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The Magic of the
In-Store Event

Take these three steps to create a store
event that makes the cash register ring

The vendor does all the promotion, organizing and execution, and presto — you rake in the sales. But wait, this sales trick didn’t work? This isn’t your card? Well, don’t fire your stagehands just yet.

Clinics and performances, while usually drawing large crowds, rarely generate large profits. Customers pack the store to watch Johnny Guitar Hero or Lucius “Thunder-Bass” Malone show off his skills, then shake his hand, ask for an autograph and leave. Meanwhile, the store and sponsor go mostly unnoticed.
The secret is organizing the right type of event — one that’s specifically designed to maximize sales over hype. If executed correctly, your audience will be back for more.

Just like a well-planned stage show, the event should progress over three acts:

1. The Pledge
Plan the event and introduce it to your customers. A vendor may already have a plan in place, or you may be able to work with them to customize the experience. Sometimes, you can build it from scratch with an initial suggestion.

Here are three real-world examples to illustrate these points.
"Bowie Guitars" plans a regular touring event to showcase much of its line, including custom options that most dealers won’t stock. It will be an all-day event focused on sales featuring many unique instruments, with a factory rep on hand and markets it by mailing out postcards.

"Caine Cymbals" promotes a day-long showcase of limited pieces, a joint concept between the vendor and dealer. The highlight of the selection is prototype cymbals that are not currently on the market. A sales rep will be in attendance to answer all questions.

A store representative contacts Nolan Pedals with an idea for a special in-store event: Bring the owner of the company in to discuss his full line, talk about the history of the brand, and answer questions from customers.

In all three situations, both the store and the vendor promote the event. "Bowie Guitars" goes further by mailing postcards to all registered owners in the area to drive in even more business.

2. The Turn
You’ve got the audience’s attention, now it’s time to dazzle them. This is where your store, staff and product must shine. Use the opportunity to show customers your absolute best, but always keep sales at the forefront. Because the simple experience of the gear, event or artist doesn't necessarily generate purchases, it's up to you and the vendor to bridge that gap. Here's how:

"Bowie Guitars" lines a section of the store with dozens of instruments. Customers are allowed to play any of them, but salesmen stay close and discuss the options with everyone who picks up a guitar. The sales rep answers questions for the staff and customers. The store and "Bowie Guitars" offer special pricing and financing on any guitar sold at the event, since this is the only opportunity for patrons to see and play many of the instruments.

"Caine Cymbals" lines a cymbal rack with some of its best models. Each cymbal sits directly next to its competition, and players are urged to hear and compare. Between the rep and salesmen, the rack is never unattended and a purchase is always implied. The special models and prototypes are clearly marked, and extra discounts are offered on most.

The "Nolan Pedals" meet-and-greet with the owner turns out to be more of a host-and-audience event, but there is an in-depth discussion of their line, back story, and other topics to keep the customers involved. Then it’s on to a full demo of their line, including prototypes of new models and a shoot-out against other popular pedals.

3. The Prestige
If this retail trick has been performed correctly, sales will be your standing ovation, hopefully long after the event. For example:

"Bowie Guitars" experienced record sales for the store. "Caine Cymbals" left with virtually none of its prototypes, and "Nolan Pedals" sold several units at the event, but the personal connection with the customers left lingering sales for months.
The key seems to be the focus on the product especially special order merchandise.

Having a company rep (as high-profile as possible) interact with the customers gives them a direct connection to the brand that can create a lasting sense of loyalty. I have seen similar events with a no-name clinician who plays several different guitars to a sitting audience, answers questions, then lets everyone freely play from the selection of instruments without any further interaction or assistance. These occasions result in little-to-no sales.

Plan your trick well, know your audience and rehearse with your stagehands. You’ll be able to leave the audience amazed and the register full. But like any good magician, keep your cards close to the vest. Remember, your customers are in for a show and not just a sale. MI

Micah Spruill is the assistant sales manager at Alpha Music in Virginia Beach, Virginia.