Small businesses getting creative to draw in customers

The NY Times reports that many small businesses are taking a creative approach to luring in shoppers this year, focusing on special events and social networking instead of traditional advertising. By targeting niche groups and catering to their interests small business are able to pull in otherwise reluctant shoppers. In most cases business are using food and entertainment as their main motivators.

Using events to draw in customers isn't a new phenomena of the economic downturn. Coffee shops have been holding open mic nights and art shows ever since Starbucks made barista a household word. My busiest nights while working my way through college occurred every Tuesday when "musicians" descended upon our local coffee shop.

What is changing is which small businesses are turning to these events for sales. The Times spoke with one lingerie store in Albuquerque, NM that is using Facebook and sex to drum up business. Seventh Goddess recently held a Sex and the City party and has plans to offer "Men's night" later this month complete with a lingerie fashion show. Sales at similar events in the past have been very successful proving that sex sells even when money's tight.

Independent bookstore has been offering movie screenings, book readings and other events which provide the community with excellent opportunities for free entertainment. With the National Small Business Association reporting a 5% drop in the number of businesses who plan to start new advertising campaigns this year more of these events from all types of businesses will likely show up in the coming months.

While some stores will continue to advertise these events in the newspaper one of the best ways to find out about such happenings is to join your city's network on Facebook or to start following people in your area on Twitter. In most cases the entertaining and food will far outweigh any salesmanship going on ensuring a fun and cheap evening out. You might even get a good deal while you're there!

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