Like many a Silicon Valley startup, Tico Coffee Roasters was launched in its founders' garage. And for the past five years, the husband-and-wife owners, Thomas Goepel and Mariana Faerron, have steadily grown their business within the Bay Area. But when Super Bowl 50 rolls into town next week, they're hoping the influx of out-of-towners will kick their company onto the national stage. (Full disclosure: I'm proud to say that Tico Coffee Roasters is a Xero customer.)
"In the Northern California area, people have heard of us," said Goepel. "But the opportunity is to go beyond that."
Between late January and early February, he said, they plan to at least double their marketing budget, using social media and in-store promotion to drive Super Bowl visitors to the local restaurants and cafes that roast their coffee. Their goal? Brand recognition across the country and, ultimately, a boost in online sales.
It's tough to quantify the exact economic impact of high-profile events, like the Super Bowl, on local businesses. But the extra foot traffic, buzz and visibility related to major sporting events, festivals and conferences can often be a boon for small businesses. This year's Super Bowl in Santa Clara, Calif., for example, is expected to draw one million visitors to the area that week. Last year's game in Arizona generated a reported $295 million in direct spending.
Even if your community isn't going to play host to the Super Bowl anytime soon, here are five tips for making the most of any high-profile event - whether it's a festival like SXSW, or global news like Pope Francis' visit to the U.S..
Turn visitors into evangelists
If, like Tico Coffee Roasters, you have goods that can be ordered online, turn an influx of visitors into evangelists for your brand. Roll out the red carpet, ramp up targeted social media campaigns and launch special promotions that give out-of-towners a reason to sample your products. Even if you're not aiming for national brand recognition, build word-of-mouth and social media buzz among first-time customers through stellar customer service and memorable experiences. Just be sure that your point-of-sale, inventory and other back-end systems can handle the increased demand.
Build loyalty among your customers - and expand your base
High-profile events can be powerful bonding opportunities. If a major sporting event is taking your community by storm, host a viewing party or consider giving your best customers free tickets. If a music festival looks to be a big draw, piggyback on festival buzz with discounted products or on-site promotion. Of course, the execution depends on the kind of business you're in, but the key insight is this: use community events to show current - and new - customers that you care about what matters to them.
Expand your network of peers
Every good entrepreneur knows that a strong network can make or break a business. Instead of investing in marketing that only benefits your business, team up with other local establishments to drive traffic to your neighborhood or to offer joint promotions. If your products are sold through other business, take a page from Tico Coffee Roasters' playbook and help your wholesale partners with their promotional needs.
Use technology to scale to new heights
A bigger pool of customers means a new set of pressures for the software systems supporting your business. From point-of-sale payment processing to inventory tracking, seize the moment to make sure the right back-end technology is in place to help your company scale -- for major events and beyond.
High-profile moments also demand extra multi-tasking, so prepare for a busier pace with services that let you make transactions, track finances and manage inventory on the go.
In preparing for the Super Bowl, Tico Roasters used it as an opportunity improve their online ordering system.
Take advantage of the opportunity for experimentation
If nothing else, think of your "Super Bowl moment" as an opportunity to experiment with new strategies. High-visibility moments may not be the best time to trial new tools for the very first time, or abandon the tried-and-true. But, if you've been considering alternate marketing messaging, a bolder social media campaign or even a new product, test them out on visiting consumers and analyze the results. Even if the new initiative itself doesn't achieve the desired outcome, you can apply the insights to future endeavors.
As Goepel said about his own upcoming Super Bowl campaign, "We'll learn if it really has an impact. But, we figured, let's take the plunge and see if it works."