In previous articles, I have shared lists of the many ways that smaller businesses can market themselves without spending a fortune. I understand however that putting those theories into practice can seem daunting. That’s why I am always on the lookout for inspiring real life examples that demonstrate what is possible. So, when I heard independent wine expert Janine Pert talk about the success of her recent local Gin Festival, I had to find out more.
Janine runs Discover Wine, a thriving wine shop in the little village of Denmead, just north of Portsmouth. This bubbly lady was born in Australia and came to the UK in 1987, bringing with her a lifelong love of wine and a desire to share her passion with others, through private and corporate wine tasting events.
Apparently, she never intended to open a retail wine business, but the demand from the attendees at her wine tasting events was such that she started experimenting with seasonal pop-up shops before finally opening her first permanent premises in 2014.
It all started with an apple press
Discover Wine’s first community event was born when a friend gave her an old apple press. While wondering what to do with it, she came up with the idea of organising an apple event in the village for the autumn of 2014. “We thought we would get the schools involved and invited children to have a go at the apple pressing process. The children also coloured in apple drawings which were then turned into bunting by our sponsor, Hampshire Flags, and then used to decorate the village.”
This first event proved so popular that it put Discover Wines firmly on the map and continues to do so every autumn.
“2017 is our 4th year, and we have come a long way.” Says Janine.
- We hire an apple crusher and sell the juice with the proceeds going to charity.
- We also have a cider bar, and a cookery contest (who doesn’t love an apple pie!).
- A local nursery sells their apple trees, and we are supporting a Community Orchard project.
- The local scout group gets involved as well with activities for the children.
- We even have our own logo!!
And then came the road works!
When major roadworks closed the main road through the village early in her shop’s 2nd year of trading, it had a disastrous effect on footfall and sales for every business, but what could they do? Thankfully for everyone, Janine’s positive experience with the apple event inspired her to turn this potential catastrophe into a marketing triumph.
As Janine herself put it, “People started avoiding the village because of the four-month disruption, and I knew that we had to do something if we were ever going to regain our lost trade, so I thought why don’t we have a party?”
Janine approached the other businesses in the village, looking to mobilise support for her “hare-brained” idea for an “End of the Roadworks Party.” Such an event would surely generate lots of valuable PR, attract customers back into the village and boost local trade for everyone” - and they loved it! Now all she needed to do was turn the idea into reality.
After gaining the support of the Parish Council, Janine’s next priority was to organise some entertainment to help draw and retain visitors. Having no budget, she turned to her friends and customers and, by using Facebook, sourced a DJ, singer, magician, variety act, mobile bar and lots of lovely local produce in just two weeks!
The Party's profile was further enhanced when the team decided to include a fundraising raffle on behalf of a local charity, The Rowans Hospice. Of course, all this effort could have gone to waste without appropriate PR and marketing so Janine and her team tapped into the power of Social Media to promote the event and the local press quickly picked up on the story too.
The “End of the Roadworks Party” was another runaway success with approximately 350 people taking part between 5:30 pm and 9:30 pm. To quote Janine, “Everyone was talking about the party, and it was extremely good for all the businesses. To close off the shop’s carpark and get all the shopkeepers outside mixing with their customers was a huge success.”
Now, thanks to public demand, it too has now become a regular fixture on the community’s calendar, now renamed as the Denmead Annual Midsummer Party, (the roadworks now being a distant memory thank goodness).
You can't keep a food woman down...
Having now organised two successful local events, Janine had established quite a reputation within the local community, and people were beginning to wonder what her next event would be. So, when she announced that she had a cunning plan to organised Denmead’s first Gin Festival, nobody was in the least bit surprised.
So, in May 2016, Janine hired the local Church hall and held the 1st Denmead Gin Festival. Tickets sold out in less than three weeks, and more than 250 people turned up to sample 30 different Gins! The event was sponsored by well-known tonic producer Fever-Tree and featured a BBQ, a bar, jazz band and a Gin cake stall. Local distillers from the Isle of Wight, Dorset, and other parts of Hampshire were very happy to attend.
Before the dust had settled on the first Gin festival, people were begging her to “do it again next year” and so she did. The 2017 festival was double the size of the previous year, featured 39 different Gins from local distillers plus a barbeque and live music. The village hall simply wasn’t big enough to cope with the extra people, so Janine had to hire the field adjacent to the hall, but this brought an additional challenge.
“As a small local business, I couldn’t afford the thousands of pounds that it would have cost to hire commercial marquees, so I asked my network and people came out of the woodwork to help with the provision of marquees and gazebos.“
As well as arranging the accommodation Janine had to extend her portable bar, source even more delicious gins, get her souvenir glasses engraved, and market the event on a shoestring budget!
On the day everything came together. The weather was fabulous and, thanks to the help of a small army of family, friends and local community members, it was another sellout success. Janine is now hard at work planning her 3rd Gin Festival for next summer, and you can bet your bottom dollar that it will be even bigger and better.
So what can other small business owners learn from Janine's experience?
It’s clear that Janine has used local event marketing to great effect, benefitting both her own business and the local community in the process. I asked Janine what advice she would give other entrepreneurs thinking of following a similar path and here’s what she said:
Janine's top tips successful local events
● Keep it manageable - Don't stretch your resources too far, you can make it bigger and better next time, once you know what works and what doesn’t.
● Be prepared to put in the hours - Event Marketing doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but it does require a lot of time and effort, (at least 100 hrs per event in Janine's case!)
● Do it for the right reasons - In my experience, the biggest payoffs come in the form of powerful PR which raises your business’s visibility handsomely leading to increased sales, so aim to make a modest profit from the event itself.
● Don’t be afraid to ask for help - You can’t do everything yourself so tap into your local networks (family, friends, community and local businesses) for support, guidance and resources.
● Involve the local community - Look for complementary businesses and community organisations to help share the load and the marketing.
● Develop an “Event Mindset” - Create a checklist of things that need to be done and in what order, and a budget for everything on your list. (For Janine this included venue hire, licensing, serving staff, decor, glasses, tablecloths, catering, programme printing, uniforms, entertainment and even ice and ice buckets.)
● Don’t forget about marketing - Even the best-planned event will fail if nobody shows up! There are lots of low-cost and no-cost marketing channels available including social media, local press and radio and good old fashioned word of mouth.
To find out more about Janine Pert and Discover Wine, visit her website: https://www.discoverwine.uk.com/
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