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Get Out of Your Store

Getting out of your store to host an event this fall could increase 'Back to School' traffic in your store

Each year at about this time, hordes of students head back to school — and while this may be a mixed blessing for those among us who rent band instruments, there is no question that it’s the perfect time of year to get our products into the public eye.

Unfortunately, it’s also an easy time of year to sequester ourselves inside our stores and enjoy the steadily increasing store traffic. That’s why I plan my marketing calendar a year in advance. With a progressive scheduling strategy, I can use the slow summer months to prepare marketing events that will get me out of my stores and into the places my potential clients already are — thus building long-term demand for my business.

What are your plans this fall? Do you have an affordable mechanism to get out of your store and reach people who may not even be thinking about music right now? If not, here are a few ideas that have worked well for me in the past:
• Partner with a high-end department store.
Especially during the “back to school” season, department stores host a number of special events that attract large crowds. Why not bring some music students to their next big event and put on a show? While the students play, you can mingle with the crowd and answer questions about music lessons. If you’re a Constant Contact member, you can even enter prospect data into your tablet and download it directly into your email database when you get back to your store.
• Host a Rock Band or Karaoke Party in the mall. Most malls will partner with you for a small fee (if any) as long as you are providing free entertainment to their shoppers. Play your cards right and the game store will work with you to setup an Xbox 360 in the center of the mall. You can purchase a number of karaoke games for only $20 each and — with a cheap pair of USB microphones — you’re ready to gather a crowd! Rock Band is another popular music title for Xbox 360 and there are a ton of older versions for around $20 as well. Buy the games from the game store and they will help you set up the fun. Make sure you bring a big, flat-screen TV on a stand or cart so everyone can see what you’re doing, and don’t forget to get everyone who plays or sings signed up for your email newsletter! Remember — it doesn’t matter if the instruments they are playing are “real” or not. You are just trying to get people excited about music and about your business.
• Do an elementary school tour. Find a local musician or two and hire them to visit a few elementary schools with you. You can give away little kazoos with your logo on them and maybe even work a rendition of “Manamana” into the show! If you can, pass out some fliers to the school that advertise a “Free Get Started with Music” program and create something exciting that will bring these kids — and their families — in to see you. Make sure you get pictures of everything for Facebook and a video clip of the kids playing with the kazoos for YouTube.
With a little planning, you can build a very successful strategy to boast your business year-round. You’ll gather new prospects, a ton of client data and a loyal following from your community. Challenge yourself to get out of your stores this fall and into the community. You may find it’s some of the best time — and money — you can invest in your business’s future. MI

James Harding is the president of Gist Piano Center, a freelance Web designer, pianist and avid blogger. He can be reached here.