Event Marketing: Strategies to Engage Consumers
by Karen Buch, RDN, LDN
Retail dietitians frequently offer events and services designed to reach consumers in store and in the surrounding community. Interactive events can serve as important touchpoints to interface directly with existing and potential shoppers. The more personal and meaningful the interactions, often the more memorable and long-lasting the consumer impression will be.
The types of events and services offered vary by retailer. Popular in-store offerings include themed store tours, aisle excursions, cooking demonstrations, educational seminars, shopper intercepts, store-wide tasting events and individualized nutrition counseling. Common community events include health fairs, specialty expos, employee wellness fairs, health screenings and presentations to various groups. All of these activities require advanced planning and effective marketing and advertising techniques to ensure that customers are aware, enticed and motivated to attend.
When planning activities, ensure the type of offering and related promotional advertising offers a high degree of consumer appeal. Which of the following Heart Month events has a better “hook” to draw more participation? “Five Steps to Avoid Heart Disease—the Number One Killer in America” or “Eating Smart for Your Heart!” Most will vote for the latter. Be succinct, stay positive and inspire customers to choose and prepare delicious, nutrition foods. At the event, consider offering a free sample or valuable coupon for a food that fits the theme.
Consider innovative ways to involve all five senses as a way to fully connect with participants. For example, set up a brief customer intercept to introduce an unusual produce item to shoppers. Create an attractive visual display on the sales floor and challenge customers to select ripe fruit using a combination of sight, touch and smell. Next, create a fun, interactive game to teach its nutritional attributes and key messages. Finally, offer a free taste along with recipes, coupons and serving ideas as a ‘reward’ for taking part. Chances are, you’ll also gain a sale.
There’s nothing worse than planning an elaborate and innovative event, only to have less than stellar attendance. One key to bolster attendance is to have an effective communications plan. Events should be marketed through all available communication channels including:
- In-Store Marketing Use in-store radio messages, ad blocks in the circular, in-store easel-backed signs, shopping bag inserts distributed at checkout, stanchion signs, printed event calendars, and break room flyers to encourage employee attendance. Don’t forget to harness the influence of in-store personnel such as cashiers, pharmacists, store managers and department teams who can personally invite participation.
- Community Co-Marketing Develop partnerships with community stakeholders who may benefit from promoting and sharing your relevant event with their core audiences. Events with a health-oriented theme such as diabetes, weight management, heart health or gluten free may be of particular interest to local support groups, health care and insurance providers, schools and universities.
- E-messaging, traditional & social media These channels can be far reaching. Issue a press release to radio, television and print outlets and offer an interview. Work with your social media team to send geo-targeted messages to Facebook fans and Twitter followers. Promote via e-blasts, blog posts and website event calendar and homepage.
When events and services engage, satisfy and delight the intended audience, retail dietitians can positively impact customer emotion, perception and ultimately loyalty. Customer loyalty is awarded to retailers that successfully gain the love, respect, trust and commitment of their shoppers. Every satisfied customer has a powerful voice and ability to deliver the ultimate form of retailer advertising: word-of-mouth testimonials from a raving fan.
Karen Buch, RDN, LDN, is a registered dietitian/nutritionist who specializes in retail dietetics and food & nutrition communications. As one of the first supermarket dietitians, she is a recognized trailblazer and expert at translating nutrition science into practical solutions for consumers. Karen is owner and principal consultant at Nutrition Connections LLC, chair of the Food & Culinary Professionals Supermarket/Retail subgroup and contributing author to RDBA Weekly. You can connect with her on twitter @karenbuch and visit NutritionConnectionsLLC.com.