Engage and respond

What tactics should your event staff employ to catch the interest of your target audience?

A woman tries to stop me in the street. “Can I ask you a question?” she asks. “No,” I reply, and she stares in my direction, mouth open, aghast, disheartened. What makes me chuckle is her look of disgust – I mean, how dare I answer “no” when asked a question that simply calls for a yes or no response.

It’s a common scenario – one we’re all too familiar with. But closed question syndrome is not a useful tool in a marketer’s kitbag. Or is it?

According to Jon Clements, director of TrialBites, brand ambassadors should be encouraged to avoid the “yes or no question”, as an initial approach, unless an organisation is looking to engage with a specific group of people. It’s the most basic form of question but one that sifts out those that do not qualify.

“Sometimes a ‘no’ answer can be useful, as it can then be used as a lead into the next question,” he says. “But generally the yes/no question should be avoided as the first interaction. The majority of the British population does not like being stopped. By offering them the chance to say ‘no’, it’s an easy option and for them a good reason to end any interaction.

“A better, and our preferred, approach would be to ask questions that require a more thought provoking answer. For example, “hello Madam, what is your favourite pizza topping?’ Answers to questions like these show the consumers’ preference and open the way to further interaction.

“I feel the problem often lies with the agencies rather than the promotional staff. All too often you see staff out on jobs with little or no training on product information or customer approach. The yes/no scenario could easily be ironed out before any customer interaction with a little planning and a proper briefing.”

As Clements suggests, successful engagement with your target audience lies with your event staff – but how can and how should brand ambassadors overcome the problem that is “I haven’t got time to stop”.

Identify your target

Coral faced a lack of loyalty on the High Street. To get consumers coming back and at the same time steal fickle punters from its competitors, iD Experiential created the “Run4It” campaign – essentially, 72 brand ambassadors dressed as robbers in traditional stripey jumpers and swag bags across the country. They were based outside competitor bookies in close proximity to Coral and literally approached punters, offered them a loyalty card with a guaranteed prize and took them down the street to Coral. The campaign employed humour, engaged the “punters” in an usual manner and incentivised its target audience.

Yet if we look towards human behaviour research, as Phil Edelston, co-founder of Mash Marketing, suggests, we find that 90 per cent of our communication can be attributed to body language, 50 per cent of first impression is attributed to appearance, 7-10 per cent of a message communication is attributed to the actual words and 40 per cent is based on voice and speech quality. Other key elements include demeanour, eye contact and mannerisms.

Edelston said: “In any instance where you are approaching somebody you are inevitably going to have the situation where you are effectively asking them to stop and take a moment out of their day. In a world of time-sensitive people where everything needs to be done yesterday this is no easy task. We train our staff and ensure that they understand the fundamental fact that human beings make their minds up on average within three seconds of meeting you. Considering we are stopping people in the street you can probably reduce this down to two seconds.”

Positive experience

Active Members is NHS Warwickshire’s new membership group aimed at getting views on local health services. It created a marketing campaign to gather feedback from the local community, contracting Beautiful Minds Promotions to provide survey squads that would hit the streets in Leamington Spa, Warwick, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Rugby, Nuneaton and Bedworth.

Particular attention was paid to selecting the right people for this role, explained Lisa Hanson, director of Beautiful Minds, as it takes a skilled person to be able to approach and engage with members of the public and quickly get over the “don’t stop me” mentality.

“Sometimes there is no way of getting around this view because people are unwilling to take part or just don’t have the time, especially around commuter times. But our staff are very experienced in this type of work and have ways to get the best out of these types of situations.

“The first way we address this is to brief the staff that if the person does not want to take part then we must let them get on with their day as quickly as possible as not to pass on a negative experience. It is important to create a positive interaction at all times so that even if a survey has not been conducted that person has had an amicable meeting,” continued Hanson.

“Staff should be polite, well spoken, clearly understandable, confident, cheery and friendly, and have a big smile. Surveyors need to have a keen interest in the subject and should be able to answer all questions fired at them. Incentives and freebies are very important. Getting people to stop is a lot easier when there is a tangible reason to stop. Finding people in queues (bus stop/station/etc) is a great way of finding people to take part, as the public is more likely to participate if the task will pass the time. Creating the feeling that the person doesn’t have to stop is a good way of making the person feel at ease and even empathising with the public – “I have a survey I must complete today, will you help me?” – works too.

“Our staff realise that it is a numbers game. Standing still and asking, ‘Can I ask you a few questions?’ is going to get very limited results. We make sure our staff are briefed fully so they have all of the answers if questioned. A selection of the above works well but the key is identifying someone who is not willing to take part and moving on. On popular streets at busy times there is a wealth of people to ask so moving quickly is key to attaining good figures.”

Eyeing the target

Having completed a successful campaign for Vision Express in June 2009, Beautiful Minds is set once again to work with the eye specialist in 2010 – last year saw the Midlands-based company provide members of staff to Vision Express stores, wearing the promotional eyeball heads to accompany the TV campaign created by Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy. Using energetic, proactive and gregarious staff with an excellent sense of humour. created a buzz around the store. And there’s no denying the amount of intrigue generated by the clients choice of promotional clothing.

Continued Hanson: “We always match the staff to job in hand and a lot of thought goes into the type of person we put forward to our clients. Knowing our staff inside and out allows us to know instantly which staff would be suitable for a job when it comes into the office. More importantly we know what our staff aren’t capable of, ruling them out as well. Finding the typical member of staff for the stereotypical role works the majority of the time. It is easy to assume that a certain demographic will fit with the target audience the client is aiming their product or service at. However what is more important is knowing individual staff’s strengths and weaknesses. For example, for a hostess on a busy exhibition stand – age is irrelevant. Staff who look immaculate, have good life experience and who can talk to anyone and everyone are more suited.”