In-store events are great ways to increase business traffic. Everyone is in a good mood, oftentimes wine and food are offered, and customers are usually in the market to buy. How can you create a dazzling event without breaking the bank?
Here are seven ideas:
1. Start early and go viral
“As soon as you set the date for your event, tell everyone you know,” said Michelle Gower, CEO of Gower Power, a small business consultancy based in Raleigh, N.C. “Start creating teasers on Twitter and Facebook to develop more fans. Make videos about the event and throw them up on YouTube. Link all of those things together to make it viral.
“Develop giveaways and offer prizes in the pre-launch phase to develop interest.”
2. Call a charity
“Partner with a non-profit,” advised Angela Daffron, owner of Daffron Marketing, a small business marketing company based in Los Angeles. “The presence of a non-profit can really drive traffic and you can use their database for invites. Make sure to offer an educational component to your event.
“For example, if you are a wine store, bring in volunteers from a non-profit that promotes drinking responsibly. Or, if you are a women’s boutique, bring in a non-profit to teach about domestic violence. Then donate a portion of your profits to that charity.”
3. Bring in a celebrity
“You don’t have to bring in Cher or Martha Stewart because they will cost a fortune, but it is really easy to find a local celebrity author, for example,” said Shel Horowitz, author of Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green: Winning Strategies to Improve Your Profits and Your Planet (Wiley, 2010). “Or, if you are a boutique, bring in a local stylist who dresses famous people. It is free publicity for them and will bring people into your store.
“Universities are also a great place to find experts and professors usually don’t charge anything.”
4. Offer a deal
“Use the event to offer something incredible to your customers,” Gower advised. “Advertise a huge prize and have people put their names and emails into a bowl to win. Make sure it is a great prize -- something worthwhile. If you are a gym, offer a one-year membership. If you are a boutique, offer a $1,000 shopping spree. You’ll be surprised at how many people come out to your event when the prize is big.
“You can also have a scavenger hunt around the store and the person who wins, gets the prize. That way, you are making people aware of exactly what you want them to buy without being pushy.”
5. Enlist the media
“Make the event newsworthy and then invite the local newspaper, radio and TV station,” said Gower. “If there is a camera and balloons or a radio DJ outside of your store, more people will stop in. It is free advertising. To make it newsworthy, tie the event into the 10th anniversary of your store, or advertise that you will be donating 20 percent of event proceeds to a charity.”
6. Offer a game
“Create a fun trivia game for customers and if they win, give them a prize,” Horowitz said. “Have 10 questions that relate to the things you sell. For example, a female clothing store could ask: what year was silk first brought to the U.S.? Or, when was rayon first used in a garment? This will make the event a lot of fun and interactive."
7. Blog, blog, blog
“Blog like crazy,” Gower said. “Before the event, treat your blog like a diary and write about what happens each day in the course of planning. This will create an organic bond between you and your customer.”
Katie Morell is a Chicago-based freelancer writer specializing in small business concerns.