What do Chance the Rapper and Kim Kardashian have in common with Cristiano Ronaldo, Michael Jordan, and many of the world's top athletes? They've all been endorsers or spokespersons for brands or causes. While these stars can command fees in the millions, other spokespeople such as authors and industry experts, are often available for a lot less and can be more influential among your target market.

There are many ways to bring star power to your small business. Some celebrities can be seen wearing a brand's apparel line that a brand sent them while others rely on social media and influencers to get their name out to new customers. Depending on the nature of the need, a local celebrity or influencer might even consider doing it for free--if there is a way for the event to benefit that person, too.

Here's one example: It doesn't take a lot for me to support my local bookstore. When the bookstore hosts an author whose work I really enjoy, the event immediately goes on my calendar. There is no reason why an author appearance can't be organized at another place of business, depending on the book's subject matter.

I stumbled upon Journeys of Life, a retailer in Pittsburgh, years ago when interviewing its owner. It does this well, hosting well-known authors such as Don Miguel Ruiz, Jr. and Rachel Pollack.

Browse your local bookseller's local authors section to see if any recently published books make sense. An interior designer's book about new trends in kitchen and bath designs might work for a kitchen and bath showroom. A book on how to develop a better budget might appeal to an accounting firm.

Authors are one option. You also can call on academics, retired athletes, medical experts, local media personalities, among others. Candy shop and restaurant Sugar Factory often relies on star power to drive traffic to its locations throughout the United States. The company even has a page on its website just for celebrity appearances--which is how I found them for this post.

Once you have your celebrity or influencer secured, use traditional and social media to promote their engagement with your business. At a minimum, pitch your celebrity to local news outlets. Make sure current and prospective customers are aware of the event through email blasts or direct mail. Offer a "pre" event to your VIP customers for photo opportunities. Don't forget to schedule a professional photographer and videographer so you can use photos and videos post-event to maximize your time and money investment.

So many factors can determine whether your event with a celebrity is a success but marketing their attendance in advance definitely helps push the odds in your favor. To get a better sense of head count, consider charging a modest event fee and have people RSVP in advance to secure their spot. People will be more likely to show up if they've already invested money for a ticket. 

The goal for hiring a celebrity is to draw customer attention. A secondary goal is media attention--introducing your business to a new audience can drive traffic and draw a buzz. Don't forget to send follow-up pitches after the event, especially if you have great images to share with the media. 

While star power can be great for any businesses, there is some attention that you don't want. Athletes who have been hit with negative press for their actions, actors who have taken a stand on an issue that runs counter to what your business supports, or individuals who just aren't really into your brand, can attract the wrong kind of attention and hurt your business.

Consider what kind of person or personality you feel would be a good fit and do your due diligence. Realize that as much as you feel you're prepared now, something may happen in the future that could cast your business in a negative light. Some red flags to consider are what kind of trouble has this person gotten into in the past and could they potentially say something on your company's behalf that would shed a negative light on your business?

Channeling star power to a business is a double-edged sword. The traffic, attention, and awareness to your company can be significant. However, you also run the risk of being at the wrong place at the wrong time if your celebrity finds herself in a tricky predicament.

As with any partnership, research as much as possible in advance and make sure both you and your celebrity know what to expect from the relationship.

Published on: Jun 26, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.