Budget-Friendly Community Event Ideas
It can be challenging for small businesses to build brand awareness in their local community, especially if there are larger, more established companies in the area.
A well-choreographed marketing campaign that combines both print and digital can make impressive headway in name recognition, but it can all be for nothing if you don’t make time for face-to-face connections with the actual people you are trying to win over. That’s where these inexpensive community event ideas come in. Companies that go the extra mile to reach out to their communities gain depth and authentically build brand loyalty.
In fact, Customer Thermometer found that generating an emotional connection to a business – that satisfied feeling you get when you make a good choice – is essential to cultivating loyal customers. The best way to encourage that connection? Show you care! Loyal customers feel appreciated, important, and know that they are more than just a piece of the bottom line to you. Every customer is important, but if you aren’t letting your hometown crowd know that you appreciate their support and haven’t sold them out to make it big elsewhere, you’re missing a key piece of the puzzle.
Converting a local to a loyal customer can be as simple as helping them to see (“c”) why (“y”) you do what you do. Genuinely sharing your heart and showing that you are more than just your tax structure can turn those c’s into y’s in a flash. In order to come across as heartfelt, any event you plan should coincide with your business and its mission, as most customers can spot an imposter a mile away. Be consistent.
Use these ideas to host a low-budget event that allows you to connect with your local community and drive new customers.
1. Hands-on Classes and Workshops
Home Depot isn’t the only company that can hold community workshops. Whatever you do, find a way to share it with your hometown friends, neighbors, and customers.
Here are some hands on community event ideas for different types of businesses:
- Companies that manufacture farming equipment could host a series of free welding classes for those who could benefit from acquiring a learned, marketable skill – and generate a whole lot of goodwill in the process.
- Organizing weekly marathon training runs would be completely natural for a running store.
- A coffee shop is the perfect venue for a paint & sip event that sends everyone home with a piece of art that will remind them of that night and the people they shared it with for years to come.
If you want the technical explanation, Event Manager Blog says that “science tells us that if you play with someone and then share an additional experience, that experience will evoke empathy.” In short, to turn a local customer into a loyal one, find a way to create memories that they can participate in together.
2. Social Networking Events
There’s no need to play matchmaker, but hosting an event where members of your local community can get to know one another better off the clock can work to your advantage. Online dating is quickly becoming the norm, but that doesn’t mean that people aren’t still interested in meeting someone the old-fashioned way. Nearly a quarter of the dating population still thinks going online to find someone is desperate, so host your own low-key mixer that creates an environment favorable to finding that special someone off-line.
Make the event fun by partnering with a local brewery or sponsoring it at a sporting event. Depending on your business space, you could host it yourself, saving money and getting more people through your doors. Each match is a story that your brand becomes a part of in the telling and re-telling, maybe even turning those locals into loyals for life!
Tip: Don't forget to show some appreciate to your employees who helped you put the event together! One of our favorite ideas right now are swag bags for employees. Not sure where to start? Our friends at Snacknation created an awesome list of swag bag ideas to help you get started!
3. Block Party
Block parties, carnivals, and fairs are a great way to connect with the local community. An event like this will involve more planning and initial investment, but with other area vendors on board, you can offset some of those costs. The benefit of hosting an event of this size is that working with other businesses trusted by your potential customers may show that you are also worthy of their trust and loyalty. This can help you develop that brand connection that drives revenue for years to come.
Use this guide from American Express if you’ve never hosted an event like this before. Organizing an event that focuses on the community and its people weaves your business into the fabric of your town in a completely natural way when done authentically.
4. Family Movie Night
If your business caters to children and/or their parents, a family-friendly movie night is one of the most inexpensive community event ideas that fosters brand awareness and creates a loyal, local following. This is especially ideal in the summer, when the weather is nice and kids are out of school. All you need is a projector, a white screen, and a big wall with space to sit.
If your business has the space, you could use your parking lot. Families then bring their own blankets and chairs. This is another chance to partner with area businesses to provide food and drink to attendees and generate a whole new set of local, loyal b2b partners.
Get more low-budget marketing ideas for small businesses.
5. Giving Back to the Community
Organizing volunteers or collecting donations for a charitable group is a natural way to help your community while also raising your own brand awareness. You can head up a Habitat for Humanity building team, organize a recycling event, or host a blood drive for the Red Cross or a local kiddo battling leukemia.
Showing that your business is passionate about important issues could also help build brand loyalty with your local customers by demonstrating that you identify as a member of the same community.
Did you know: 87% of consumers say they’re more likely to purchase a product if the company promotes a cause they care about. If your cause is also helping the local community, you create an even stronger connection while showing you care about where your customers live – because your company lives there, too.
6. Adult Dance Party
Prom shouldn’t have to end after graduation. Invite your local customers to join you for a fun night of drinks and dancing. Set up a photo booth or selfie station so the attendees can share their pictures straight to Instagram. Add your logo to the corner of the photos and encourage the use of a unique hashtag to get some free marketing and connect the event with your brand.
If your business focuses on a younger crowd, consider sponsoring an overloaded with cuteness Father-Daughter or Mother-Son dance, complete with boutonnieres, bouquets, and a Grand March. Not only will you show your awareness of your community and its needs, but you’ll gain visibility with the family members who travel to snag the perfect photo op of their precious prince or princess.
Couple your dance with a local charitable organization to boost the overall impact of the event. Donate a portion of the ticket sales to a local shelter for women & children or ask each couple to bring a donation for the nearest food pantry. The ripple effects of your single event will be felt all over the community!
Plan for events by adding them into your print marketing calendar.
7. Parades and Puppies and Bears – oh my!
Does your town hold an annual parade during the summer or fall months? Building a float or snagging a place in the convoy for your employees to participate and embed themselves with their friends and neighbors is a hands-on way to create collective memories. Sharing a handshake and a smile with a local customer along the parade route is a natural way to generate loyalty and that ever-important emotional connection.
Pet ownership is at an all time high, and millennials are leading the pack. In fact, a TD Ameritrade study found that more than half of people between 21 and 37 own a dog. Bring all those pet owners together for a puppy parade or other fun pet event. You don’t even need to target pet owners to host this event. If you’re selling to millennials, this can be made relevant to your business or brand.
If your customers are more apt to have an actual baby (or grandbaby!) than one of the fur-covered variety, consider sponsoring a teddy bear parade and picnic in a local park. Everyone loves to see the joy on little faces as they pull or ride with their favorite teddy in a little red wagon, and parades are a great venue to put a face (yours) to a name (your business).
Make a lasting impression with unforgettable custom-designed banners.
Have Fun With Your Budget-Friendly Community Event Ideas
Don’t be afraid to stray from traditional ideas when coming up with your community events. Sometimes unique and outside-the-box event ideas work the best, and as long as they resonate with your target audience, you can use them to drive the trusting connection between your business and your local customers.
Remember – to build authentic hometown brand trust, the focus of any event should be helping your local community members and neighbors to SEE the WHY behind what you do – and turning them into loyal customers for life!