Last night my bracket got busted. As a diehard University of Michigan Wolverine fan, my NCAA tournament bracket lasts until the Wolverines bow out. (I know, I know. I shouldn’t always pick them to win it all, but then I would have to root for them to lose, and I can’t do that.)
Brackets for the NCAA tournament are fun. They are also an easy tool to implement for a promotion or event in your store.
One year we had a “March Games Madness” where every Friday at Game Night we played four games and voted on the best. After four weeks we had a “Final Four” and in week five we crowned a champion. We had brackets for people to fill out and seedings for the games. Not only was it fun and attracted a decent (and returning) crowd, it gave us fodder for social media marketing. (This game is a “Final Four Game.”)
Another year we set an unofficial world record for having the most people playing the game Snake Oil at one time.
At a Breyer Horse event we had a stick-horse obstacle course complete with a bale of hay and a water element.
For our Disney Princess Day we had a quartet from the local symphony play Disney songs on our stage.
Go big or go home.
Put some kind of Wow Factor into your events and two things will happen. First, your events will get customers talking about your store, coming back more often, and bringing their friends with them.
Second, and more importantly, you will separate yourself from the influence of negative experiences at other brick & mortar stores.
It doesn’t just have to be an event, either. Go big in other ways. I knew a jewelry store that had a $30K diamond engagement ring and special “throne” to sit in to try it on. I just visited a toy store recently with an eight-foot tall Steiff giraffe that sells for $20K.
Take the money from your advertising budget if you have to for a splash item because that’s what those two pieces represent.
Go big in your services, too. Serve food/drinks. Have valet parking. Do a coat check. Have expert demos. Have someone with a large golf umbrella walk customers to their cars on rainy days.
Those are the actions that set you apart, that insulate you from being lumped in with all the other retailers out there. Your toughest competitors now are not the other stores that sell what you sell. Your toughest competitors are the horrible experiences people have at other brick & mortar stores that keep them from shopping in any brick & mortar.
Set yourself apart and you become a category all to yourself, insulated from those negative experiences that drive people away.
PS Actions speak louder than words. Do these things. Don’t advertise these things. Talking about them makes them less special. Just doing it and letting your customers talk about it is what sets you apart. (Yes, you should advertise your event, but don’t give away all the surprises in how you’re going over-the-top. In time, your customers will be showing up just to see what crazy stunt you’re going to pull off this time.)
This made me want to cry…when I owned my store back in the 80’s and 90’s, I used to have really cool events. Dinosaur Week had three different contests – Name the Dinosaur (winner got the giant 6′ inflatable in our fully decorated prehistoric jungle window) Sculpt-A-Dino and Draw-A-Dino. Our large window ended up completely lined with sculptures and the window was rimmed all the way around with pictures. We served dino cookies and made dino shirts and sold a ton of dino things. It was so much fun. Kids anticipated it every year!
We also had an event called “Bubble n’ Blues” where we had kids’ pools full of bubble solution out in the blocked off street. They were filled with different tools for blowing bubbles. We had a local science teacher come do the thing with the hula hoop where the child is encased in a bubble. We had the perpendicular street also blocked off and had a blues band playing and BBQ for sale. Also a big hit!
Events are not necessarily for selling…although that’s a nice perk. They are for building those relationships and causing customers to wonder…”What’s next?”
If you don’t go BIG, they WILL stay home.