I've been speaking with my friend Tom Boschwitz from Homevalu Interiors. Homevalu Interiors has been around for a number of years and continues to change and reinvent itself. But it doesn’t matter how long your business has been around or how good it is, every business is dependent on customers who are willing to part with their money. And these days, consumers think twice or even three times before they take the buying step.
Bringing customers out is a labor of love — what works for one doesn’t necessarily work everyone. The key is go get out, experiment, try new ideas and of course just do it.
And there are companies that are doing it. It just takes more skill and inventiveness. Some people say they never see a customer and then someone tells you they’ve seen about 100 on a snowy night in Minnesota.
Homevalue is an inventive company. Having done extensive customer research, including focus groups and consumer interviews, they probably have a better handle on what customers want and need than most businesses. Of course when the economy is tough one has to think wisely about where to spend advertising and marketing dollars.
Over the past few months, Homevalu has done a variety of in-store events for customers. Instead of hosting color and design nights, which are quite common, they are actually holding multiple events. In fact, it's a party with various events and plenty of fun things to do.
I remember not long ago Homevalue held a pet adoption which brought in over 100 people! They also hosted Ladies' Night Out (see pictures), held in the middle of a Minnesota snow storm. Vendors such as Mary Kay, Byers Chocolatier, Lillian Handbags, and others were invited as well as the store that provided the wine and the music.
Tom says that he budgets about $40 a person for the event, while comparing traditional advertising costs at about $60 a person. The last four events in total have brought in about 450 customers. It appears that he's creating quite a following.
By holding multiple events and bringing in many of the same customers, Homevalue gets to thank past customers while cultivating new ones. It just proves, if you can build a better mousetrap…
Some ideas for your events:
- Ask your employees what events they think will pull in customers. Once you decide on an event, ask you salespeople for a list of 20 people they would invite. I had to bite my tongue because I wanted to say 50. Don’t forget the butcher, baker and candlestick maker. Once you have the list, decide on the theme, the invitation and other businesses that would add value to the event and have their own lists of customers.
- Be inventive; there is a flooring store in Kentucky that hosts line dancing every Thursday night—in the store. Does it work? Ask the "regulars" who bring different friends every Thursday. Ask the owners, who need a bigger dance floor to accommodate the calls.
- Take plenty of photos, get them to the newspaper, the chamber, your business group. Don’t forget to invite your local newspaper to cover the event.
- Get email addresses so you can send thank you notes. If you are having trouble asking, hold a drawing and note they will be notified by email.
- Send photos to the people who attended and send them via video email, Talkfusion.com or sendoutcards.com. Both great ways to stay with your customers. One via email the other via snail mail. Don’t forget to use these marketing tools to thank the customers and also as a way to invite them. In your video remind your customers to visit the vendors who were at your event.
- Don’t forget to thank the vendors and get them as much publicity as possible. Remember, they all came to do business and are relying on you to make this happen.
- Plan for your next event while you're at your "present" event. Ask everyone what other types of events would they like. Will they help you plan? Who would they like you to invite? Is there a favorite charity they would like to support? How can you involve them? Is there a special charity they would like to support for the evening?
Remember, most of your business comes from referrals, not just from happy buyers but from people who just love you and feel good about recommending you and your customers.
How about your events, what are you doing what’s working? Come on, share it with us. Need some help planning an event? Call or email me.