Normally, this time of year, I would have hit the road along Route 66 to the GAMA Trade Show and draw some sort of metaphor from thriving or dying businesses along the old road and incorporated it into a column. However, due to National Pi Day (yes this exists 3/14/15 and if you open at the right time it is possible to stretch the figure out to 3/14/15-9:26) the Saturday before GTS and the pre-release for Dragons of Tarkir the weekend after, I did not feel like leaving the store during two big events, which the trip to GTS would have required. So, not wishing to miss the opportunity to confab with my fellow retailers, I forewent the pleasures of Two Guns and “standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona” (yes, you can do this and there is even a “flatbed Ford” parked there for picture taking) and caught a flight from St. Louis to Las Vegas.
What is so special about National Pi Day that I did not want to leave the store during it? Nothing really. It’s rather like National Star Wars Day: May 4th. You have heard of it, right? “May the Fourth be with you!” However, like some other stores in the country, we decided to take National Pi Day and see what we could do to make a promotional event out of it. This started with advanced planning on our part. A month ahead of time, we set three quantifiable (measurable) goals:
1. Secure three mentions in the local mass media (newspapers, radio, television, email blasts from other organizations, etc).
2. Have at least 20 people demo one of the three Mensa Select games we featured. Later, when Looney Labs sent us a promo copy, we added Just Desserts to the list.
3. Sell 20% more than the target number for a typical Saturday.
Over the next two weeks we spent time refreshing staff member’s memories on how to play the selected game and determining which local media would most likely respond to press releases and give us coverage. Starting the first of March, we began sending out press releases, not many, to the selected local media. We passed on local radio since most of it does not cover local events, save sports, well. We are on good terms with reporters at two of the local newspapers and have a nodding acquaintance with a reporter for the local tv station. As a member of the local Chamber of Commerce, we figured we could get at least one email blast from them. We also used social media but did not set responses from it as one of our goals.
As Pi Day approached, we sent out a few more PR reminders then arranged to bring in pies to give away to customers on the day (Unlike some other stores of which I know, none of our customers brought us in a pie to celebrate). So far, total cost was about 6 hours spent on planning and PR and $40 on pies.
1. 6 mentions in local media including 2 television interviews, 3 write ups in local papers and 1 email from the Chamber of Commerce.
2. Demos to a total of 26 people
3. Sales up 10% over the target for a typical Saturday
Bonus: 5 brand new customers in directly as a result of the television appearances. What we found is that people respond better to television appearances than to print and that PR even the day of the event will pull in customers. Unfortunately, we only exceeded 2 of our three goals so I consider the event a qualified success. Yes, we will take this into consideration in our planning for International TableTop Day, Free Comic Book Day, Free RPG Day, and back to school, for which we already have plans in the works.