How Your Small Business Can Make A Big Splash At SXSW This Year

With South by Southwest (SxSW) upon us, technology creators and consumers are preparing to descend on Austin, Texas for a week of innovation and networking. The festival can have a profound business impact for attendees, as small businesses and enterprises alike use SxSW to launch products, interact with prospects and turn heads with well-executed publicity stunts.

As a small business owner, you may be struggling to identify ways to stand out from the crowd. After all, you may not have the resources to create a real life Mario Kart track as Nintendo and Pennzoil did in 2014. However, these four tactics will help your small business gain ground at SxSW by helping you connect with the necessary influencers and move closer to your goals.

Connect In Advancescreen shot 2015 08 31 at 3 41 10 pm1 How Your Small Business Can Make A Big Splash At SXSW

With thousands of attendees gathering at SxSW Interactive each year, small business may be hard pressed to create a short list of key contacts. However, identifying 20-30 connections you hope to make during the conference can pay dividends. Before the event, connect with friends or colleagues also planning to attend and request the names of two people they recommend you meet at the festival. Reach out to these recommended contacts before the festival on LinkedIn. Then, once you connect with these people at the festival, you can ask for their two recommendations and expand your list as you go.

Additionally, SxSW provides “meet ups” in which attendees gather to network with others who share a common interest, ranging from vinyl lovers to search marketers. Identify a few relevant sessions and search for any related conversations through social media and other online forums. Then, join in and identify individuals you would be interested in speaking with further at the conference.

Consider A Partnershipscreen shot 2015 08 31 at 3 41 10 pm1 How Your Small Business Can Make A Big Splash At SXSW

Utilize your connections to partner with other festival goers to make a splash. Some of the most memorable and effective SxSW strategies revolve around partnerships. Consider battery case manufacturer Mophie. In 2015, the company made waves by “rescuing” SxSW goers whose phones were dying by bringing a Mophie power supply to their location. The power supplies were delivered by Saint Bernard puppies, courtesy of the National St. Bernard Foundation. Mophie raised awareness of their product, while festival goers learned of a worthy cause in the National St. Bernard Foundation. And ultimately, the two organizations achieved more than they could have alone.

Identify A Need and Fill It

While part of Mophie’s success resulted from creativity, it primarily earned buzz by identifying a need for festival goers and fulfilling that need. Airbnb found success by following a similar path. Realizing that attendees often need a place to escape the mayhem, grab a coffee and meal, the company opened a hospitality park to offer a respite to any festival goers. The park was open to all attendees and coincided with Airbnb’s mission as an organization: to provide the feeling of “home” in environments around the globe.

Ask yourself how your organization can answer a need for attendees. For example, imagine you operate a cybersecurity startup. You can turn your booth into a free Wi-Fi hotspot leveraging a connection secured by your company. Did you just launch a file sharing system? Offer to let festival goers upload all images and video to a temporary SxSW server and free up more space on their devices. Whatever your product or service your business provides, try to find a creative solution to improve the festival experience for attendees.

Track ROI And Plan For Next Year

screen shot 2015 08 31 at 3 41 10 pm1 How Your Small Business Can Make A Big Splash At SXSWWhile you’re planning how to make the most of SxSW, it’s important to determine what your overall spend will be and to decide now how you will evaluate the success of your plan. This begins by identifying your goals. Are you seeking investors or potential business partners? Maybe you want to walk away with new leads in the pipeline. Whatever your objectives, set quantifiable goals to help you define your success.

After the show, dedicate time to examining what worked and what didn’t. Were your goals met? Did generated revenue outweigh costs? You’ll find it hard to place an ROI value on some intangible elements, such as conversations held. However, this will help you prepare for the following year and decide whether the effort was worth it after all.

Whether you’re attaching a battery pack to a dog’s collar or carrying out your own initiative, remember that even as a small business, you can make a major splash. Begin by researching and connecting with key influencers in advance and consider partnering with colleagues also attending the festival. Then, analyze the needs of a festival goer and how your organization can help meet that need. And when all is said and done, track your ROI and decide whether you should go ahead and buy those tickets for next year.

This article first appeared on CBSPulse