall. If you are represent a classier brand, clear candies with colourful ribbons might be a better fit.
There you have it, now go hand out some sweet, sweet bribes!