Small businesses are at the core of every neighborhood. Restaurants, florists, grocery stores, and a multitude of other local businesses provide a wealth of goods and services that benefit everyone in the community.
Because of this, small businesses like yours truly benefit from strong community connections. Events can be a powerful way to build relationships both with local customers and other local merchants. Community events are a great example of experiential marketing. Providing customers with an engaging and exciting outing heightens the likelihood they’ll remember and recommend your business. Events can make a big difference for merchants of all sizes, presenting an opportunity to grow local brand awareness and broaden your customer base.
Community event ideas to consider
Now, you need to decide what type of approach to take. There are two categories of community events to consider: smaller occasions that you can plan and execute on your own, and larger functions that entail multiple stakeholders working together.
Small business event ideas
1. Launch day for networking
Are you starting a brand new business? Announcing a new offering? Celebrating a new location? If so, then a grand opening or product showcase is a great way to help prospective customers and collaborators get to know you better and generate buzz. Invite local press and VIPs, order food and beverages, and offer promotions, discounts, or prizes. Doing so can help you introduce yourself to your community in an impactful way.
2. Pop-up events for small businesses
Opening a pop-up shop or restaurant is a great way to help connect consumers, as well as other local merchants, with your brand. Pop-up events are also perfect for this. You can create a kiosk to showcase products or services outside your physical store, or you can attract customers to your store by hosting pop-ups for other retailers or restaurants at your location. Pop-up shops can also serve a strategic purpose, enabling you to test new business ideas in a lower-stakes environment.
3. Workshops to bring in the community
People love to learn. Inviting the community to your store for a classroom workshop related to your business can help generate awareness and interest in your products or services. This event could be as simple as hosting a workshop where you teach a skill, craft, or hobby — or you could invite a special guest presenter whose knowledge and perspectives are relevant to your business and customers. Bear in mind that you don’t necessarily need to be the one who organizes the workshop — simply by making your space available as a venue to other organizers, you’re introducing their audiences to your business while showing that you support your broader community.
4. Contests to generate buzz
As a small business owner, you can foster community participation and engagement via a friendly competition. Consider holding a contest to allow customers to vote on their favorite entries. Or they can complete a bingo card or scavenger hunt for a chance to win a reward — this is also an excellent way to collaborate with other local businesses. Many restaurants also invite customers to vote for feature products or new flavors.
5. Sponsorships for community support
Your business doesn’t necessarily have to be the host of a community-building event. Just by being included, you will generate awareness and goodwill towards your brand. Research any parties, festivals, or tournaments planned in your area, and whether there are opportunities to sponsor them or offer your space as a venue. On the day of the event, you could be present to provide samples or giveaways to attendees, or you could create a pop-up shop if the event takes place elsewhere.
Larger-scale community event ideas
1. Trade shows for small business connections
While there are many names for this type of event, essentially, a trade show is an opportunity for numerous vendors in a particular industry — or in several related industries — to come together in a single venue to connect with customers and with each other. Product demos, fireside chats with experts, and panel discussions featuring seasoned professionals are all possibilities. You can liven up the event even more by inviting local restaurants to host food trucks or a beer garden.
2. Fundraisers for community benefit
Customers want to support businesses that give back, and hosting a philanthropic event enables you to lead with your values. You might organize an auction or lottery with other businesses, in which the proceeds benefit a local nonprofit. Or you could inaugurate an awards ceremony where local charities and community leaders are recognized for their efforts.
3. Block parties for community engagement
If you really want to win over your community, why not coordinate with other business owners to throw a classic street party? In some ways, this is similar to a trade show — but instead of curating products and presenters around a specific industry theme, festivals bring together a diverse, thriving marketplace where local merchants can meet potential customers face-to-face.
The importance of small business networking
Small business events can be particularly profitable — when the mood is festive, people are often more willing to treat themselves. However, the main reason to network locally is the long-term benefit that comes from forging ongoing relationships or partnerships with other small businesses in the community.
Organizing small business events is an ideal way for you to network with your fellow merchants and vendors, raise your profile with your customers, and raise the spirits of your entire community. Learn more about how DoorDash is committed to helping empower local businesses.