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Effective Advocacy for Local Business

Avatar photo by Casey Woods, Executive Director | June 24, 2015

Shop Hop Event Participants

Over the past few summers, we’ve heard from visitors to large Emporia events how much they like the Emporia community, how fantastic the people are and visitors expressed how much they appreciate our local businesses.  In many instances, Emporia Main Street works with local businesses and the event coordinators to facilitate community “exploration” which we hope will result in spending.  Much of the emphasis has been placed on large scale events that place thousands of people in proximity to local businesses through activities like the Dirty Kanza Finish Line Party, the Glass Blown Open Block Party, The Great American Market, the Welcome Back Block Party for ESU and FHTC and others.  For these events, we want to create a mass consumer base and encourage local businesses to find ways to pull event participants into their businesses independently.

We have also upgraded more “get them in the door” or “cash register ringers” spending opportunities with events like Midnight Madness and technology like the E-Town Mobile App.  The purpose behind these types of events is to encourage exploration of businesses that hopefully will result in an increase in foot traffic, awareness and spending for local businesses.  A recent addition to this genre of event is something we call the “shop hop”: a versatile marketing opportunity that encourages individuals to shop several local business options.  Although we ran our first test of this concept with local shoppers to determine if our logistics plan was effective, our concept of future shop hops mainly centers on groups of Emporia visitors, and this is where you come in.

Our own advocacy is one of the most effective tools to set us apart from other communities.  When citizens go out of their way to welcome a visitor, thank them for coming to the Emporia community, offer assistance, or provide suggestions, we create “word of mouth” advertising.  We have a lot of great volunteers and advocates in Emporia, but we have limited tools to help them in their advocate role.  As people are exposed to conferences, conventions, athletic events, reunions, university and technical college activities, and other proceedings, Emporia Main Street has a new tool that gives you the power to help local businesses.  The “Shop Hop” concept can exist as a special activity for event participants, an “after hours” option, or a break activity.
Here’s how the system works: simply contact Emporia Main Street with the type of event you are associated with, the number of attendees, how many individuals you think would be willing to participate in a shop hop, the date you would like the hop to happen, the time frame of the hop (the number of hours people have to participate in the event and time of day), what you think participants would appreciate on the hop and where/when we can drop off shop hop materials.

We called this event “flexible” because we can morph the shop hop into whatever the sponsoring group desires through collectively working with our membership.  Ladies may want a shop hop that contains shopping opportunities for gifts, clothing, shoes, chocolates and art.  Younger guys may want a “bar crawl” type of event.  Others may want a food focused event that “hops” from local eatery to eatery.  With a diverse business mix, we can quickly create an event for your target audience.
In our out-of-town participants test from individuals associated with an ESU function, we received rave reviews.  People that wouldn’t have normally shopped, spent at local establishments.  Participants that didn’t know each other well bonded through meeting up at different “hop” locations (a great mixer opportunity).  Although groups moved in swarms, almost every participating business surveyed showed an increase in foot traffic and sales.  Best of all, some of our out-of-town visitors plan on coming back to Emporia to shop at our unique businesses now that they know what is available.
Our in-town test went just as well.  The biggest complaint Emporia participants had with our shop hop test was that they “wanted more time to shop” (we wanted to test a compressed time frame that helped us determine the optimum stops per hour).  So, for in-town organizations, maybe your members could participate in a “hop” where a portion of sales go back to support your organization or charity?  The possibilities for this type of event are endless.
For businesses that want to participate in future shop hop opportunities, remember that we don’t always get a lot of notice for these types of events, so once we send out an e-mail we need you to respond quickly.  Also, remember that it is important for your business to fit the demographic of the shop hop group- so not every business will be a good fit for every “hop”.  Finally, even if you aren’t participating in the “hop”, the lanyard will identify who is generally an out-of-town visitor, and this is a great opportunity to showcase Emporia’s hospitality.

One great part about the shop hop that we haven’t mentioned thus far is that it wasn’t a staff idea. The shop hop concept was brought to us when local resident Gwen Longbine introduced us to an event she participated in at another community.  We “tweaked” the concept, and here we are.  We love hearing from local residents about ideas they have to improve Emporia (Gwen has already sent a few more over, and we’re working on them!).  So, get involved with Main Street and we can help each other bring concepts that improve our community to reality.

Get involved with a Shop Hop.  Contact Emporia Main Street about a visiting group or a local organization that would like to set up a “hop” and lets keep Emporia growing!!!

Check out this article and other great information in this week’s Emporia Main Street E-newsletter!




About the Author

Casey Woods, Executive Director

Before accepting the director position in March of 2009, Casey worked in both retail and agricultural jobs in the family businesses. A lifelong resident of the Emporia Area, Casey was a ten year volunteer for Emporia Main Street prior to his appointment as director. During that time he served as the board president and chair of the Economic Vitality Committee.

Casey also serves as a partner in PlaceMakers, LLC, a consulting firm that routinely works with both large and small communities, and their businesses, to promote sustainable economic growth through community and economic development practices. Casey consults with businesses, organizations and communities to understand their market capacity and fill vacant spaces. He has been involved in two projects that included crowdfunding as a part of their overall business funding strategies, Radius Brewing and Twin Rivers Winery & Gourmet Shoppe.


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