Marketing Meetup Recap: Marketing Multi-Store Events

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The American Booksellers Association recently presented the second of two online Marketing Meetups focusing on topics related to marketing multi-store events. In this session, bookseller speakers discussed Independent Bookstore Day (IBD), Find Waldo Local, and Here’s Harry, a Harry Potter version of Where’s Waldo.

ABA Meetups logo

The August 8 Marketing Meetup was titled “Organizing and Marketing Multi-Store Events: Bookstore Crawls/Passports, Part 2” and featured guest speakers Beth Stroh of Viewpoint Books in Columbus, Indiana; Jessica Palacios of Once Upon a Time in Montrose, California; Laurie Gillman of East City Bookshop in Washington, D.C.; and Elissa Sweet of Bank Square Books in Westerly, Rhode Island, and Savoy Bookshop & Café in Mystic, Connecticut.

Take a look below at some of the key points booksellers shared during the session:

Viewpoint Books (Independent Bookstore Day)

  • Schedule a meeting with other area bookstores during a regional or national conference to gauge interest in collaborating on a passport

    • IBD can help to create a community among booksellers. Stores in Stroh’s area built their customer bases as a result of their prospective strengths rather than engaging in competition with one another
  • Reach out to your regional association to get fellow stores’ contact information
  • Market using in-store publicity, such as fliers, and word-of-mouth
  • Utilize social media to promote the event; post at least once a month about the event across platforms
  • Stick to a timeline for planning the event:

    • Host a meeting at least 12 weeks in advance with all owners to define guidelines and find out who has local vendors to support the project
    • Finalize any products at least eight weeks in advance so there’s time for delivery and promotion
  • Use local businesses whenever possible, as they will appreciate it and sometimes go the extra mile to help the event be successful

    • Stroh’s printer, for example, took a lower profit on the items he made for the passport because he was not only a friend, but his daughter was also a fan of the store

Bank Square Books (Independent Bookstore Day)

  • Establish clear guidelines and adjust them to accommodate for your specific community

    • Sweet, for example, shared that one store on the Rhode Island passport is a ferry ride away, so instead of requiring participants to visit every store on the passport, the requirement was changed to 14 out of 15
  • Decide on a reward that each store is comfortable with, such as a 20 percent off coupon to each store; participants who completed the Rhode Island passport were also entered into a grand prize drawing for a $25 gift card to every store featured on the passport
  • Decide if stores need to pay to participate and be clear about the cost up-front, for example to offset printing costs
  • In addition to marketing on social media, send a press release to local media for possible coverage
  • Get a team/committee together to run the event; don’t try to do it on your own

East City Bookshop (Find Waldo Local)

  • Candlewick and the American Booksellers Association provide everything stores need to participate in Find Waldo Local; booksellers can make the event as simple or elaborate as they want so that it fits the personality of their store
  • The most time-consuming part is going from business to business to ask if they’d like to participate, so sign up early and allow ample time for this
  • Consider posting Waldo’s adventures, either in the bookstore or in other businesses, to social media to help promote the event and get customers into the participating stores
  • Booksellers can go all-out or low-key for the finale party

    • East City, for example, hosts a grand prize drawing with snacks, games, and coloring sheets to keep attendees entertained
    • Booksellers can ask participating businesses to contribute things such as gift cards for raffle prizes

East City Bookshop also participates in an annual Sip and Stroll, a local event held during the holiday season that pairs wine with shopping to attract customers into local stores. The event, held the first Monday each December to kick off the shopping season, is hosted by the local Chamber of Commerce, which does most of the legwork.

For the event, a local wine store provides wines to offer for tasting at participating retailers. Local makers and artists also sell wares in stores that have space, and customers can visit each store to get a map stamped.

Once Upon a Time (Here’s Harry)

  • Adapt multi-store events to what makes sense for your community; Once Upon a Time has a strong Harry Potter fan base in the area, so the store opted to create “Here’s Harry,” modeled after Find Waldo Local

    • Once Upon a Time creates designs, maps, a figure for stores to hide, and provides many of the prizes
    • Once Upon a Time is located in a shopping center, so Palacios asked a variety of different businesses to participate
  • Discuss with the publisher to ensure you are not infringing on copyrights; before anything was created, Here’s Harry was discussed with a Scholastic representative, so the figure isn’t called Harry Potter, and though the map resembles the Marauder’s Map, it is simply called “the map”
  • Market across social media platforms to raise awareness
  • Be aware that events like Here’s Harry might not immediately translate to sales, but they can help stores gain exposure

More information about this Marketing Meetup, as well as examples of press releases, designs, logos, and a recording of the session, can be found on the American Booksellers Association’s Education Resources page. Booksellers must be logged in to to view the recording of the session.

The American Booksellers Association now offers two opportunities for live online education: a twice-monthly Marketing Meetup and a monthly Technology Meetup. All member booksellers are invited to participate in these online discussions; subscribe to the mailing list here to receive invitations for the Technology Meetups, Marketing Meetups, or both.