How to Create a Successful Year-Round Promotions Calendar

At 2015 Summer NAMM, Brian Reardon revealed how a year-round promotions calendar helps create steady traffic and a balanced cash flow for his store, Monster Music.

According to Reardon, it’s never too early to plan and stay ahead of the seasonal ups and downs using income-generating promotions. He admitted he tends to focus his promotions on the summer months, when business is traditionally slow, and noted that summer is a good time to get started.

“Tailor your promotions to your store’s niche and community calendars, and adjust as you go,” Reardon said. He then gave the audience a sample timeline of his store’s promotions and events.

December and January
Reardon has 13 lesson rooms that are visible around the showroom. He noted that he believes his lesson program is substantial because people come into his store and see activity. The takeaway: Constantly create excitement in your store! It’s contagious. Customers like to participate and will visit time and again.

Student showcase. Reardon schedules his first student showcase right after the holidays, so students have a chance to show off the gear they got for Christmas. The showcase also gives him something exciting to talk about before the holidays, so customers are focused on buying gear. “Get the kids playing right away, so the kids are working towards something tangible,” he said. Reardon plans his promo calendar, so there’s always a showcase that just happened or is coming up within a couple of months. This way, his staff is able to tell students that if they miss a showcase, they’ll be ready for the next one. Reardon advised retailers to create the expectation that students will be with you for a long time.

Free guitar deal. Reardon shared how he was able to build a following through his annual “Free Guitar Deal is Back” promotion. Knowing that students will traditionally stop their lessons for the summer on Memorial Day, he offers a block of summer lessons—20 lessons in 20 weeks—and gives students a free guitar. Students must begin the lessons from Memorial Day through summer, so teachers are busy (which helps with teacher retention) and lesson rooms are full. Many students take the lessons and trade up to a more expensive guitar. Customers must pay up front, so this promotion offers a nice jolt of cash flow for the store.

Summertime band instrument loaner program. This promotion encourages people to experiment with lessons during the summer. Ask students if they’ve thought of trying another instrument. They get free use of an instrument when they buy 12 weeks of lessons.

Open Mic Nights, Songwriter’s Workshop and Free Restring Events. Tip: Get manufacturers involved. Reardon regularly schedules these events during the summer.

Rental instruments renewal. Reardon created this promotion to turn rental expirations into renewals. His annual rental contracts all expire on June 30, so his staff calls everyone starting June 15 with an offer: Renew the contract, and get the summer for free. Reardon shared that a huge percentage of the contracts, 35–40 percent, get renewed this way, resulting in one of his store’s most consistent and reliable cash-flow periods.

Ukulele luau. Reardon commented that July can be a tricky month, so he hosts a ukulele luau. He admitted that he didn’t have high expectations at first, but the event drew a positive response. Monster Music hosted it inexpensively. Reardon ordered Hawaiian pizzas, provided a Mai Tai bar, hired a local ukulele professional who played for a half-hour and had one of the company’s instructors teach a group lesson and jam session. “We ended up with a reputation for supporting the community because it was free, and now customers want to support the store by buying from us,” Reardon said.

Annual summer student showcase. Although Reardon hosts student showcases throughout the year, he heavily promotes the summer showcase. This way, students who want to quit lessons before summer will think twice and sign up to continue through summer. Reardon picks the Sunday closest to Aug. 15 and promotes the showcase far in advance. “Develop a relationship with a local music club,” he said.

Tuition increase. Reardon shared that he generally raises lesson tuition once every two to three years. “It permits for a more meaningful increase when there’s time in between,” he said. Around Labor Day, Reardon has the highest percentage of new students coming in, so these students simply start at the new rates. Returning students are given a two-month notice, so they have a chance to buy up to six months of lessons at the current rates. They’ll usually stock up on lessons. Reardon stated that people are encouraged to buy in order to save, and his cash flow is positively affected for September.

Gear clinics. Reardon suggested that fall is the best time for gear clinics—back to school is beginning to slow down, and it’s not quite the start of the holiday season. During that window, Monster Music hosts a gear clinic. Reardon advised retailers to get instruments in the hands of customers by holding these clinics. They turn what might be a down time into an exciting time and prep customers for holiday shopping. Some of Reardon’s customers pick out what they want to hold for family members to buy as a Christmas present.