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Six Rules For Planning Your Next Big Event

Furniture World Magazine


Earlier this year some good friends announced that their daughter Kelsey is getting married. She graduated college a few years back and is ready to settle down. The date is set for mid-October and a fairly large wedding is being planned right now.

I decided to call Kelsey and ask her why she needs to start planning now for a wedding more than six months away! She took a few moments and told me there is a lot to do, and not much time to do it. Some of the tasks ahead include: Selecting a place to have the reception, arranging for a photographer, a caterer, a band, the cake, and the invitations. She also told me that her and her fiancé Drew need to purchase a wedding license, a wedding dress, a tuxedo, accessories like a garter and veil, have pre-marital counseling, and make sure the minister and church are available. They also have to select the best man and ushers, along with the maid of honor and bridesmaids - and their attire! And when it’s all over, they need to note who gave what gift so they can send thank you cards.

Then there is the guest list that started with too many names. It needs to be narrowed down, then narrowed down once more, until it becomes a manageable crowd! And of course they need to be sure that the friends and family members most important to them are available for that date.

A wedding is a BIG EVENT, and costly too. In 2014 the average cost of a wedding was $25,200. Couples reporting their total outlay said they spent between $10,000 and $31,500. A wedding is a once in a lifetime event if you are lucky! But that is still a big investment.

Big Retail Furniture Events

The next BIG EVENT your store promotes will likely also be expensive. Even medium sized stores in medium sized markets can spend $10,000 to $31,500 per week promoting a sale! When you start to think about it, planning a BIG EVENT is a lot like planning a wedding. It takes time, thought, and budgeting. I once heard that “Retail is Detail” and the more time you spend on the details of your event, the greater chance you have of reaping the rewards of your investment. Here are some tips to consider in maximizing the return on your next big event:

1. Plan Six Months In Advance: It seems like a long time, but unless you are planning right now for Labor Day, Columbus Day and Black Friday, chances are that your event will fail. In fact, six months is NOT enough time. World Class Furniture Retailers sketch out their advertising event calendar a year in advance, then revise and update as needed. If you have not planned your calendar for the balance of the year, it may be time to call for extra help. Resources like your product suppliers and media reps can often help you set a basic plan that will include product, promotion, and advertising venues.

2. The Guest List: Back in the day, meaning before 2010, advertising often meant getting your message out to as many people as possible with the hope that some would show up. The number of “impressions” was the buzzword of that time. Some sources claimed that they could get you 800 million impressions in the US, with our 300 million population! But today, the way to make advertising pay is to direct your message to the people most likely to buy your products, sometimes called target marketing. Think about hosting a wedding in December in Alaska. It’s a beautiful state, but unlikely to attract many guests from Florida in the winter. In our business, your target area may be as small as 3 miles around your store with very few people under 18 or over 65 considering a furniture purchase. You can then narrow it down to homeowners or renters, male or female, family, singles, or couples. Just like Kelsey and Drew will narrow their list down and narrow it once more, to select the people most important to them.

3. Attire, Accessories and The Caterer: Does your store put on a SALE or an EVENT? One way to tell is how the store and the staff look. What’s a wedding without a wedding dress, some tuxedos, and hideous bridesmaids’ dresses? (Note: Kelsey assured me that the bridesmaid dresses she chose are very tasteful) Typically, the reception hall is decorated with white and silver accents and flowers at every table. The caterer’s wait staff is properly dressed, and fresh tablecloths are on every table. Anyone can peek into the hall and know that a wedding is scheduled for that day.

4. When you have a promotion, decorate in the theme of the event: It’s not corny to have flags or bunting out on national holidays. On Presidents’ Day have a few Abe Lincoln look-alikes around for photo opportunities for the kids. On Black Friday Morning, have your staff wear night caps. And, if you are having a mattress sale, how about having the staff wear non-revealing pajamas. Also you can add badges, store POP, and change the music and videos you show in the store. Your customers will stay longer in your store when you give them a snack or bite to eat. Just ask the people at Bob’s Discount Furniture who are growing like crazy and have great snacks and drinks in the store for FREE!

5. The Best Man & Bridesmaids along with the Minister, attendants, and parents of the couple make up the wedding party. Your EVENT will be more successful when you have the right people at your party. Major events have to be “All Hands on Deck” days. That means everyone from the back office or Corporate HQ are at the store. Get as much office help as needed to process buyers’ tickets and credit applications. HR people are great Front Door greeters. Your Operations staff should be willing to pack and wrap purchases, or move tables and lamps as the sales staff works to build tickets. The Store Owners are like parents of the bride. They can pay for lunch and coffee!

6. Gifts & Thank You Cards: It’s your event and you get the gifts. For Retailers, the gifts are each sale you ring up! The day after your event is time to see who gave what gift. Analyze your results. Key performance measures start with Total Sales, Total Traffic, Total Tickets Written, and Advertising Spend. Take those numbers and calculate Average Sale, Close Rate, Sales Per Guest (total $$$ sold divided by total traffic), Advertising Cost per Guest, and Advertising Cost per Sale. Track every event period and non-event period to see what is working and what improvement is needed. Thank-you cards sent by snail mail may seem old-fashioned, costly and time consuming, however, remember that average sale metrics for most stores in our industry are around $1000. You better believe that a ponying up for a postcard and a stamp is a small courtesy that will not go unappreciated. You wouldn’t expect a new bride and groom to e-mail a thank you card for that toaster or coffee maker you gave them. Your customers deserve more than an e-mail from you!

Kelsey, Drew and their families have a lot of work ahead of them. Kelsey also has a sister, so her parents Mike and Renee will get to repeat this in a few years. You have to plan for 12-15 events this year and another 12-15 next year. Plan for them, exercise that plan, review and improve it and you will maximize every advertising dollar you spend. And I’ll just count the blessings of having just one child, my son!

About Gordon Hecht: Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry. You can reach him at Gordon.hecht@aol.com