Cash Mobs are a type of Neighborhood Marketing and are quite popular today. They have been used to support small businesses and foster connected communities, but are they being used effectively and are small businesses seeing increased sales. We interviewed shop local expert Heidi Butzine, author of the book “Shop Local; A Practical Pain-Free Guide to Shopping With Purpose” to learn more.
Localista: We hear a lot about cash mobs but what exactly are they?
Heidi: Well, a cash mob was inspired by the flash mob concept which was very popular on social media. The idea is that participants are notified via Facebook or Twitter to gather at a certain time and place to perform a seemingly spontaneous act. Like a bunch of random people showing up to do a dance routine in Grand Central Station, and then quickly dispersing, like nothing happened. A cash mob is similar but the random act is that people are invited to buy a certain product, or spend a target amount of money at a specific local business.
Localista: Why do people participate in cash mobs?
Heidi: Cash mobs are a grassroots way to give a little boost to the local economy. I think people like to be a part of something positive like this. Showing their support for businesses they love by spending a few dollars, feels good. Plus the mobs bring people together in the community and it connects people with the businesses in the neighborhood.
Localista: How exactly does a cash mob help a small business?
Heidi: A cash mob is a great way to use social media to market a business and can help boost sales especially during times when business is usually slow. But the beauty of a cash mob is that it will also create interest outside of the world of social media. Not only does it attract cash mobbers, it also attracts the attention of unassuming passers-by, who will be curious as to what is happening. These casual observers are very likely to go into the shop to find out what is happening. Cash mobs may even attract the attention of the local press, and this free publicity helps generate further interest and sales for the business.
Localista: Do you think small businesses are using cash mobs effectively?
Heidi: Yes. I think they’ve been quite effective. For example, I participated in a cash mob with the Belmont Shore Business Association and we visited an independent local bookstore called Apostrophe. There were about 20 “mobbers” there and we each spent about $20. That’s $400 in sales that the bookstore might not have had otherwise on a typical Thursday evening. Then, several of us walked a few doors down for dinner afterwards at one of the local restaurants right there on second street. A well-planned event like this has a multiplier effect that brings business to other places in the area too.
Heidi: Cash mobs are not a silver bullet for sales, where business owners can just sit back and expect the cash to roll in. Business owners and organizers should think of cash mobs as being one of several creative and fun tools they can use to drive traffic to stores and engage fans. Participating businesses need to do a little planning to make the event a success and create an experience that will bring people back to their business or community.
Even though they’re called cash mobs, these events are quite calm. People are there in the spirit of goodwill to support the community.
Localista: What are some tips you have for planning a good cash mob event?
Heidi: They should be fun. No one will want to come back if it’s a boring experience. Promote the event often so the word gets out. Make it personal. People like the human connection and getting to know who’s behind the business they’re supporting. Give people a reason to come back to the store. Partner with other local businesses nearby that may also offer something special to cash mob participants. Above all, appreciate and thank the cash mobbers for their business and support of the local community.
Localista: What happens if the mob is huge and the business can’t handle it?
Heidi: Cash mob events are created in the spirit of giving a local business or area of need a little boost, so I think that any business would be over the moon if they had a huge turnout. But you do bring up a good point which is that businesses should be prepared. This usually means having enough products available and staff to help out customers. Most cash mobs only last for a set period of time, so if a cash mob causes a business to run out of things to sell, then that’s a pretty successful event!
About Heidi Butzine
Heidi Butzine is a best-selling author, entrepreneur, wine aficionado and shop local expert. Her most recent book, Shop Local: A Practical Pain-Free Guide to Shopping with Purpose, is the result of extensive, hands-on research and part of her personal mission to get more people to support local businesses everywhere and strengthen the communities where they work and live.
A successful business woman with a knack for finding business solutions, Heidi created a successful consulting agency that was coveted and purchased by a Fortune 500 company. She runs several of her own businesses and works with organizations based around her passion for writing and travel, her love of wine and her desire to help small businesses and entrepreneurs succeed. She is the founder of ShopLocal.us and Certified Locally Owned™ and creator of Wineopolis® Citizen’s Guide wine travel book series.