Top 7 Marketing Tips for Planning Successful In-Store Events

In-store events can be a fun and exciting way to support your retail marketing efforts. Leveraging this kind of event can draw new customers to your store while strengthening relationships you already have with current customers, even improving loyalty. A bright and memorable store experience can lead to more brand awareness, lift brand perception, and improve sales in both the short and long term. However, the key to event marketing is strategic deployment. Developing a plan is the first step.

Today’s post includes seven tips to help ensure you approach event planning with the right frame of mind.

1. Set Goals

As a business, you aren’t holding an event simply to hold an event. There’s a purpose for it, and that means you need to take the time to consider what it is you’re trying to achieve specifically.

Who is your ideal audience for the event? How does the event fit into your larger marketing strategy, and should it be tied to another marketing campaign to help achieve those goals? What business goals can it help you reach, like promoting a new product, improving sales, or generating leads and foot traffic?

For instance, if you have a beauty service you want to promote while improving sales among women over the age of 35, the choices you make about the execution of your event will be different than if you have a new product for teenage boys that could help bring in more family foot traffic. Your promotional content, in-store messaging, and even what entertainment to provide or special guests to invite will be dependent on what customers you’re trying to reach.

2. Be Smart About Details

Attending the events is fun—but when you’re running one, you need to be prepared down to the minute details if you want everything to go smoothly. What are the liabilities involved, and do you have a risk management plan for dealing with them? What are emergency procedures, and are the staff you’ll have at the event ready and able to follow through with them? What’s your store’s capacity, and will the marketing for the event put you in danger of going over that? These are just a few important considerations that must be addressed in the event planning process.

Is there a holiday or community initiative that you can leverage to boost awareness for your event? Alternately, is there a holiday or community initiative that will act as competition and potentially draw crowds away? Make sure you plan accordingly, and give your audience plenty of time to put your event on their calendars.

3. Offer Incentives

When planning your resources and budget, are there incentives that would be valuable and attractive to your target audience? Offering steep discounts or free products could definitely encourage customers to stop by, but make sure you understand how much you can afford to give away to avoid exceeding your event budget. While too many customers is rarely a complaint, marketers can end up undermining their event strategy if too many cash in on a promotion. Restrictions need to be clear to your audience (e.g., “while supplies last,” regarding a free product or sample), and whatever it is you promise, you need to be able to follow through. Otherwise, you risk damaging your brand reputation.

4. Have a Clear Message

In both your event marketing and in-store materials, your brand message needs to come through strong, clear, and creative. Personalize where possible, use humor when appropriate, and give your audience plenty of ways to share the event and their experiences, including hashtags. All of this works together to build excitement leading up to your event.

Most importantly, however, you need to clearly communicate the benefit to your target audience. Why should the customer come? Why should they care about this event and want to spread the word? This can include the incentive (discussed in tip 3), but should expand beyond it as well.

5. Create FOMO

FOMO (or the “fear of missing out”) is a major driving force for consumers (even if the acronym is mostly used among younger generations). Your message needs to drive home that your event is something special, and marketing needs to play up benefits and incentives. Leverage influencers, brand advocates, and any special guests to share your message and add a sense of urgency leading up to your event. Your biggest push should be in the week leading up to the event, but you should still start early, post to social media through the event (you may inspire latecomers!), and even follow up after the event. For example, you could share photos captured at your event on social, or send an email to your subscribers or guest list thanking them for attending.

6. Double Check Preparations

If something can go wrong, it’s gone wrong at an event before. Don’t simply cross your fingers and hope for the best—you nailed down all the details earlier in your event planning process, so double check. If there’s special equipment (like lighting or sound systems), confirm that it’s connected properly and that it works. If you have special guests arriving, stay on top of their travel plans and make sure they are on time, or have a backup option if they’re going to be late. If there’s some kind of performance, speech, slideshow, or anything that requires your audience’s attention, do a practice run or full rehearsal to iron out as many kinks as possible. Make sure all the emergency exits are clearly marked and easy to access.

Don’t forget to check your marketing data, either. How many people are tentatively coming? Does it seem like you’re going to get the number of attendees you wanted and reach your goals?

7. Enjoy the Event, Then Learn from It

Once your event is running, it’s all about making sure that everything goes according to plan, even if it’s a contingency plan. Try not to sweat the small stuff, and stay focused on making sure customers are having a good time.

After it’s over, it’s time to sit down and take a hard look at the numbers. What were your goals, and did you meet them? If you didn’t, can you tell why not? If you did, or if you exceeded your goals, can you identify which parts of the marketing and event were the most successful? Did anything surprise you?

In-store events can be an effective part of your retail marketing strategy, but only when they go off without a hitch, and results are never as simple as “it worked” or “it didn’t.” Attribution will be important to understanding what you need to fix to have a more successful event next time, as well as to understand what worked so you can capture it again.

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