“It was incredible! I’ve never seen anything like it. The store was packed with book-people, arms loaded with large tomes and baskets filled with paperbacks.” These words were Melanie Tighe’s, owner of Dog-Eared Pages Used Books, as she happily explained the turnout for the cash mob Scott’s Marketplace hosted to help save her bookstore from going out of business.
A cash mob is when a community comes together to “mob” a business with cash at a specific time on a designated day. In Dog-Eared Pages’ case, we asked mob attendees to spend $20 in their bookstore – and spend they did, with most generously going well over the suggested amount.
We’re thrilled that our first cash mob was a success, but that’s not to say it didn’t take a lot of hard work to make it happen. If you’re interested in holding your own cash mob, we have some great tips for you below on how you can promote yours on a limited budget — and we’ve included some fun pictures from our event too. We’re hoping it’s just one of many successful cash mobs to come!
Tip 1: Ready, Set, Blog!
Once you have the details of your cash mob set in stone, it’s time to drum up some publicity for it. Writing a blog post about it is a great way to spread the word far and wide — and best of all, it’s free! Just make sure your blog post not only explains when and where you’re holding the event, but why.
Here’s the initial blog post I wrote about our cash mob that explains why showing support for a local business in need was so important to Scott’s Marketplace and how the community could get involved: Local Business Needs Your Help.
If you don’t have a blog and don’t have enough time to get one up and running before your cash mob, why not talk to a friend who does? See if they’ll let you write a guest post about your event so you don’t miss out on the benefits blogging can provide.
Tip 2: Alert the Media
Writing a press release for your cash mob will give it a much better shot at being covered by the media. And you definitely want as much media coverage as you can possibly get – so don’t overlook this step.
Writing a press release is much different than a blog post, however. While a blog post can be written in a fun, flowery, conversational tone, a press release cannot. Think: ‘Just the facts, ma’am!’
To help you get started with your press release, here’s a great how-to article that will teach you the basics from Publicity Insider titled: How to Write a Great Press Release.
Once you’ve written your press release, it’s time to get it distributed to as many local media outlets as possible. You can find sites that’ll distribute your press release for free, but keep in mind they’ll have basic features and a limited reach. Check out PR.com and PRLog.com.
If your budget allows, check out PRWeb.com. They have different pricing tiers for you to choose from and each comes with a variety of different features to maximize the reach of your press release.
You also don’t need a distribution site — or a budget — to promote your press release at all. What you will need, however, is a little elbow grease. Conduct searches online to find local media contacts and then email them directly. Be sure to customize your cover letter and attach your press release.
Tip 3: Use Social Media
One of the best free marketing tools for the promotion of cash mobs is social media. Here are the sites we used to promote our cash mob and how often we posted on each one: Twitter, daily; Facebook, Google +, and LinkedIn, every 3-4 days; Pinterest, we created a board just for the event; and Instagram we used to promote the event the day of. (Keep in mind that this is in addition to our normal social media activity.)
Not only did we send out status updates and tweets about the event details, but we also used social media to promote the blog post we wrote about it. (See how easily you can interwine your marketing efforts with social media?)
To help make your social media posts more effective, Jerilyn Soncrant, Scott’s Marketplace’s senior manager of social media, suggests that you use images that include all the event information and also link to a page with more details. We created a Facebook event where people could RSVP, get more information, and leave comments.
For social media sites like Twitter and Instagram, make sure you’re using a hashtag (#). Before the event we used the hashtag #CashMob since it’s a popular term people search for. On the day of the event, we branded the hashtag to #CashMobSMP and sent an email out to our subscribers letting them know what to tag their images with at the event.
Tip 4: Email, Email, Email
Email is truly a marketer’s best friend because it allows you to get crucial information delivered right to the inboxes of your target audience. And yes — it’s free! All it’ll cost you is a little bit of your time.
If you already have an email list, you can send out an email to your subscribers highlighting the details of your event. You can also link to your blog post as a way for your subscribers to get more information about it.
Jerilyn sent out one email per week to our subscribers to help publicize our cash mob, including one email on the day of. To help ensure our emails were opened, we had to come up with a unique (and hopefully intriguing) email subject line each time. (Email subject lines with 28-39 characters get the highest click-through rates).
Some of the email subject lines we used were:
- It’s Cash Mob Time!
- We Need Your Help
- Have You Joined the Mob?
- The Cash Mob Is Today!
If you don’t already have an email marketing program to help you create professional emails, a great (free!) option is MailChimp. It lets you send professional email newsletters to your customers completely free of charge (if you have fewer than 2,000 followers and don’t send more than 12,000 emails per month).
Partnering up with another local business is also a great way to further your email marketing efforts. Talk to a local business owner (or two) about having them send out an email blast to their subscriber list with details about your event. In turn, you could do something for them at the event to drive traffic back to their business, like handing out something branded (maybe they have pens, magnets, or other little items they’d like you to give out) to customers.
Tip 5: Hit the Internet Hard
Local bloggers in your area are likely to care about local events, like your cash mob, so consider seeking them out and emailing them details. (Do a blog search on Google to find the ones you’d like to target.) I emailed quite a few local bloggers to let them know about our event and asked if they would consider covering it on their own blog, sharing it on social media, and/or attending it themselves.
Some replied, some didn’t, but the ones who did really helped us out a lot. Liz Ekstrom of The Blue-Eyed Owl wrote her own really awesome blog post about Dog-Eared Pages’ plight and included details of our event. Check out Local Spotlight: Dog-Eared Pages to read her post.
Coley Arnold from Junk in the Trunk Vintage Market also shared details of our cash mob with her social media followers and brought her family to the event so they could load up on books. And we got all of that free promotion and support simply by asking!
Another idea is for you to scour the internet looking for additional places to post details about your event. We posted our event details on Yelp.com (they have an event section where you can post full details of your event for free).
In hindsight, we realized we should have also been looking up local book clubs and emailing the administrators (possibly through Meetup.com) to see if they’d send out an email blast to their group with the our event details. Book lovers were our perfect target and that was definitely a missed opportunity for us to reach more people. (You can learn from our mistake, though, by doing something similar with your target audience when planning your cash mobs.)
Also, there were quite a few blogs and media outlets that picked up Dog-Eared Pages’ story of struggle, but didn’t necessarily include details of our event for them. In hindsight, again, we could have done a quick search for these articles and left a comment about how we were trying to help this business by hosting a cash mob so all of that site’s followers would still get the event details. You can easily do this when hosting your cash mobs, however, so be sure to incorporate it into your plan of attack.
Tip 6: Make It Fun
Jill Hoffman, Scott’s Marketplace’s senior director of marketing and media, suggested that we get balloons, purchase cookies from a local bakery, and give away prizes to help entice people to come to our event. After all, a cash mob is a fun event, so why not advertise it as such to get a better turnout?
Jill says, “Find a prize that fits your audience and hold an on-site raffle. On the entry form, be sure to ask for permission to add e-mail addresses to your list. Use those addresses to start a conversation with new customers. This is a perfect opportunity to entice them to return and continue spending!”
Bonus tip: Find an area where you can “cut corners” so to speak to save a little money. Jerilyn happens to be quite crafty, so she made colorful, homemade signs for us to place out on the street so people could easily locate the cash mob when driving past. Jill also made raffle tickets on her computer and we cut them out in the office the day before the event. Being crafty saves cash!
Now It’s Your Turn!
Cash mobs are a lot of fun to plan and we hope these tips help you promote yours effectively. More than that, though, we hope this post inspires you to help a local business in need.
When we received an email from Melanie the day after our event that it had brought in enough money to keep them open for at least another month, it made all of us feel as if we had been a part of something really special.
We brought the community together to help revitalize a deserving local business — and it worked! (Although, we know keeping those customers coming will be an ongoing battle for Dog-Eared Pages.)
As Melanie put it, “Thom [Melanie’s co-owner] ran our numbers for the day. He studied the report tape and without saying a word, he walked over and put his arms around me. Then he told me my bookstore was safe for another month and well on its way towards its second goal. We drove home with grateful hearts, lighter spirits, and in dazed amazement over all the encouraging support and well wishes from everyone.”
Melanie’s words are a great reminder of just how important it is to continually make the choice to shop local — and how doing so (or not doing so) can directly affect the fate of irreplaceable local businesses like Dog-Eared Pages Used Books.