This steps away from design, but consider a way of building both employee and customer loyalty: The Grill Out. A couple packs of hot dogs and potato salad can be a great investment in showing your employees you care. Invite them with their families. Have balloons, coloring books, face painting, beanbag tosses and other fun and inexpensive activities for the kiddos and the kids-at-heart. Recently Dave Ramsey’s crew had a watermelon-spitting contest. You could bring in tailgate games like corn hole or tailgater’s golf. A prize will bring out all but the shiest of employees and family members.
What about your customers?
Why not send email or letters inviting them to come as well? Block off a large parking lot or hold it at a public park. Having a playground set nearby could be just the break for the busy parents. Provide lots of cold drinks – tea and lemonade are always big and cheap hits for start-ups.
What is this doing?
Besides potentially putting promotional stickers on the prizes or Frisbees for the kiddos, you’re making a name for yourself – branding not only to your customers but their families. How many auto-repair shops, internet providers or grocery stores have YOU gone to that have provided a free family activity?
You’re small, so your customer base is probably small too. Getting time to talk with these people and develop long-term personal relationships is a weapon big business can’t master.
Icing on the cake.
You’re also showing your employees a good time – thus increasing the chances of attracting more loyal enthusiastic personnel the next time you need to hire. Get them involved – they can paint faces, run the contests, man the grill, bring in some of the game sets if you’ve got a couple of avid tailgaters. With a little digging around you can make this a super affordable way to build business.
Too late for a holiday event?
How about a post-holiday event that stresses cleaning up a park from the holiday’s clutter? Some good food and you’re earning a name as environmentally conscious.
Take it to the next level.
There’s a fireworks store I adore going to, and I can’t help but think if they ran demo events of their exclusive products they might triple their sales of their favorite products. (In their state it’s legal to exhibit fireworks if you have a fire marshal present.) Our local baseball team has a professionally run fireworks show after the ballgame every Friday during summer. It’s a huge crowd-drawer and not just for ticket sales but all the over priced concessions too.
Another promotional company I know has a drink-night open to all clients every Friday night to relax, have a few martinis or beers and hang out with the company’s staff. The staff love it and so do the clients.
Got a projector? How about a ‘Movie Night’? You could spice it up by having it outside like a drive-in movie and hand out bags of free popcorn. Be creative, but consider opening up the conversation beyond ‘Buy our products please’.
Don’t just wait.
One company did this grill-out idea entirely wrong. Instead of inviting people, they just opened up a tent, turned on a grill and hung a sign saying ‘free grill out’. Even though they were on a busy street (a very busy street) I passed them four times and not a single person came up to them. Why? People can smell a trap a mile away. If they’ve never talked to you and you’re throwing out a blanket net like ‘anyone nearby come over’ they’ll feel you’re trying to lure them in and charge them money somehow. That is 1) Too passive to be worth your time and 2) Too awkward about what’s expected. Please please don’t do this.
Marketing Challenge: Find the person in your small business who loves to host parties. Chances are they will coordinate an event that is not only cheaper and bigger than you could, but more focused and fun. Give them a budget and see where it heads.