This article is a reprint from my separate weekly newsletter, called A Positive View of Rural. It’s not the same as this you’re reading right now. Once a week, I send this other email to deliver practical steps to shape the future of your town and share the products and services I offer to help you. Join me and thousands of rural friends by filling your email address on the Positive View of Rural Newsletter signup form. I will not ever sell or rent your email address to anyone else, because I wouldn’t like that either.
What can small town businesses do when big events come downtown and require the streets to be closed? Webster City, Iowa, is on the route of a cross-state bicycle ride that draws about 25,000 people. Maybe 8,000 people will get off their bikes in Webster City to eat and enjoy entertainment. Because they are traveling on bikes, they probably won’t do much shopping.
The number one complaint from businesses, according to Chamber Director Deb Brown, is that this leaves nowhere in front of the stores for regular local customers to park. It also means that the streets will be full of people that are probably not going to shop. Deb made some smart suggestions to local stores that I want to build on. What can small town retailers do during such big events?
1. Sell them something to consume on the spot.
Food and beverages. Massages. Jewelry they can wear now. Hats. Sunblock. Anything they could purchase and wear or use right away. Include activities or hands-on games people can play on the spot.
2. Ship it for them.
Let people purchase items with free shipping. Bicycle visitors will especially appreciate this, but it applies also to any event-goers who don’t want to be saddled with carrying large or heavy items. Then there are your other visitors who are going home by air. They won’t want to cram purchases into their carry-on bags. Really, I think free shipping helps sales of all kinds of items all the time.
3. Put your merchandise to work at the event.
Dress volunteers with your clothes or outfit participants with your accessories. Add a name tag with your store name and location. Now, take this a step further and make instant sales. Add an explanation and QR code that customers can scan with their phone to go straight to your online checkout basket for that item or outfit. They see the items, want them, scan the code, go straight to your online shopping cart already filled with the items they saw. They check out and buy it from you online, and you ship it to them. You could do this with clothes, gear, accessories, anything that people might see in use at an event or anything you might be displaying.
4. Don’t try to make a sale. Make a connection.
If you focus on making a connection, you can layer your way into a sale. Your goal is to give them a powerful reason to join your email list, and then deliver a valuable email regularly, building a relationship with them. So you have to provide a newsletter that benefits the reader, and you have to explain the benefit before shoppers will sign up. Your reward is a chance to earn their business in the future. Not sure what to say in your email newsletter? Here are tips to get started with emailing your customers.
Remember, this article was originally part of my newsletter for my business. It’s part of how I layer useful information for you and other rural people. Sign up for it on the Positive View of Rural Newsletter signup form.
5. Get involved.
Just having thousands of people in town is good whether you make a sale today or not. Your town will be more prosperous. When your town prospers, you’ll benefit down the road. So volunteer today to help make the event an overall success.
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.