Many consumers can remember spending time with their families visiting apple orchards for doughnuts and cider or a local farmer's field to pick a pumpkin. These opportunities provide children and adults with an exciting and enjoyable day. This may have prompted a return trip for the family. Research indicates that consumers desire opportunities where they and their families can have an enjoyable day together, support a local business owner, and "get back to nature." By inviting the public to help celebrate your business's grand opening or anniversary, the season, a holiday, or other occasion, you may also be developing a relationship that will last well after the event is over.
Deciding When to Host an Event
Events at your agribusiness are only restricted by your creativity and rationale for offering the event. Keeping your goals and objectives in mind when working through planning details and post-event analysis is always important. Some reasons for an event include:
- Boosting sales during slow times
- Promoting store openings, anniversaries, or holiday open houses
- Recognizing customers who spend the most at the business on an annual basis
- Targeting your primary customers for a "night out"
Making Sure Your Property Is Suitable for Hosting an Event
Before planning event details, you will need to evaluate the amount of space available to accommodate larger-than-average crowds. Additionally, be sure there is enough parking. A nearby field or another business's parking lot can serve as temporary overflow parking. Hiring extra staff to direct traffic and use the spaces efficiently may alleviate stress for all involved. Consider having shuttle services or assistance for handicapped visitors. Extra staff may also help to ensure child safety, as well as prevent vendors and guests from being victims of theft.
You will also need to consider several other components of creating a comfortable space. Do you have an appropriate number of bathrooms and wash stations; a variety of refreshments available for purchase, especially if temperatures are unseasonably warm; and shelter, such as a tent, in case of bad weather? Additionally, consider offering tents or other outbuildings to food vendors who will be selling snacks and meals. Tents for cooking facilities must be up to code and need to be placed a specific distance from permanent buildings in case a fire occurs in the tent. Consult the local authorities for more information.
Determining Duration of the Event
With the amount of time and energy that it takes to plan an event, it may be in your best interest to develop one to be held over a three-day weekend or longer. Consider the potential benefits of a longer event:
- Consumers may have conflicts on any given day and may have to miss your event.
- Some families may visit on more than one day.
- More days also allows flexibility in scheduling special guests, vendors, or demonstrations.
- Parking congestion and crowding is likely to be reduced.
The ultimate goal of an event is to generate income for the agribusiness while offering an experience for the visitor. Hence, you will need to devote more resources than you would for regularly scheduled promotions. When planning the event, develop a list of questions that can guide you through the process. Revisiting the questions after the event can help determine what to change for future years. Below are some questions worth considering.
Is the idea unique? The uniqueness of an event can be a key marketing factor that customers associate with the business, helping you stand apart from competitors. To be effective, you need to establish some tie-in between your business and the focus of the event. For example, if your business is a winery and labels on the bottles include sketches or paintings by a local artist, consider a "meet the artist" night during the event. If the winery sells hand-carved crystal or blown-glass wine goblets, the artisan could also be invited and asked to demonstrate the craft, as well as offer one-of-a-kind pieces for sale and signing.
Will the event be memorable? Be sure to understand the promotional aspects of your event. A family that visits the agribusiness may be looking for a family-oriented day that offers something for all age groups. To achieve this, your business should ensure that the experience is greater than visitors' expectations and that the outcome ultimately "wows" attendees. Deliver more than what is promised, and the visitor will not be disappointed. This will lead to greater profits now and when the family makes return visits
Is the event important enough to justify the time and resources invested? An event that is both unique and memorable requires a certain amount of resources to be allocated to the effort. As discussed below, sales and foot traffic are two indicators that should be tracked and analyzed. Keep in mind that it may take more than one attempt of offering the event to obtain the desired level of profitability.
Inviting Complementary Businesses to Be Vendors or to Provide Entertainment
Complementary businesses should consider the advantages that two or more establishments can provide by working together. For example, a retailer who sells value-added packaged food products may be interested in seeking out other businesses, agricultural or otherwise, to round out what is offered during the event. One complementary business could be a local florist. During the event, both retailers could offer demonstrations, such as meal preparation using the packaged foods, home entertaining, and flower arranging. Both businesses could also provide goods that can be included in gift baskets for sale at the event or that could be ordered at the event.
Consumers who attend the event may appreciate being able to interact with more than one business and purchase goods and services provided by each. Combining forces could be economical for both businesses, resulting in a greater number of employees available to staff the event, along with a pool of funds to cover advertising and event-related expenses. Along with deciding on a unified theme that makes sense for both businesses, you'll need to determine the event's location, how to assign duties and distribute profits from admission or activity fees, and how the visiting business compensates the host business for utility and land use.
Taking Advantage of Your Facilities and Expertise
You may also consider making your property available for other businesses to use for their events. Some attractive points are an appropriate amount of space, aesthetically appealing facilities, and employees to assist with planning and implementing the event. Smaller agribusinesses, either in terms of customer base or product offering, might be interested. These businesses may not have a physical store and might sell their products at outlets such as seasonal farmers' markets. In addition, agribusinesses could host meetings for associations or organizations to host their events or fundraisers. For example, wineries make their vineyards and tasting rooms available for weddings, receptions, and other celebrations, while garden centers and retail nurseries with aesthetically appealing greenhouse space or cafes could also advertise that they have space available for garden club meetings, showers, or other celebrations.
Evaluating the Event's Success
As with every promotional or business-related activity, it is important to measure the outcome. This information will be essential in determining whether the energy needed to promote and implement the event is justified. Be sure to keep track of certain indicators to determine if the event provided a return on investment, met customer expectations, and if the event should be offered again, changed, or discarded. The items below are commonly used measures.
How do gross sales compare to those of the same period in the previous year, regardless of whether you hosted a similar event or not? Flat or declining gross sales could indicate that the focus of the event, structure of the activities, or other components need to be altered. It is necessary to review your notes to determine if any changes need to be made to ensure a more successful event in the future. As you compare sales, be sure to take factors such as weather into account.
Most likely, an event will require more inputs than other promotional activities, especially during the first few years. Depending on many factors, the event could be a success in terms of attracting new and existing consumers yet not be profitable. If the primary goal of the event was to be a major income generator, and its cost exceeded revenue, then it may be necessary to revise aspects of the event before offering it again. If the primary goal of the event was to alert consumers that the business exists, sales generated after the event could be viewed as an additional benefit. This becomes difficult to measure. Make return on investment an objective and design aspects of the event to fulfill this purpose.
Being able to document the number of consumers or families that visit the business during the actual event and weeks that follow should be of interest to business owners and operators. Though an event's ultimate measure of success--profitability--is of great interest, it is also important to understand
- how responsive consumers were to the type of event offered;
- how the event was promoted; and
- what goods and services visitors purchased during the event.
Sales during the event are key, but consumers may return at a later date when there is not a crowd, or they may need to give greater consideration to the goods and services offered and their need for them. If the conversion rate (number of purchasers compared to number of visitors) is low, then further investigation is warranted.
Time, energy, and money need to be allocated to any promotional activity, and planning an event is no different. The event's purpose, theme, staging, and other considerations need to be taken into account well in advance. By doing so, the task may seem less overwhelming and scheduling the event between other promotional activities will be easier. Additionally, scheduling staff to work at the event can be easier since employees will know well in advance what they will need to do to prepare for the event in addition to their normal workload. Once the event is over, the work is still not done. Key personnel should meet to talk about their perceptions of how well the event was received, any components that need to be reconfigured, and what the economic reward was. A final task would be to develop or redefine a list of objectives for the next time the event will be offered. Most likely, employees' memories of the event will become less accurate as they become involved in other business manners, so record impressions and comments as soon as the event is over.