Do you need foot traffic in your business? Do you need more exposure? Do you want to become more active in your local community? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then hosting an event may be a wise investment for you.
You might hold an event at your business in order to celebrate with your customers (such as for an anniversary or customer appreciation), as a business promotion, or by partnering with a charity for community exposure, to name just a few.
Creating your own event gives you the opportunity to be a gracious host, and perhaps show a side of yourself that your customers don’t usually get to see. It helps humanize the business and gives it a local feel. You can make existing customers feel valued, and get precious time with potential customers who might not have discovered you yet.
Hosting an event — and making it successful — requires an investment in time and money, so you need to be clear about your goals and figure out a reasonable budget. Keep in mind that a poorly advertised event may not give you the ROI you expect, so put as much thought and effort into publicizing the event as you put into the event itself. The financial commitment varies with the size of the event, type of advertising, payroll, and what type of food and beverage you are going to serve. (Keep in mind that people are more likely to come — and stay longer — if refreshments are served.)
The least expensive event is a happy hour or ice cream social held at times that don’t interfere with dinner. If you choose a happy hour, look for a bartending company or a bonded certified bartender to cut your liability. If you don’t want to serve alcohol, consider root beer floats and other awesome treats, or a doughnut and coffee gathering in the morning. This works great if there is a community event happening close to you (marathon, parade, etc.).
Look for partners who are also looking for exposure who might cater, create decorations, help with advertising, etc. You might get things for free, or barter, or at least get a reduced rate. If space is limited at your location, seek out another business that you think would make a great location for events and start the ball rolling — you can plan it and still have it at another business, and you both win.
If you are planning to have an annual event, remember that each successful event helps ensure the next one will be well-attended. Take a lot of pictures at the first event and then, when you’re ready to promote next year’s event, use those photos to remind everyone how amazing it was. Do keep in mind that ROI on annual events is hard to measure and it might take a few years before you see the gain. Be patient — the goal is that everyone who comes has a great time and will share their experiences. Each event has the potential to make the next year’s event spectacular.
I have had events at Baisch & Skinner that cater to my clients, some that cater to the neighborhood our designer showroom is located in, and also to feature local artists and authors. We regularly have educational events to help our clients succeed. The cost varies based on the event. Getting people to know where we are and what we carry is essential because we’re not open to the public (though free membership is available to anyone with a business license, as well as schools, charities, churches, and other civic organizations).
If you have the resources and are involved in the community, I highly recommend you consider hosting an event. Done right, it may provide just the boost your business needs.