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How Can Your Business Thrive with Upcoming Events?

Avatar photo by Jessica Buchholz, Events Coordinator | April 19, 2023
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Over the past several years, people have wondered aloud about the same strange behavioral issue. They say, “Casey, I don’t understand why people park the equivalent of two blocks away from the (big box store) but they get weird when they have to park behind a business.” People like to see business frontage, and the front door exposure to potential customers is critical to the success of most smaller business types. This is one of the reasons why we emphasize events that can draw crowds to the building frontage of our small businesses. Internally, we call this process “stocking the pond”. Put a mass amount of people looking to spend in front of a business, and let the business attract customers. That statement “let the business attract customers” requires some effort from area partners. Let’s cover some basic strategies that can help turn crowds into customers:

  1. Your signage and sidewalks make a difference.- Placing a “Welcome Disc Golfers”, “We love Cinco”, “Flatlanders- Cruise on In!”, or “Cyclists Welcome!” sign in your window or on your marquee does make a difference. Chalking sidewalks to welcome folks for specific events is absolutely recognized by visitors. Educating your staff to express “welcome to Emporia” sentiments carries the vibe from outside your store to the cash counter. “A” frame signs, dog water bowls, and other outside amenities can act as a “welcome visitors” strategy.
  2. Get involved with the activity.- Every event needs volunteers, and volunteering can offer several opportunities to interact with visitors. You would be surprised at how effective developing personal relationships with event attendees is at driving consumer traffic to your business. If you need ideas or contacts for volunteering, contact Emporia Main Street.
  3. Think about who is at the event, and why they need your products and services.- The attendees at every event are different, and your pitch may need some alterations for each event. Let’s take one downtown storefront as an example, and showcase how they could adjust for different activities: If I’m Graves; I may want to highlight sports drinks and snacks for the Glass Blown Open participants for on and off course activities. I would want to highlight candy, kids items, and last minute additions to booths for Cinco de Mayo. For Flatland Cruisers, I would want to focus on items “people forgot” when they traveled to town with classic cars while I touted books and magazines as people were parked with their vehicles. For Unbound Gravel, I would highlight all the things offered for bumps and bruises as well as hydration items and basic grab-and-go food/drink options. Contextualizing WHY people should get off the street and into your storefront is important as you try and inspire traffic.
  4. Grab a booth.- You can have a storefront AND have an event booth. For some businesses, the booth can act as an introduction and basic sales opportunity, while the storefront acts as a capture mechanism for more serious shoppers.
  5. Walk the crowd with branded merch.- It sounds simple, but walking the crowd in a “Browns Shoes” shirt during a break reminds people “hey, I need to stop into Browns and grab some shoes”. It’s a simple yet effective brand reinforcement technique.
  6. Be a sponsor (with notifications).- If events make announcements throughout the day, consider being a sponsor. Ensure those announcements encourage people to visit your storefront, enter for prizes in-store, or pick up something specific for visiting. Partner with event organizers to funnel traffic into your business.
  7. Keep the party going.- Some events end early, but just because the event is over doesn’t mean the crowd is ready to go home. The “while you are in town you should really go to ….” conversation should be part of some downtown storefront strategies. After “the event”, we should throw axes, grab dinner, hit the bar, listen to some local music, pick up some gelato, shop for some ____. Communicating the “after” possibilities is an important strategy to capture sales.

At Emporia Main Street, it is important that we work WITH our local businesses to maximize the impact of local events. If you need help with implementation strategies, temporary signage, chalking, event connections, or other elements to help pull more customers, simply reach out to the office.

About the Author

Jessica Buchholz, Events Coordinator

Jessica Buchholz is the Community Development Coordinator for Emporia Main Street in Emporia, Kansas. She specializes in event planning, volunteer recruitment, alternative marketing, media/public relations and fundraising. During Jessica's tenure at Emporia Main Street, she has helped grow events to an international level and she has created a series of new activities to meet organizational goals.