It was the most wonderful time of the year… holiday party time!
Everyone is out and about and looking for fun things to do, and this rings especially true for families. But it’s a double-edged sword: with so much to do, how do you get people to come to your event?
Waverly, a shopping and residential plaza in south Charlotte, looks to capitalize on this each year with their Winter Wednesday events. The goal is to get more people into Waverly for the first time, and then have them come back in the future.
By holding the event several times throughout December, families are able to pick a date that works best for them with their already crazy holiday schedule. If you’re thinking of hosting an event during a busy time, having several dates available can really make a difference in the number of people you’re looking to reach.
The event series:
With this annual set of events, we’re trying to increase the plaza’s visibility in the area since it’s relatively new - the grand opening was in 2017, after all.
The event is simple: Every Wednesday in December, we set up in The Terrace of Waverly which is located in the middle of several shops and restaurants. We work with different vendors in Waverly to offer free samples or coupons or general info on their store. There’s always a Santa there to take present requests from kids, usually, a holiday character, like Olaf from Frozen, dressed up and Christmas music to really set the mood.
We also work with a different local baker each week to hand out free desserts and have giveaway prizes. This is to encourage people to stop by a registration table and give us their email so they can obtain a ticket for these things.
The winter fun starts at 5 P.M., once most families are finished with work for the day and out and about with their kiddos, and ends after a few hours.
We had a few simple goals for the event this year: Get more people to come each week than we had the previous year, collect email addresses of attendees for future marketing purposes and show off Waverly vendors to drum up interest and future business.
Winter Wednesdays 2018:
I made a few adjustments to the event this year: first, we decided to end 30 minutes earlier this year than we did in 2017. Doing this seemed to fit better with our attendees’ schedules and saved Waverly some money: a win-win.
We also added a new attraction this year: snow machines. And, well, WOW! These things were a hit with kids, who couldn’t get enough. If you’re holding an outdoor event in the south during the holidays, this is a relatively cheap option that is sure to be a hit. I’ll definitely be bringing them back next year, and will be looking for larger ones to increase the fun.
Additionally, we added a toy drive through a partnership with the Kids First Project and a photo booth with TapSnap so families could get a nice, holiday portrait done while they were out! We added a tent with heaters this year so families had an opportunity to escape the colder days - I think everyone was thankful for this addition.
The event was marketed on Facebook and Instagram, as well as banners that were hung in the Waverly center. This means some of those who attended may already be consistent patrons of Waverly shops and businesses, but hosting free events like these keeps them coming back.
They really speak for themselves with this event: every single week we had over 300 attendees, and some weeks we reached over 350. This means approximately 900 email addresses collected for Waverly’s future marketing purposes and interacted with Waverly vendors - different ones each week - who they may not have before.
This is a definite increase from last year. I can’t help but point out our success from last year may have had something to do with it - the best marketing is often word of mouth, and I’m sure we had excited attendees last year encouraging others to try it this year with them.
But I truly believe the fact we had such a fun and free event that families and couples could attend more than once or on the day that worked best for them has a lot to do with the continued success of Waverly’s Winter Wednesdays. When you make the event easy for your attendees, the impact can help with your overall visibility, popularity, and future marketing.
First, I cannot stress this enough - turn to snow machines for your winter events! These were such a hit and were a relatively cheap option that really helped take the event to a whole new level from last year.
Free events don’t have to mean you’ll lose money. Even though this entire event was free for attendees, we saw them going into shops and restaurants after for a quick bite to eat or see what they were. We also expect many who didn’t have time to check out the plaza that night to come back now that they know what is offered.
Even for those who have been to the Waverly shops before, this event allowed them the opportunity to interact with businesses they might not have before. Having local vendors participate only increased the popularity, as many of them gave things away as well.
Finally, having the same event held several times during the holidays is advisable. Every single week we had at least 300 people attend and did not see a major dip as the event continued. Rather than hold one event that reached 300 people, we held 3, reached over 900, and fully expect this number will increase next year as we continue to learn and as past attendees come back and bring others.
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The J. Leigh Events team is expanding! This month we welcomed two new additions, both of whom happen to be named Sam. Head here to learn more about our new project manager, Sam Kimball, and our new event planner, Sam Poler.