Retail Entertainment - X-Citing Promotional Events|
by Debbie Allen, CSP
Do you find that it is getting harder and harder to compete with your growing competition? Big box stores, corporate chains and discount stores and cropping up all over the country. How do you stand out among this type of competition? One of the most effective ways to stand out and stay in your customers mind is to create your own form of retail entertainment. When you make your business a fun, exciting place to shop, you give your customers a reason to come back time and time again. You will then get them to come to you for more good feelings instead of going to your competition.
Smaller retail stores have the advantage of differentiating themselves from the big guys by interacting with their customers. Smaller stores can benefit by planning and creating unique promotions, charity fundraisers, themed promotions, VIP party events, drawings and fun contests. There is no limit to the number of creative promotions you can plan. The key word here is to PLAN. You cannot be successful if you don’t have a plan. Don’t wait until business slows down to decide you need to create an event, or worse, just have a SALE like everyone else does. Give your customers a good reason to shop at your business without having to give the store away.
Some small business owners run their business from the seat of their pants. When business slows down, they get scared and think about running a sale. They throw together a haphazard flyer or postcard and put half of the store on sale. This doesn’t work! Not only will the sale put you into the mass of other retailers that just have sales, it will also cut into your profits. Profits are what you need most when business slows down. So, if business wasn’t as good as you wished it had been last year, quit whining and get busy to make it happen for you this year. This could be your biggest year of profits ever if you start to take action today.
If you want to stand out from the crowd, you have to make it happen by being different, more creative and unique. Maybe even a little crazy! Whatever it takes to get those customers in the door.
Retail entertainment is not all hype and dynamic displays. Retail entertainment doesn’t even have to be an expensive venture. The more creative you are the more inexpensive and unique promotions you can come up with. Retail entertainment, as used in promotional marketing, can create a more dynamic business image that will continually entice customers and increase your sales.
5 Steps To Developing Retail Entertainment
Create three files for your retail entertainment and promotional ideas.
File #1. This file should contain all your direct mail materials, postcards and advertisements from past events and/or sales. Save your winners and save your losers. You can learn as much from your losing promotions as you can from the winners.
File # 2. This file is for all the great ideas you receive from your junk mail. Yes, keep the junk mail that gets your attention. It could be from any type of business. You can always adjust the idea to work for you. Most great ideas are not original, simply recreated in a new format.
File #3. This is your “crazy ideas” file. On those sleepless nights when you come up with some of the most outrageous ideas, then wake up the next morning and think – that was crazy, I can’t do that. Okay, you get the idea. Just write them down and throw them in this file.
Once or twice a year take out your promotional files. This will jumpstart your brain and get you started planning for the year. Pull out all the ideas you like and start to plan a year’s worth of exciting promotional events. Next write down more ideas about each promotion and put them in order of when you plan to implement them.
Plan a staff meeting to brainstorm your ideas and get feedback. Make sure you plan plenty of time, make the meeting fun and tell your staff you want their creative minds working. By involving your team, you will find they will be more likely to “buy” into the ideas. Therefore, they will be more motivated to get your customers to “buy” into it as well. Bring a huge calendar with you to the meeting and place the events on the calendar as they are presented. You can always move the dates around later, but when you leave the meeting you will have a plan of action with which to start. If your events are planned out with a public relations firm, plan to have your team meeting before hand to share the excitement of your strategic plans for future growth.
Decide how you plan to advertise each event. Will you send out a direct mail postcard to your mailing list, advertise in the local newspaper or radio station, and/or promote it through the media with a press release?
Plan for an increase OTB (open to buy) for the event. If you want to build your profits, you must plan to invest in more inventory especially planned and available for promotional selling.
A Few Unique Promotions to Jumpstart Your Brain
Hey, Bidder Bidder!
Auctions are always a fun event to attend. Here are a couple of ideas on how to run an in-store auction.
Issue play money with all purchases made within a 3 – 6 month period. Plan an auction event where customers bid on merchandise with their accumulated faux dollars. Instead of offering straightforward percentages off, this is a way to create an interactive game where your best customers will continue to shop at your store to collect dollars.
Charity silent/live auction. Ask your manufacturers and sales associates to donate merchandise for the event to be auctioned off. You will be amazed how much they might send you for a charity event. Promote the event to the media for free publicity and advertising. Feature a live auction for about 6 large items and have the rest of the items available in a silent auction. This will keep the excitement up at the event and keep your customers wandering around your store longer.
Annual VIP Appreciation Night
You’ve heard the saying: “You do 80% of your business with 20% of your customers.” If that were the case, why would you spend the same amount of money to keep these customers coming back to your business? Here are a couple of ideas to give them special appreciation.
Hold a customer appreciation dinner inside your business. Give each attendee special gifts for attending and/or have some great prizes to raffle off. Plan entertainment that keeps them around and mingling inside of your store such as a magician, handwriting expert, comedian or psychic. Make your entertainment fun and unique.
Hold an annual VIP party and invite only your best customers. Have your store decorated for the party with balloons, bring in entertainment, cater the event and have all your staff attend wearing formal attire. This works well with a special VIP Club membership. It is an additional benefit for members to stay active in the club by spending more $$$. Don’t make it an event to SELL – make it an event to appreciate your customers. They will reciprocate in SPENDING.
Shh … Private Sale Days
Mail out colorful postcards to your mailing list to announce a private sale just for them. Offer a special discount when they bring in the card. If you have a lot of sale merchandise to move, you may want to offer an additional 20% off already reduced prices. Other ideas could include: Buy 2 items and receive the 3rd one free as our gift or announcing a sneak-a-peak day before a big sidewalk sale. Your card could read something like this -- It’s no mystery that you are one of our favorite customers. Shh … this special private sale is just for YOU.
Remember, to be successful takes work, consistency of your efforts and continued determination to keep and cultivate customers. Get started today on a plan for “Retail Entertainment” and make this your best yet!
Bio: Debbie Allen is one of the world’s leading authorities on sales and marketing. She is the author of five books including Confessions of Shameless Self Promoters and Skyrocketing Sales. Debbie has helped thousands of people around the world attract customers like crazy with her innovative, no-cost marketing strategies and secrets to sales success. Her expertise has been featured in Entrepreneur, Selling Power and Sales & Marketing Excellence.
Copyright Debbie Allen. All Rights Reserved.
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