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Simple Ways to Capitalize on Events

Avatar photo by Casey Woods, Executive Director | April 19, 2016
Anyone associated with the Emporia Main Street Promotions Team will tell you that we break down  promotional events into two distinct categories: those specifically designed to create spending in targeted businesses, and those meant to generate traffic that creative businesses can take advantage of.  Main Street works for the collective good, and some activities are designed to work WITH your business as a collective partner.
Increasing foot traffic to allow businesses more opportunities to sell is not always an easy concept.  Some community members wonder why they should do anything extra if there are more people in town.  More people should instantly equate to more sales, right?  Others view an influx of individuals as a “bother” that disrupts their normal working day.  The basic premise of some is “why should I have to do anything extra?”  The simple answer is: you don’t have to do anything extra.  If you are happy with where your sales are at, and don’t feel the need to attract any more customers- keep doing what you are doing.  For those of you that want more sales and would like additional customers, the following are some handy tips to boost a following.
1.  Know what is going on.- You need to know there is an event before you can plan for an event.  It’s also a good idea to know basics about scheduling and locations for larger events.  If someone walks into your business for the Dirty Kanza and asks where the registration is being held (the Granada Theatre)and you don’t know, they will wonder what else you don’t know.  If you know a basic schedule of events you can have a better understanding of when potential peak business times will occur.  You can also make some inferences when people walk into your business that aid in a greeting (if they are wearing disc golf apparel in the last week of April, there is a good shot they have something to do with the Glass Blown Open, for example).
2.  Welcome folks to your business.-  The first thing that visitors coming to a large events in Emporia mention are signs and window displays.  When you take the time to create visible “welcome” initiatives, it really makes a difference.  Attend some events.  Introduce yourself.  Thank people for coming to Emporia.  Invite them back to your business.  Take pictures of our “tourists” in your business.  One of our most effective tourist magnets is the simple friendliness of our citizens.  Play it up!
3.  Be an information resource.  LISTEN to our visitors.  If they talk about their kids, recommend thelocal zoo.  If they are wondering where they can stock up on food- mention all the local food alternatives (including the Farmers Market).  If they mention another hobby (beyond the one they are obviously indulging) send them to a local resource.  Talk about the history of the town and what makes us special.  Talk about your building and what it used to house.  Talk about your personal connection to whatever they are participating in.  It’s amazing what a little extra effort does to generate repeat visits.
4.  Host extra events that fit in the schedule.  Live music, demonstrations, food sampling, shopping specials and other events held concurrently with large scale activities can draw people into your business.  Remember, most of these individuals may not know who you are or what you do- so additional traffic going into your place of business,  or enticing sounds/scents/visuals act as an invitation to “check you out”.
5.  Become an event sponsor.-  Participants appreciate those who make the financial and volunteer commitments necessary to put these large scale activities on.  Some participants physically seek outsponsors to thank them.  If you get business from a large local event, consider reaching out and offering to sponsor a part of the activity.
6.  Tailor your pitch.- It sounds simple, but there are some major differences in how to best reach visitors attending a bike race, a disc golf tournament, a Cinco de Mayo festival, a classic car show or a symphony.  If you don’t practice adjusting your pitch with your staff, you are missing an opportunity.  To use a sports analogy- if a baseball pitcher told you what pitch they were going to throw, wouldn’t you make an adjustment?  Train to the opportunity with your staff.
7.  Offer special services for travelers.  Whenever you hear the phrase “I love this, but I don’t have away to get it back with me” or any variation of that statement- offer to ship.  Hold items.  Offer to keep people’s bags in your back room.  Offer to “super wrap” an item with bubble wrap to make it survive the airline industry.  Take distance out of the equation and provide the services necessary to improve sales.
8.  Invite folks back to town (and your business).  I’m going to let you in on a little secret…  There is a reason we put so much community support behind certain local events.  Disc golfers can utilize local courses for most of the year (and we have a World Championship coming up in August).  Bike riders can ride the Flint Hills most of the year.  Classic car owners can cruise to town anytime they want.  See the strategy here?  So, when you do your best to invite people back to town, we can become more effective in increasing tourism.
9.  Collect information.-  E-mail addresses, Facebook “likes”, followers on Instagram & Twitter, mailing addresses and more can give you a follow up opportunity to sell more items on-line and to keep your customers informed of other cool activities they might want to attend.  You can’t reach out to potential customers if you don’t collect their information!
Upcoming events are your time to shine.  Emporia Main Street often coordinates with local event facilitation agencies to ensure elements are proximate to businesses that can capitalize on the potential consuming public.  Get creative in your approach.  HOWEVER, just because you are open doesn’t guarantee sales!
When we generate traffic from out of town guests, it’s a smart idea to implement strategies that bring our local citizens and guests together.  Due to the hard work of a lot of area volunteers and businesses, we are blessed with some huge events during the summer.  But, we want to maximize the community and financial impacts of these events to enhance our region.  To attain the desired impact, the community needs everyone to work together to make our community shine.  What will you do to stand out over the next few weeks?

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.