Unlock treasure of a trunk show

June 15, 2012
Arthur De Gennaro

A trunk show is one of the most productive business strategies to generate revenue, excitement, and buzz for your dispensary.

Key Points

This type of marketing is known as "guerrilla marketing." The term refers to any low-cost, unconventional marketing activity that is deployed in an unforgiving or hostile market environment. Trunk shows' success relies heavily on human energy and imagination to plan and execute. They are interactive and generate lots of buzz (customer interest).

Last week I visited a practice in Indianapolis (20/20 Eye Physicians; 317/871-5900) that recently held a successful trunk show. The manager, Wendy, raved over the results, saying that in one day her dispensary did about three times its normal weekly volume. I asked Wendy if she would share some of her secrets. The following is adapted from her comments and includes some of my own.

Find a good partner. Wendy polls the people who represent her most popular frames. She is looking for a company that is willing to be her partner. Wendy is particularly interested in three things:

Selection. She wants customers to have a very broad selection; perhaps 1,000 frames from the vendor. It is best if the selection includes frames that are never or not commonly available in the market.

Help. During the event the dispensary will be crowded. Wendy wants a representative willing to engage customers. In other words, he or she must help patients chose frames.

Promotional support. This includes giving the practice one or more free frames. These are offered as door prizes. Such door prizes can be used to generate interest in the event. I suggest that when you advertise your event the free frame drawing be limited to the first 50 people who sign up to attend. Traditionally vendors have also provided marketing dollars or cooperative advertising support.

Food. "Feed them and they will come" is an adaptation of a line from the movie "Field of Dreams." People are more willing to attend a function when refreshments and food are served. Food for a trunk show ranges from snacks to light or heavy hors d'oeuvres. One practice served sushi.

The closer the event is to mealtime, the more important it is to serve food. This year one of Wendy's friends brought a cappuccino maker and served freshly brewed espresso. This was a nice touch and filled the dispensary with an intoxicating aroma.

Time. You will need to decide how long the trunk show will run. Wendy's ran for an entire 9-hour day. This is a long time for a trunk show. Generally 4 hours is enough time. However, I have seen such events run 2 days. It all depends on how much your customers will support the event.

Decide what time of day to hold the event. Some practices try to avoid evening hours. Other practices think more people will attend if at least some of the event takes place after regular business hours.

Advertising. The success of a trunk show depends on the ability to get the word out to customers and potential customers. Wendy created fliers. These were placed in the optical department and on the front counter. I know of practices that distributed fliers to the other tenants in their building, who distributed them to their customers and patients. One practice even asked a local drugstore to stuff customer bags with the fliers. This proved to be very productive.

Signage is also important. Besides placards on countertops throughout the practice, such as pretest and examination rooms, it may be possible for temporary signage to be placed in hallways within your building, in the parking lot, or even on the street.

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