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November 1, 2014

Then at night, you bolt up in bed in a cold sweat: After spending all the money, doing all the promotional work, putting up all the banners and buying all the food . . . your crowd consists of your next-door neighbor and some guy who wandered in because he heard you’re serving cheesy weenies.

Nooooo!

Promotional events are both exhilarating and terrifying because either extreme on the spectrum is possible, and the ultimate outcome is not entirely within your control. For that reason, many promotional agencies cringe when clients come to them and ask to put on events.

Clients always envision the huge crowds and figure the agency knows how to bring them in. Agencies understand that the fundamentals have to be right. You’re not going to get a massive crowd because you open a new aisle for dog toys, no matter how well promoted the event may be.

But if you have the right occasion, the right planning and the right execution, promotional events can absolutely serve as a strong element of a pet retailer’s marketing plan.

Here are a few things that can help.

Go heavy on social media. It’s your highest-value audience because everyone who likes or follows you has already made a decision that what you do is of interest to them.
Promote your event regularly—not everyone is viewing their news feeds at the same time—but don’t do it so much that people will feel you’re spamming their feeds.
Have fun with it, too. Work out in advance a series of posts that make your fans smile and remember what you’ve got going on.
You can even get commenters involved by offering to let them decide certain details of the event, such as the item that might serve as a promotional giveaway if you decide to have one.

Take advantage of the foot traffic you already have to promote the event. Create shopping bag stuffers promoting the upcoming event and put one in the bag of every shopper who leaves the store.

Some point-of-sale technology can be programmed to put promotional information on printed receipts, and believe it or not, quite a few people do read them.

You do have an e-mail list, right? Of course you do. You collect e-mail addresses of customers, who gladly give you the information because of the special offers that you make available only via the e-mails you send to this list.

So, your e-mail list is a gold mine when you’re planning an event.

Depending on the physical setup of your store, a sidewalk sale might be more effective than an in-store event. Obviously this depends on certain factors (like having a sidewalk), and a clever execution requires more than just moving items outside and sticking price tags on them.
But a pet retailer should have plenty of assets that can get people walking along to stop.

Consider combining your event with another group or organization that could also benefit and bring in an audience of its own. For example, local artists might enjoy the opportunity to see your store transformed for a day into a gallery. Pets and Paints?

Some of the most creative ideas are counterintuitive, and bring together unlikely constituencies, but in many cases that’s exactly why they work. Another idea could be a fashion show—perhaps one that ties in a charity angle.

Involving another group or organization gives retailers the advantage of a partner who will be equally invested in bringing in an audience and in sharing the workload, and there is no downside to you in sharing the spotlight since the whole idea is bring people into the store.

Once they’re there, it doesn’t matter if they came to see paintings, fashion or bird food. It only matters that you effectively engage them.
Once a crowd has arrived, it’s essential that you capture as much data from them as you can. E-mail addresses and phone numbers make it possible for you to send out e-mail and text alerts about specials and future promotions.

You can also encourage people to like or follow you on social media by offering exclusive information about discounts that are only announced there.
Remember, a one-time crowd is great, and might lead to a strong sales day. But your real goal in holding a promotional event is to form a relationship with those in attendance so you can nurture that relationship over the long time.

Do that and your event can be deemed unquestionably successful.


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