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In-Store Events Open the Doors to New Business Hyper Local Focus Gives Independent Retailers a Competitive Edge

National chains and big box stores have superior marketing muscle, but independent retailers have one unique advantage: they’re insiders. Indies are part of the community and that identity goes a long way toward building new business and retaining customers. One marketing tactic that maximizes your community connection is the in-store event – especially when it has a hyper-local focus. A hyper-local focus can involve anything from showcasing area artists to partnering with a community cause to featuring a local influencer or celebrity at your event.

Doing marketing for a regional leader in retail real estate, I talk with many indies who consistently score big with in-store events. Read on for some ideas I’ve picked up about the good things that happen when you open your doors for a special happening – especially if the focus is hyper-local.

1. Know Your Target Audience
Stick to this basic marketing principle. Know who you want to reach. Is the goal to build your current base or add a new kind of customer? When you have a clear picture of your target, you’ll be able to create an event that will draw them in.

2. Establish Your Event Budget
How many dollars can you devote to promoting and executing your event? Note: a successful event doesn’t have to be lavish. A modest one that’s repeated regularly can deliver results. Real life-examples: a wine store that does a small sampling event every Friday or a cafe that celebrates every “Hump Day” with a free cup for its first 25 customers.

3. Event Ideas with Proven Results

You’ll want to put your own creative stamp on your event, but here are some concepts you can build on:
-Demonstrations and how-to’s (local experts are a plus)
-Mini-classes (how to mix a cocktail, design a centerpiece, pair wine and food)
-Showcase of local artists or craftspeople
-Concert by local musicians
-Causes and charities (be an event host, donate a portion of your sales on a designated day, or serve as a collection point for contributions)

4. Essential Ingredients of Successful Events
Each successful event is unique, but there are some common elements:
-A fun atmosphere – no hard selling
-Free samples
-Coupons for purchases or services
-Door prizes
-Photos and videos for social media
-Data collection: get contact information from your guests for future promotions

5. Promoting Your Event
Even the best planned event can’t succeed if no one knows about it. Include these proven tactics (both high-tech and low-tech) in your promotional plan:
-Facebook invitation with RSVP
-Boosted Facebook posts
-Instagram and Pinterest posts
-Banners, balloons, and signage
-Email outreach (especially if you want to build on your current base)
-Special invitations (phone calls or post cards to top customers)
-Local media – including your local online platforms. Events connected with
community causes tend to attract media coverage.
-Facebook Livestream: demonstrations and how-to’s are ideal for streaming.

6. Following Up on Your Event
The event isn’t over when the door closes. Continue the momentum with:
-Social media posts featuring your videos and photos
-Thank you emails to attendees (include a coupon)
-Local media: send images of your successful event to print and online outlets – having a local “name” present will help get placements.

The holiday shopping season is just around the corner. That’s a perfect time to stage an in-store event. Think about connecting to a community cause or tapping into special holiday concerns: decorating, fashion and beauty, entertaining, or maybe just how to shed stress (free chair massages or chocolates, anyone?) For more hints on staging in-store events, you might want to check out these two articles: