When you have made the decision to have an in-store event, proper planning and execution is vital. In-store events, specifically where product is given away, need to make sense monetarily for your business and anyone partnering with you.
Your long-term goal for having an event should include seeing a financial return. Even if the event is completely free, you have to find ways to capitalize on the added traffic. After all, that is why we are in business! Any opportunity to market yourself to a new customer is a great one, but these parties also give you an opportunity to show appreciation to your loyal customers. The experience everyone has will determine the word of mouth that travels around.
The first thing we do at our boutique is have a team meeting to come up with our theme. Once we have a theme in mind, we build from there.
Our annual event is our carnival. This is pretty self-explanatory. We create adult-themed game booths that are spin-offs of ordinary carnival games, giving guests the opportunity to win various adult prizes. While most events are education-driven, we believe creating this fun environment helps make guests feel comfortable in our establishment and acts as an icebreaker for when they decide to make purchasing decisions. We know that some guests are terrified of frequenting businesses like ours. We want to do our part to help them feel relaxed and change their perception of adult retail.
Our next step is securing our sponsors. When we consider whom to solicit for support, we always try and factor in the vendors with whom we do copious amounts of business. We also try to allow that partner enough time to plan out whatever may be requested from them. Their product, marketing material, and/or having a physical representative present may take time for them to plan. As much advance notice as possible is always appreciated. Because all vendors and manufacturers do not have the same latitude when offering support, it’s also helpful to offer a tier of sponsorships. This way, there’s room for everyone to have an opportunity to partner with us.
Once we have our theme and partners secured, we can begin to create our advertisements and establish a uniform for the event. We find it helpful for guests to be able to identify who is working so they can ask questions when needed. When you have hundreds of guests at an event, it can be very crowded. This makes it hard to determine who is working and who is partying. Uniformity is also a great touch for group pictures. Make sure you are using logos from your sponsors whenever and wherever possible. We use them in our print ads, social media ads, on our backdrop, and on the event shirt. Little touches like this can go a long way!
Though most of these parties only last a few hours, the successful ones can take months to plan. They may also take weeks to set up! When setting up individual booths, you want to allow as much room as possible around your mini destinations. Sometimes this will result in super-tight spaces for your product and displays. Creating a floor plan in advance will help with this. We try not to remove anything from our sales floor. Instead, we tighten up every department. This process is started two weeks prior to the date of our party. This will ensure that we are set up and ready come event day. This also helps minimize overtime. If you are setting up 24 to 48 hours prior, this will often lead to longer shifts for hourly employees. The biggest bonus to setting up so early is this will help begin creating that buzz. Not only will your guests will begin to ask questions, but it is also a great reminder for your team to get the word out. If your space does not allow you the ability to set up early, you can always begin to decorate a few weeks out. This will create the same results. Anything you can do to lighten the burden of event day should be done.
Once the big day is upon us, we all work together to make sure that we are organized and that the execution is close to flawless. We are all excited and have a great time alongside our guests. Excitement is infectious. When you and your team are having a great time, so will everyone else in attendance! We understand the amount of travel that most of our product representatives do, so we want them to have a great experience too.
This is why it’s important to make sure the experience is memorable for every guest! Make sure to create several photo opportunities for your team and guests so that everyone in attendance can advertise for you. We all know how powerful social networking is, so use this to your advantage. Have a photographer on-site that can capture all those fun moments so that you can use them in advertisements down the road. This is another way to give back to the sponsors and to potentially gain new ones for future events.
There are many event ideas rolling around inside and outside of our industry. Take one and make it your own! If you see someone doing something well, take that idea and elevate it. In our industry, we have “traditional” events like ladies’ nights, couples’ nights, etc. Why not think outside of the box? Much like our carnival, the possibilities of what you can do outside of the norm are endless! Whether you are recreating an event that you have seen done already, or coming up with a unique event, make sure all of the proper planning is done. Lastly, do not be afraid to ask for help. If we all work together, we can accomplish more. Reach out and ask your fellow industry force for advice. Imitation really is a great form of flattery. Instead of considering each other competition, we should see ourselves as allies, working together to change the stigma of our business.
How to Execute a Successful Retail Store Event by Megan Swartz originally appeared in XBIZ