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  • How Events Get Customers In Your Door

    Sarah’s bookstore hummed as customers milled about, chatting with each other.

    Nearby store owners complained about the economy, and competition from big box stores. They closed at 5:00 pm on Wednesday & Thursday nights, because of slow traffic.

    But Sarah’s store was open late, filled with customers those two nights of the week. She seemed to have a secret formula that kept her store thriving.

    Events are the secret formula
    Events give shoppers a reason to visit. If you don’t give them a reason, shoppers may intend to visit, but put it off. Or they may never have been to your store before. An event gives them a reason to check it out for the first time.

    What’s Sarah’s secret?
    Sarah knows that events are the key to getting customers in the door, predictably and reliably. She knows that two nights a week in-store events draw a store full of customers inside. Customers that are happy to tell other people about their experience.

    Why is Sarah’s store busier than the others?
    Every week Sarah hosts a writer’s group and a book club. Each event draws 15-20 people. Most of those customers are regulars, but occasionally they bring new friends with them.

    You can learn to use Sarah’s secret in your store
    There are three steps to creating events that get customers in the door:
    1) Decide on a goal for the event
    2) Create the event
    3) Invite guests

    1) Decide on a goal for the event
    What do you want to accomplish with the event? Events are about customer relationships. Set goals that relate to building those relationships, and getting shoppers into the store.

    Your goal might be to attract new customers to the store. It could be to get customers to sign up for a series of workshops. Or it might be to build relationships with your VIP or best customers.

    Set goals that are specific. For example:

    • • If your slowest day of the week is Monday, plan to bring in 5 new customers every Monday
    • • If the store is dead in the middle of the day, create events to bring in shoppers midday
    • • Increase visits by regular customers from occasional to weekly

    Once you know what you want to achieve with the event, the next step is to plan the event itself.

    2) Create the event
    The events you run should relate to your customer needs. Create an event that helps your customer learn or do something.

    The event you choose will depend on the type of product you sell. Ideas could be book club meetings for a book store, running club for an athletic shoe store, or style and fit workshops for a women’s apparel store. Events can be free or paid. They can include clubs, classes and workshops.

    Whatever event you choose needs to add value for your customer. To help you come up with event ideas, ask yourself:

    • • What kind of questions do customers ask about using your products?
    • • What do they need help with?
    • • What kinds of problems do they have that you can solve?

    By helping your customers learn, they come to see you as an expert to turn to for information and advice. That is the value that will keep customers coming back to you, instead of the competition.

    Now that you’ve figured out what kind of event you will have, let’s move on to the next step.

    3) Invite guests
    Don’t make the mistake of trying to make the event a big, mass media event. Or printing up hundreds of cheap flyers.

    These events are about building relationships, so the invitations need to reflect that. Make it personal, like you would if you invited them to your home. Customers want to feel special like your friends do. Invite guests when they are in your store. Hand them invitations. Email invitations to customers you haven’t seen in a while. Put an invitation on your blog. Link it to all your social media; facebook page, twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

    Consider making the event exclusive to make it more desirable. Sarah’s writers group was exclusive. Only writers allowed. You can make events even more exclusive by asking for RSVPs, or charging a fee. Make sure the RSVP or fee information is clearly communicated in the invitation.

    Once you’ve gone through these three steps, you’re ready to host your event.

    What if no one buys anything?
    This is a fear for many retailers. Hosting an event takes time, planning, and money. With all that investment, what if there are no sales?

    The truth is, you may not sell anything. If the main goal of your event is to get new customers, you probably will sell very little. The event just gets the shoppers in the door. It’s like a first date. The shopper is just getting to know you. It’s a chance for you to start building a relationship.

    In Sarah’s case, she often had nights that went by without sales at the event, but she wasn’t worried. These people were some of her best customers. They were book lovers. By visiting her store every week, they would see what was new on the shelves. They would place special orders. They’d come in throughout the week to pick up something they’d seen during the book club meeting. And they told their friends about the bookstore.

    Sarah was happy to invest two nights a week hosting events. She knew they generated more business than an expensive advertising campaign would. And other than her time, the costs were minimal.

    Summary
    To create Sarah’s secret to get customers in the door, use these three steps:

    1) Decide on a goal for the event
    Choose a goal that is related to building customer relationships.
    2) Create the event
    Plan events that meets customer needs.
    3) Invite guests
    Create invitations that are personal and build relationships.

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