Hosting store events can be one of the most valuable tools you have for generating interest, and revenue. Not only are you increasing foot traffic, you are also forming meaningful relationships with people in your community. I’ve hosted store events for only a few people and educational lectures for more than 500 people. It’s not always about the quantity of attendees, but the quality of information, or service, you are providing them.
You can host an event every year, every month, or every week—whatever works best for you and your staff. Regardless of the frequency, store events don’t have to break the bank. While large events such as anniversary sales and customer appreciation days can attract a high volume of people, you want to keep them coming back. Offering smaller and more frequent events will keep your store in the forefront of your customers’ mind. Check around and see if book clubs, special interest groups (volunteer committees, veterans associations, health-specific support groups), or fitness classes are looking for a space. You’d be surprised at how many of these organizations need a place to have their weekly or monthly get-togethers. Do you have a local author you could ask to come and do a book reading? Is there a talented musician in the area? If you have the room, bring them in!
Inviting people that are well known and beloved in your community is a form of free advertising in itself. Reach out to local chiropractors, nurses, integrative doctors and veterinarians, and listen to your customers’ personal recommendations. Let your customers help spread awareness for the event by having someone with whom they identify and respect.
Bringing in a trusted speaker can help create a loyal following, but “health superstar” guest speakers can be out of the budget. An alternative is to have one of your staff members present a subject that is close to their heart, and one in which they are well informed. In my visits to retail stores, I’ve been very impressed by the passion and knowledge of these presentations. I’ve also provided staff education prior to a speaking event, so the staff feels more comfortable interacting with the customers after the presentation. If you have a guest speaker coming, see if they can arrive a little early to give your staff an overview and address questions that are likely to be asked.
No matter what type of event you’re having, hold the event in your store to help captivate your audience. You want to provide them with a setting that is most conducive to learning about natural ingredients or services, and then be able to find those products easily after the event. If you hold an event at a larger venue, you should consider bringing relevant products that are available to purchase afterward. You can also give customers coupons for a percent off on their next visit to your store. As the saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind,” so keep them engaged with an incentive to visit your store after the event is over.
I’ve never been a huge advocate of discounting because I think it undervalues the knowledge employees and storeowners bring to the table. However, when customers take time out of their busy schedules to visit your store during a time that may be inconvenient for them, I think discounting can be useful. Keep in mind that discounting should always play to your advantage. Is it more beneficial for you to offer a “buy one, get one,” or a set percentage off a certain product, product category, or company? Be creative with your discounting and think about your customers’ specific needs. What is holding them back from trying your top products? Do they need more education, or do they need a lower introductory price?
If you decide not to offer discounts to attendees, consider a raffle for a gift basket or care package. It’s pretty easy to do: everyone who attends your event receives a ticket, or writes down their name to be entered in a drawing. You might be surprised at how much excitement these contests generate. They create a fun atmosphere for your customers who, in turn, share that response with others. And don’t be afraid to promote it. The more enthusiasm and anticipation you create prior to the event, the more likely you are to surpass even your own expectations!
Spread the Word
Aside from word-of-mouth, how do you spread the news that you’re having an event? Deciding to host an event is one thing, but amplifying awareness can prove a difficult obstacle. I love doing in-store advertising, such as hanging flyers two to three months in advance. Display shelf-talkers and keep printed handouts with the event details at registers (they are great to place in every bag that leaves your store), and have a large event calendar somewhere easily visible in the store. Sending a weekly or monthly newsletter is an easy and effective way to keep your customers up to date on what’s happening in the store. It’s hard not to mention social media as an excellent resource for advertising your event. The great thing about social media is just about everyone uses it, regardless of age. Creating an event on Facebook and running an advertising campaign can help you capture your target market and increase attendance. You might want to contact your local newspapers and radio and television stations, as they often will publicize community events free of charge. For large events, you could consider placing ads in the local media.
Time of year can also affect the turnout for your store event. Living in Wisconsin, we have a tremendous variation in our seasons. Our store events generally have the biggest crowd in the spring and fall. Many people are incredibly busy during the summer, and hardly have time to come in the store, let alone attend an event. Similarly, a lot of our customers may not venture out in the dead of winter, when the temperatures dip below zero. So be mindful of the seasons and your customers’ availability.
Lastly, if you do not offer a large selection of fresh produce in your store, hosting a weekly farmers market is a great option. We have a local farmer that comes to our store throughout the year. He brings beautiful organic produce, cheese, meat, and other items that can be hard to find in traditional grocery stores. Most of the items grown by the farmer are not available in our store, so this helps to attract another category of customer that may not have previously shopped with us. The Farmers Market would also be a great time to feature an expert on GMOs and the health risks they pose.
We need to keep reinforcing consistent health messages, how to improve people’s quality of life, and give them access to the products and services they need.
Here are the key tips to make every event a huge success:
• You want to become a destination for your customers—become their one-stop shop!
• Utilize experts in your area. This will help strengthen meaningful relationships between you, your customers and the community.
• An educated community will gravitate to the right products and will see your store as a provider of life-changing information and products.
• During events, offer a snack or coffee and be sure to feature food or beverage items you carry in the store.
• Remember who your target audience is and advertise accordingly Reaching millennials and the younger generations is probably best done through social media.
• Low-budget advertising can include a local newspaper, weekly shopper, store newsletters, and hanging flyers at local businesses or schools.
• If you have room, invite a book club, volunteer committee, or health-specific support group to hold meetings in your store.
• Have a large store calendar near the entrance or somewhere it is easily visible to everyone.
• Keep handouts with information about upcoming events at all registers—place them in every bag that leaves your store.
• Host as many events as you can, and make them meaningful! VR
A highly regarded leader in the natural products industry, Terry Lemerond is founder and president of EuroPharma, Inc. He also founded Enzymatic Therapy, Inc. and PhytoPharmica, Inc. and is currently co-owner of the Terry Naturally Health Food Store in Green Bay, WI, which recently won its sixth consecutive consumer choice award as “Best of the Bay.” With more than 40 years in the natural products industry, Lemerond has researched and developed more than 400 nutritional and botanical formulations that continue to be top-selling products in the market. Lemerond shares his wealth of experience and knowledge in health and nutrition through his educational programs, including the Terry Talks Nutrition website, newsletters, podcasts, webinars, and personal speaking engagements. He is the author of two books: Seven Keys to Vibrant Health and the recently updated Seven Keys to Unlimited Personal Achievement.