Monday, May 2, 2011

How to screw up event marketing

What happens when your district is not generating foot traffic to sustain your existing retailers? The impact is twofold: 1) your existing businesses struggle, and 2) you also have a heck of a time attracting new retailers to your district. When retailers visit a district and they see vacancies and struggling stores, all they see is risk. Retailers are like sheep. They like to follow other retailers, and in their mind there is nothing riskier than opening in a district where every other store is struggling.

For districts that are challenged, traditional advertising in form of newspaper ads is often not effective, because really, if you have a poor selection of stores, what are you going to market in the first place? Your goal should instead be to have an impact on existing stores and generate traffic, and ultimately RETAIL SALES. The only way to do this is with "event marketing". Event marketing is about planning and executing specific shows that bring people into the district on a regular basis. The goal is to ensure that visitors end up shopping in some of the stores.

This sounds simple, but you would be surprised. I have visited too many communities that miss the rationale of event marketing. Instead, they stage their events a distance away from their stores. The logic seems right at the time - they've got a great public park or open space a block or two from the district, so why not use it? The problem is that the stores do not benefit if shoppers are not in a businesses line of sight. Because a store that is out of sight is also out of mind. No wonder the businesses were griping about paying assessments to their business improvement district - they never seemed to benefit from the efforts of the BID!

1 comment:

  1. ! the big lesson I learned about event marketing is in response to frequent merchant complaints that events don't help their businesses.

    1. they do need to think about it long term, not just for that day.

    2. They need to have a focused strategy to leverage the event.

    3. for the Carytown Watermelon Festival, many of the stores have tents on the street, in addition to their open store.

    4. I think that basically the commercial district revitalization org. (like a Main Street program) needs to do a visioning session/charrette type think for each store in advance of the event, in order to work with them to best leverage the upcoming event.

    Actually this type of exercise needs to be done for all stores generally, on three dimensions: (1) within the store, how to do better; (2) facade of the store, how to do better; (3) how the store connects to and leverages relationships with the stores around it; and (4) how the store connects to and leverages the relationships in the general business district.

    I wrote up some of this in the blog entry "soft side of commercial district revitalization."

    I decided that I would never get involved in the start up of a Main St. program without doing that four step process outlined above. See, without doing that you never have consensus on what the point is for the CD revitalizatin effort.

    Since so many merchants think they know everything already, it becomes very difficult to develop the commercial district as a distinct entity/retail mix vis-a-vis the individual stores and their images and offer.