Prepare your business for festival season

5 tips to help your business get ready for seasonal events and celebrations.

By ATB Financial 24 July 2023 4 min read

Festivals are a great way to meet new customers, try out new products or offerings, and grow your brand. Luckily for us in Alberta, the opportunities abound, from sports events, music festivals, harvest celebrations and of course, rodeos. 

Festival season always feels like a whirlwind, but you can get more out of all the energy you put into festivals by planning ahead, embracing new payment technologies, and taking extra steps to engage your community.

Have a mobile payment solution for your customers

Many people, especially younger shoppers, no longer carry cash. At festivals, sales happen in the spur of the moment. If someone can’t pay with a card or digital wallet at your booth, they may spend their money elsewhere.

A mobile payment system can be used anywhere—at a festival, a pop-up shop or even at a customer’s front porch. And it supports tap, so it works for phone payments too. 

The best part? Point-of-sale transactions with a digital or chip card are the safest way to get paid.  Unlike online transactions, where a customer or vendor types in the card information, there is a very low risk for ‘chargebacks’. That’s when a customer disputes a sale and a bank or credit card company refunds the sale. You also don’t have to worry about counterfeit cash, or cash getting stolen or going missing (that means you can go for a stroll and enjoy the festival like everyone else!)

Create on-site promotions

Everyone loves a deal, and it’s especially hard to resist the allure of a novel, limited-time promo. As some examples, you can try buy-one-get-one-half-off deals for selected merch, take off a month or two for new sign-ups, or throw in a free gift for the first 100 customers. 

Consider ways that your promo can turn people you meet at festivals into repeat, or long-term, customers. For example, you can offer a gift card with purchases over a certain amount, which can only be used in store or after the festival has ended. 

You can even customize gift cards or promo cards (like $25 off for example) so that your customers associate the card with the magic of festival season. Think cards with rodeo-, music-, or other festival-themed graphics, or cards that say, ‘Keep the good times rolling’! Have fun with it, and you’ll meet the joyful mood of your target audience.

More brand loyalty, more sales

Create electronic branded gift and promo cards to boost your income, in-store and online.

Ensure you have seasonal staff to support if you need an extra hand

When you’re meeting new customers, you want the first impression to be a good one. That means you need enough staff to offer superb customer service, even in the rush times. 

You’ll want to scout early. Hire with a contract, even for seasonal staff, so your employees will know which hours they’re committing to, what’s expected of them, and so there’s no questions down the road about payment schedules or compensation. 

It’s a good idea to build up a network of people who can fill in, so you can reach out last-minute if you’re short-staffed. Remember, text is the preferred mode of contact for most young workers—and the most likely way to get a response.

To attract employees who present your brand well, offer payment above minimum wage, employee discounts or perks, and consider an end-of-summer bonus for those who stick with you. Keep in mind, some of your summer employees could turn into long-term staff, so be sure to treat them like full-time employee

Stock is key

Supply chains have been somewhat repaired since the pandemic. But they’re still not fully back. According to Statistics Canada, nearly one quarter of businesses in retail and wholesale trade expect maintaining inventory levels to continue as a challenge over the next three months.

Order as early as possible and build up your relationships with your suppliers so you can find out about savings options, such as bulk order options or packaging or material changes that might cut the price. If delays continue unabated, you may want to try out new suppliers. Starting with a small order lets you test out their ability to deliver.

Another way to gauge your inventory needs is to start with a small festival. As festival goers have unique needs and wants, you’ll get a good idea of what you need to stock up on for bigger festivals later in the season.

Festivals are a great promotional tool

Above all, festivals are about promoting your business—deepening your connection to your current clients, landing new customers, and getting on the radar of potential future customers. 

Be sure to gather emails and social media follows from those who visit your booth. Offering a chance to win a gift basket or other prize is a great way to motivate clients to share their emails. You could offer a discount or gift to those who sign up for email updates or follow your company on Instagram or another social media platform (branded water bottles that customers can fill on-site would be much appreciated and tote bags always come in handy).

You’ll also want to post on social media to connect to your community of supporters beyond the festival grounds. Don’t be afraid to get personal so that your clients can feel a closer connection. For example, you could share a pic of a band you love on stage or a gratitude post for an employee. 

Last but not least, encourage your customers to tag you in their social media posts, maybe holding their new merch or admiring your festival gift. That way, you’ll get on the radar of their followers too.

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