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Use National BBQ Month to focus on barbecue; gain customers, profits and free advertising

Bruce Bjorkman -- Casual Living, May 4, 2013

Bruce BjorkmanBruce Bjorkman
As someone who's actively been involved in the barbecue industry since 1991, I've come to view May as an optimal time to promote barbecues and barbecuing in general. Barbecue retailers have a wealth of opportunity to use this month-long theme to draw new customers, put the spotlight on the hottest barbecue products and accessories and gain free publicity.
     National Barbecue Month was the brainchild of the Barbecue Industry Association (BIA), a precursor of the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association. It was designed as a way to help barbecue manufacturers and retailers kick off the peak barbecue/grilling season by showcasing everything barbecue. Here are some ways you can profit from this very special month:

PROMOTE National Barbecue Month loud and proud! Design or purchase custom banners and posters for display on and in your store. (Note: HPBA and NBBQA both have special logos available which you can use with your POS or POP materials.)

PUBLICIZE the fact that May is National Barbecue Month in all your media. Send out press releases to all local media. Alert them that you've got the hottest new barbecue grills, pits and products in your store.

     Contact local television programs or news departments. Offer to come on and show the latest in barbecue products and/or cooking tips. (Hint: In all my years in media, I've never been turned down for a TV or radio interview when I promised to cook food. Blow the media's mind by showing them how easy it is to cook breakfast, pizza or cookies on the grill.)
     Consider holding a media "Open House" where you cook lunch and show off your barbecue products. One retailer I know, who did this, gained more than $30,000 in free publicity from local radio, television and newspapers.

IN-STORE EVENTS provide an excellent way to boost store traffic, attract new customers and make the month-long celebration fun. Remember how car dealers used to hold new model year unveilings? Why not do something similar at your store to introduce new lines or barbecue models you are carrying? Have a special weekend or night for the event. Invite your best customers and media to a "sneak preview."National BBQ

     Hold a "Ladies Night" to introduce women to the wonders and joys of barbecuing. (Hint: Father's Day isn't far off , plant the seed for "Dear Ole Dad.")
     Invite local competition barbecue teams to your store to hold classes or conduct demo cooks each weekend. Consider holding a customer cook-off competition, awarding giftcertificates for your store as prizes. In most cases, the winners will spend more than the face amount of the giftcertificate in your store.
     Host Recipe Swap Saturdays. Invite customers to come to your store to swap recipes with other customers. Gather copies of the recipes and print an inexpensive customer cookbook, which you can sell for a nominal amount or give away with specified grill purchases.
     Media celebrity cook-off s are another way to gain free promotion. Do you have local media people who love to barbecue or grill? Challenge them to a cook-off at your store. You can bet you'll get some good, free promotion from them as they invite their listeners/viewers/readers to the event.
     If weather permits, hold a Night Cook. If possible, rent a search light and use it to draw attention to your store. Believe me, it's such an oddity, it is bound to gain great attention and exposure.
     This is by no means an exhaustive list of the tremendous number of things you can do to celebrate and promote National Barbecue Month. What is important is that you plan a course of action and follow it through. If you make the events fun, the customers will come.
     Use your social media and website as information portals. Promote the events. Post follow-up pictures and results of your National Barbecue Month events on each. Just make sure you post the information on a timely basis to keep the momentum rolling.
     During May, the focus will be on barbecue. Media will be in a heightened state of awareness. Use this opportunity to capture their attention, more customers and sales. The clock is ticking, start your National Barbecue Month planning now.

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