Lessons learned from a grassroots multi-merchant event

The U Street Shopper Social in MidCity, Washington DC, highlighted yesterday, has been running for a few years when such grassroots campaigns to attract new customers start to lose momentum.

Some keys to a successful promotion:

1. Shorter period of time. The Shopper Social is only from 5-8 pm, so the crowds are more intense. If it were any longer, the crowds would be dispersed to the point no one would feel like there’s something ‘happening’.

2. Smaller area. There are 500 businesses in the neighborhood commercial district, but the merchants chose to keep it mainly to a one-block area for the same reason above.

3. Theme/target demographic. In the case of the Shopper Social, it’s mainly for women looking to shop and, well socialize. So many of the promotions are sales on women’s items, and desserts like 2 for 1 cupcakes at the bakery next door. Ideally, merchants should provide cupcakes at the sale.

4. Low cost. Web and emails are the primary means of advertising (essentially free.) Marketing growth is achieved through word of mouth, and that’s helped immensely by keeping the event going.

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