What Lessons the DNC Taught Denver Businesses

Denver businesses were counting on a boost. Except for downtown, there wasn't one.
Denver businesses were counting on a boost. Except for downtown, there wasn't one.

Convention’s tourism bump slight

For a few tourist attractions inside Denver, the convention actually hurt business….Not knowing what to expect, some restaurants stocked up on food, extended hours or added staff, only to be disappointed….
The Denver Post – 1, 2

DNC spending bonanza stays downtown

The DNC spending spree apparently didn’t ripple far beyond downtown retailers and restaurants.

Businesses in Cherry Creek and the Denver Tech Center reported that they didn’t get any boost from the estimated 50,000 delegates, media and onlookers in town this week. In fact, they saw a marked drop in business.
Rocky Mountain News – 1

Hundreds of store owners across Denver are shaking/banging/rubbing their heads either trying to figure out what went wrong or knowing exactly what they would do next time.

As unfortunate as it may be, businesses cannot rely on local traffic alone, even when 50,000 fresh consumers enter the fray. I wonder: what could businesses have done to improve their numbers during the DNC?

Think like a delegate

“I’m in a city I may never have been to. I’m staying at a hotel, or rented apartment for the week. I want to save as much money as I can OR I want to spend as much money as it takes to have fun OR get by. Where do I eat, where do I get coffee? Where do I get souvenirs?”

Build strategic alliances

Getting your name out can feel impossible for an event like the DNC. A business needs to create strategic alliances with hotels, motels, gas stations, and rental apartments — places where the delegates will arrive from the airport and set down their bags.

What do you offer in return? Offer whatever the ally might want.  If you’re a restaurant trying to appeal to a hotel, offer the hotel staff a catered lunch after the DNC is over. Bingo, you’re in.

Here’s a delegate scenario:

  1. Arrive from airport
  2. Check into hotel
  3. Get to room
  4. See a flier for delivery food with a 50% off convention special. The handout has
    • Good reviews from the Denver Post and local magazines
    • Their website address and phone number
    • Full menu on the back with prices.
    • Catchy DNC-specific design
    • A thank you message for the delegates
  5. Know that an affordable quality restaurant with free delivery is an option

Targeting is the difference

OK, so lots of restaurants hand out fliers. Many of the fliers include menus.

  • How many menus those include prices
  • How many menus target specific events?
  • How many menus offer specific event coupons?
  • How many menus thank their targeted customers?

The opportunities for making a delegate feel special are endless. The delegates are special; they were selected by their peers to represent their state. Cater to them.

“But that restaurant/store is so far away…I won’t have the time or energy!”

If a business was outside walking distance from the DNC, they shouldn’t have bet on getting any additional traffic. Instead, they should have planned on smart ways to get delegates from their hotels to their business.

  • Offer a voucher for a Denver bike taxi or a hybrid taxi service
  • Set up a street vendor booth in downtown Denver with an assortment of your goods
  • Offer a 300% discount on any travel-related costs it takes customers to get to your store if they buy something. Example: taxi cost the delegate $20 bucks? Offer $60 off a product.

A learning experience

A major event like the DNC only comes once in a hundred years, but there are always smaller fish to fry, and when the opportunity presents itself again, businesses MIGHT be better prepared.

What are your thoughts about how a business can stand out in such a wild marketing event such as the DNC?

By Zack Katz

Zack Katz is the founder of GravityKit and TrustedLogin. He lives in Leverett, Massachusetts with his wife Juniper.