Using Events to Attract Customers
April 5, 2012 - 2:58pm
Retailer Melissa Haberstroh shares her tips on how lighting showrooms can use special events to engage their customer base.

Residential Lighting: What’s the formula for success with events?

Melissa Haberstroh: Start with a small-scale event—a visit by an author, artist or designer. Let’s say you are fortunate enough to get Bob Mackie to introduce his lighting collection to your customers. That sort of event is easy to pull off and brings a lot of interested parties into your store.

We have an open house each October. We close for a week and reinvent the store. We reopen to a special client list—our top 100 or 150 customers—and invite them to a special party to see everything before the public does. It has become a rite of passage. Customers mark their calendars a year in advance.

RL: How do you get the word out?

MH: We use mailing lists. We have 6,000 customers on our list, and we can tweak it to a mailing of 2,000 or 3,000 if we want. We find that four-color postcards are best. People stick them on their calendars and refrigerators.

RL: Is there a best day of the week to hold events?

MH: We used to have a lot of events on Friday evenings. We thought we would catch people winding down from the week, but we found that some of our biggest sup-porters were not attending. So, I began having focus group conversations with customers. And they said Sunday—not good, Monday—don’t even think about it, Wednesday—church night, Thursdays—business clubs and chambers mixers, Friday—varsity foot-ball, Saturday—friends and family. Tuesday stuck out.

RL: Are particular themes stronger than others?

MH: The event type is not as crucial as how it links back to the products. Once, we brought in a cheese specialist who taught customers how to bake brie and pair it with wine. The specialist used our tabletop collections to showcase and serve the cheese. You can set up a simple tabletop presentation of food and feature a great-looking lamp. Just have several food stations, so customers walk around and explore the entire store during the event.

RL: Do you run sales or hold drawings?

MH: We like to do events for our top buyers. These are the people who have been loyal and important in promoting our store. We want those folks to be the beneficiaries of any kind of sale. They may get, say, 20 percent off of anything in the store.

As for drawings, we prefer handing out gift bags. Many customers have left the store when we finally do the drawing anyway. I’m just not big on someone coming in, sticking their name in a pot and having a chance to win.

RL: What’s the main overall benefit of events?

MH: Eventing is a huge step in the right direction toward creating a great reputation. It gives you a reason to change up the store. You find a need to create something new, and that drives new displays, which works hand-in-hand with creating a great atmo-sphere for your customers.

Melissa Haberstroh is owner of The Burlap Horse, a Boerne, TX, retailer of antiques and heirlooms, lifestyle accessories and lighting. 

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