We’ve shared a lot of tools with you over the past year, and one thing we haven’t shared is a successful event. We wanted to change that. We know events are a big part of downtown, and having a successful one can make or break your organization.
While we talked about festivals, fundraisers, or other events, those can be very specific to your community or region. In fact, the really successful ones usually have something that makes them authentic that is very difficult to replicate. Now, don’t get us wrong, there is always something you can learn from successful events, and we will definitely be sharing those (and asking you to share some as well) in the future.
However, we wanted to start with a very successful retail event that we believe can easily be replicated in your community. We are focusing on what was the most successful retail event for me during my tenure as Executive Director of The District in Quincy, IL. This event was called “Go for the Gold” and was something that capitalized on an existing event that was happening within the district.
This particular event took place in October during a classic car show. The car show was put on by the Early Tin Dusters car club. This was a mutli-day event with registration on Friday. Saturday they took over the streets of downtown and gave participants the opportunity to show off their restored cars. On Sunday they would meet in a park outside of The District. While this event was a car show, the promotion that our organization held would work with any event.
The way the promotion worked was simple. When participants arrived and registered their car, among the paperwork they were given was a “Go for the Gold” form. This form was their entry for the promotion. For us, it was a way to connect to the event and do something exclusively for those participating in the car show, which drew about 900 cars annually. I think part of what made this event successful was the exclusivity.
Our planning would start months before the event, recruiting the 19 business to be a part of the event. Each business needed to commit to a few things:
This ensured participants would have enough time to visit each location, but more on that later. Businesses were entered on a first-come, first-serve basis and every year we would have a waiting list of businesses that wanted to participate.
The promotion itself was relatively simple. The majority of the money we collected from the businesses was used to purchase jewelry from our local jeweler. In addition to being a participating business, the jeweler would work with us to buy the jewelry at a discount to ensure our dollars stretched as far as possible. We would always secure three pieces (sometimes it was a set), but this would ensure we have three drawings.
In order to be eligible, the only thing a participant would have to do is visit all 19 participating businesses and turn their form into our office before 4pm on Saturday. In order to ensure that each person visited each store, we used raffle tickets. Each business got a roll of tickets. They were instructed to put the tickets near the back of their store, which got the customers in and checking out everything in their store. The participants would take a ticket and staple their ticket to their form. Because we knew which ticket numbers each store had, we could verify that they didn’t just take 20 tickets from one store, but that they did indeed visit each of the participating businesses.
On Sunday we would attend the car show’s awards ceremony and draw from the valid forms and three lucky individuals would receive their prize.
While this was a super easy event to conduct, the results were fantastic. Overall the businesses saw a huge increase in sales from a normal Saturday. Additionally, multiple businesses would report that this event would surpass their entire month of December. By capitalizing on the existing event, this allowed us to have a wonderful weekend without being responsible for the event’s success. This became a strong partnership and a terrific weekend for the district.
In order to help you replicate this in your community, we have some tools available for you. The first is our letter that we sent to our businesses inviting them to participate and explaining the promotion. The second is the signup form for our businesses. The third is the participant form. The last is the work plan that we utilized to make the event possible. To get these tools fill out the form to the right and these will all be emailed to you.