With all the talk of email, social networking, Friending, Liking, Tweeting, and status updates, I think we as marketers and small business owners sometimes forget the best way to build a relationship with our customers, members, and clients: Face-to-face interaction. And what better way to get closer to and interact with your loyal customers than an event?
As spring temperatures begin to warm and people come out of their winter hibernation, now is a great time to host an event to drive customers to your place of business to let them interact with you and each other. Of course, to attract people to your event, the engagement has to be a fun experience for attendees. Who wants to waste their time going to a boring event?
Ways to make your event fun and compelling include adding live music, demonstrating products, providing free food and drinks, offering prizes, and giving discounts for your products and services to attendees. A good example of this is Kitchen Outfitters in Acton, Mass., which offers free knife sharpening events. In this example, the customer gets something for attending while the store might make an additional sale and will definitely enhance the relationship with the customer, and will be more likely to recommend Kitchen Outfitters to others. And, if you get a customer appreciation invite from your favorite local store offering 15% off and free food on an upcoming weekend afternoon, you’re probably going to at least stop by, right?
Small businesses with limited budgets can pull off a fun and engaging event by looking no further than neighboring business owners. For instance, a retailer in a strip mall could band together with the other stores to host a customer appreciation day that encompasses all the shops housed under the same roof.
Proximity is one reason to partner on an event, but not the only one. A restaurant could host an event that features a special menu as well as a performance by a local musician and wine tasting with a local winery or specialty store. This gives your customers and two other businesses exposure to one another. The roles can be swapped around, with the wine store hosting, the musician performing, and the restaurant catering the event.
No matter what the arrangement, putting on an event with a partner or two expands the audience to which you can market to. Everyone involved can promote the event to their own list, via email and/or social media, mentioning the partners that will be involved and the benefits to attending. This gets your name in front of your partner’s customers and vice versa. It’s a great way of getting your name in front of people who may know nothing about you, but might have an interest in what you have to offer.
An event might not make for an immediate purchase from each attendee, but it will help nurture your relationship with your loyal customers and could turn a few “suspects” into prospects for future sales. Plus, it gets people out of the house and gives them something fun to do.