Last week, I explained how events can benefit your business. Now, let’s look at what has to happen to make your event a success. This includes choosing dates, assigning tasks and scheduling deadlines.
Create a master plan for each event that details who will be in charge of each task, what needs to be done and when it needs to be done.
Here’s a list to help you get started:
Three to four months before
Send solicitation letters to vendors requesting merchandise for prizes and giveaways (many have budgets just for this purpose, so ask!). Ask if they’ll help with demos too.
If you’re short on staff, ask vendors, local clubs, and your best customers if they’d like to help out on event day.
Begin work on your advertising campaign. Will you use newspaper, radio, television, social media, direct mail or email blasts to back up your bag stuffers, signage and other in-store advertising?
Have your graphic artist or marketing person begin working on the ads.
Review your paperwork to see if there are any special products or additional items you need to order for the event.
Choose and schedule entertainment. Keep your theme in mind. You might hire a string ensemble for a more formal party or a DJ for a fun, family event.
Two months before
From this point on, meet with key staff members each week to review tasks and to make sure that everyone is on schedule.
Follow up with vendors, instructors and demonstrators. Confirm date and time, and arrange for any special needs (electrical, merchandise, etc.).
Follow up with your entertainment. Again, confirm the date and arrange for any special needs (risers, electrical outlets, etc.).
If you’re having the event professionally catered, now is the time to schedule the delivery and servers. If it’s a holiday event, play it safe and book early.
One month before
If you plan to run additional ads to announce your event, schedule them now. Draw a schematic of your sales floor, noting where to set the refreshments, demonstration areas, entertainment, etc.
If this is to be an invitation-only event, now is the time to create your invitations. Be sure the invitation encourages customers to bring their friends – the more, the merrier.
If you want to draw a larger crowd, invite the general public using bag stuffers.
Don’t let the name confuse you. The secret to successful bag stuffers lies in how you distribute them. If you pre-stuff them into bags, you’re just wasting paper.
Instead, instruct your sales team to talk with customers about the event, personally placing the bag stuffer in the customer’s hand – it’s like a free 30-second ad. And what’s the cost of distribution? Zero.
Two weeks before
Time to kick things into high gear. Meet with key personnel to review all aspects of the event, and to make sure everything is on schedule. If things aren’t progressing as planned, you still have time to make changes.
At this point, your invitations should be printed and ready to go – it’s time to mail or email them out. It’s also time to begin distributing bag stuffers.
One week before
Seven days until show time. Build a buzz about town with press releases announcing your event. Make sure you cover all local media outlets.
Prepare a list of in-shop specials and events (eg., grand-prize drawing at 7:00pm, demo at 7.15pm).
Talk up your event on your voice mail or answering machine message. Verify that vendors and instructors are set for their demonstrations. Check to be sure you have all the product and supplies they will need.
Double check your refreshment order. Remember, it’s better to have too much food than to run out during your event.
Begin preparing your sales floor to accommodate the event, but don’t create open spaces just yet.
Reset your windows, in-shop displays and other shop decor for the event – make it fun and festive. Merchandise your speed bump displays to sell. Add impulse items to the cash desk.
The day before
Less than 24 hours to go! Recheck your master plan to verify that all tasks have been completed.
Finalise your floor plan. Move what has to be moved, and rearrange what has to be rearranged. Set up all tables and risers, making sure extension cords reach to where they need to go.
Hang all the signing and place all the decorations before you leave for the night – get the big stuff ready so that tomorrow all you have to worry about are last-minute touch-ups.
Schedule a pre-opening breakfast meeting with your staff to review everything that will take place during the day. Make sure that everyone knows what will be happening in the shop and what is required of them.
Give everyone a copy of the in-shop specials, demos and drawings. Place copies at the cash wrap, cutting tables, etc. – even the bathrooms.
Greet your guests at the door. Invite everyone to sign a guest book – this stealth marketing trick will ensure that you have names, addresses, email addresses, etc. for future events.
Take lots of photographs to plaster across your blog, website and Facebook pages. Have fun!
After your event
Schedule a staff meeting to review your event, noting what went well, what didn’t and what you will want to incorporate in your next event. Give each team member an evaluation to fill out – your team’s candid input is critical to future events.
Record the total sales, customer count, type of advertising, number of salespeople, vendors, even the weather for the day. Keep this on file to review if you choose to make this an annual event. (Annual events are a good thing because customers look forward to them all year.)
Send follow-up press releases to media – you want to let people know what they missed. Be sure to include photos – newspapers love photos.
Send a personal thank-you letter to the vendors, instructors, customers, etc. who helped out – letters, not emails – and remember to hand sign each letter in blue ink (black ink looks like a computer generated letter and devalues your thank you). And don’t forget to thank your staff.
The time you spend planning your in-shop events is as important as the event itself – it’s probably more important.
Building a solid promotional calendar, and then bringing each event to life, is not an easy task. It takes creativity and dedication and sometimes sheer willpower, but it’s always worth your effort.
Although it is a special event for your customers, remember it is a work event for you and your team, so no over-indulging in refreshments or conversation rather than manning your position and serving your guests!