Many business owners would probably agree that the scariest part about hosting an event is throwing open the doors to their venue and waiting to see if anyone shows up. Especially when it’s the first of its kind—like a women’s event hosted by an outdoor retailer.
Done right, your event could be overflowing with attendees 10 minutes before show time—and turning people away! That’s what happened to Colorado retailer Backcountry Experience when they hosted their first ever Women Outside Adventure Forum in 2016.
So why host an event for women?
Backcountry Experience felt that stories being told about women were limited in scope and didn’t portray the deep-seated connection they have with the outdoors. They wanted to engage these customers on a more meaningful level.
Here are some of the things they did to make their women’s event a success and how other outdoor retailers, like you, can develop their own women’s programs:
1. Make Your Event Easy for People to Attend
Notice in the event ad below that there are 3 two-hour evening sessions to choose from, making it easier for time-strapped women to attend at least one event activity. This shows potential attendees that the brand cares about their busy schedules and is doing what they can to accommodate them.
Whether it’s choosing a convenient venue for attendees under time constraints, providing a shuttle service to chauffeur guests or printing a map of coffee shops and restaurants nearby your event, make it as easy and compelling as possible for your desired audience to really want to sign up.
2. Let Your Audience Know That Your Event is Group-Friendly
Although Women Outside is a women’s event, Backcountry Experience also wanted men to attend because they felt it was important for them to hear the inspiring and powerful stories of the speakers.
The company also took the advice of their customers and made the event more accessible to families, so that kids could be exposed to strong female role models.
Create strategies that allow women to form groups. This will incentivize them to keep their promise to attend, as well as increase participation.
3. Collaborate Whenever Possible
As you can imagine, planning an event is a lot of work. Partnering with other individuals and organizations can relieve some of that burden by adding an extra set of hands to help plan the event and sharing access to their network to ensure better attendance.
Backcountry Experience discovered that building a network of community sponsors and other partners helped them to reach a broader audience.
For example, Women Outside has brand sponsors such as Osprey Packs, Outdoor Research, and the Durango branch of Alpine Bank. Additionally, non-competing local businesses like yoga studios and accounting firms participate in the event. All sponsors are asked to help promote the event—customers and employees.
Backcountry Experience also works with local restaurants, bars, and museums to host Women Outside. The venues are happy to help spread the word because the event adds value to the community. As an added benefit, the company’s marketing reach expands when they work with local organizations and businesses.
4. Create a Welcoming Environment
Events should be memorable. So start by offering a warm, personal greeting to each person who comes through the door. Whether you use personal greeters, welcome signage and/or a fun grand entrance, it’s important to get your guests excited the minute they step into the venue.
Other amenities such as plenty of accessible parking, comfortable seating, a buffet of sweet & savory treats, a cell phone charging station, and clearly marked signage throughout the venue directing attendees to refreshments, restrooms, and activities all contribute to the comfort and safety of your attendees.
Your goal should be to become an accessible and welcoming hub for the local outdoor community, which is what Backcountry Experience has accomplished with their Women Outside Adventure Forum.
5. Make Your Event Sustainable
While most Women Outside events are free and open to the public, they do raise money through a prize drawing with swag from their sponsors.
For the past three years, the event has supported a local non-profit—San Juan Mountain SOLES—which mentors girls in outdoor leadership. Women Outside will benefit the San Juan Citizens Alliance in 2019, which aims to expand local wilderness areas, along with other conservation projects.
Showing event attendees that your company cares about both social and environmental issues will really resonate with them and provide your brand with opportunities to build relationships and foster loyalty.
Women Outside isn’t directly sales driven. Rather, it’s purpose is to build customer loyalty and awareness and develop long-term support for their business.
“We believe that building strong relationships with the community and organizing events like Women Outside have helped drive local customers through our front door,” says Backcountry Experience. “What’s good for the community is always good for business, too.”