Home / Blog / Business Enhancement / Converting Festival Attendees into Paying Customers

Converting Festival Attendees into Paying Customers

Avatar photo by Casey Woods, Executive Director | September 24, 2014

We Have a Bunch of People, Now What?

 Great American Market 2013
Converting Festival Attendees into Paying Customers

Through the Promotions Point in the Main Street concept, we focus on community marketing, the production of “register ringers” (like Midnight Madness or the Shop Hop) and “gathering” events (like the Great American Market and Dirty Kanza).  These three different promotional mindsets have different purposes and require alternate tactics for businesses to fully realize potential through participation.  In this week’s e-news, we will explore some of the tactics necessary to convert large festival crowds into customers for your business.


We have several upcoming opportunities for businesses to take advantage of events like the Great American Market, ESU Game Days, Trick or Treat, Haunted Tours, Parades, Homecoming Festivities and many other activities.  Depending on your planning and execution, these can be events that simply happen in town, or these happenings can drive people to your businesses.  Which would you prefer?  Below are eight things you need to think about (and do) to take advantage of market opportunities provided by festivals.


1.  Stay informed.- Read the paper, listen to local radio, follow certain local social media pages, read your electronic newsletters, download the etown app and talk to people.  The information about events is out there.  If something is happening in the downtown, for example, Emporia Main Street probably knows about it so if all else fails you can simply contact us and ask.  If you don’t know what is going on outside of your own four walls, you can’t take advantage of opportunities that may arise.


2.  Produce a plan.-  Knowing about something and knowing how to take advantage of opportunities are two different things.  When opportunities pop up you need to have a plan of action to take advantage of the opportunity, or you might as well have been oblivious of the event.  Sit down with staff members and identify the festival audience demographically, create a plan to proactively reach your target market and dedicate assets to reach your objective.  Commit your plan to paper, or there is a good chance you will forget key elements.


3.  Participate!- I know this sounds very simple, but if you don’t actively participate in an event there is a good chance that you won’t see a good return from it.  There are businesses all over the nation that have wonderful festivals right outside their front door, refuse to participate, and then lament the fact that they weren’t busy.  Conversely, we have experience with a lot of Emporia businesses that get involved in a myriad of activities and utilize their visibility to draw customers into their businesses.


4.  Get outside your own four walls.- 

This is a little bit different than participation or staying informed. Occasionally you can actually augment an event or activity by adding some of your expertise, products or ideas.  This typically happens through speaking with people associated with activities outside a formal setting. Small business ownership can be
and I know that a lot of you want to get home immediately after work, but it is important to seek out smaller impromptu social situations to communicate with event organizers.

5.  Welcome people (even if they just want to use your facilities).-  People walking into your business is a good thing.  You probably spend significant time and resources trying to get people in your door on a daily basis, so when people walk in BE HAPPY!  Anyone that has ever worked retail gets a little annoyed with people that simply want to treat a store like a public toilet, but part of your planning can revolve around how to effectively convert those people to customers.  Regardless, if you don’t act like you are happy to see customers, they are much less likely to shop.  Play the odds and great everyone in a positive manner.


6.  Provide Directions.-  When you are outside your own four walls, you can direct people back to your business.  Inside your storefront, you can become a resource by suggesting other points of proximate interest.  People appreciate the additional attention, and the more reasons a consumer has for coming back to an area, the more likely they are to revisit your store within the area.  Remember to utilize technology, including the etown mobile app, that has a built in mapping feature that can show your current location in relation to the proposed destination.  Visual references make directions easier.


7.  Create “bring back” incentives.- Have you ever heard someone say “We’ve got to come back when we have more time?”  Have you ever provided those people with an incentive to come back?  A coupon with a fill-able expiration date set over a limited time can encourage visitors to come back and shop.  Let people know about your own events, upcoming community activities and other specials that can bring people back more effectively than a “come back and see us” statement.  People are busy and they forget; providing extra incentives once people are inside your location promotes repeat visits and loyalty.  During busy festivals, bring back incentives can benefit your business long after the festival is over.


8.  Nail your elevator speech (and show your enthusiasm).- When large events are going on, traffic can be a feast or famine.  People come in waves, and it is important to nail down talking points that you and your staff can deliver in an energetic manner.  Additionally, the extended hours and workload associated with an event can drain energy.  Although consumers may empathize with a little exhaustion, empathy rarely creates spending.  So, plan what you want to focus on through your elevator speech and be prepared to dial up the energy!


If you have ever been a part of an Emporia Main Street “team” or committee, you’ve probably seen our work plans.  We talk about “goals”, “activities” and “outcomes”.  An activity, in and of itself, is not the goal.  We don’t say that the Great American Market is a success simply because we hold the market; we determine the community impact of the activity to determine if we met  our goal of exposing mass consumers to the community in a spending environment by studying the measurable effect of the activity on local businesses.  If we held an event with a thousand people that merrily skipped down the center of Commercial Street, and everyone came out to watch but no one shopped, we probably wouldn’t call that a successful event.  But, we need businesses to meet us half way.


Help us reel in consumers to your business that we bring to the area, and help us promote large events and activities to help drive consumer traffic.  Participate in large scale events, and be an advocate for your city.  By understanding the deeper purpose of Main Street activities, your business can boost sales and take advantage of profit opportunities that festivals provide.


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.