To my Catholic friends in the city, Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia is a chance to witness a great leader in person. And to my business owner friends in the city, it’s a chance to witness a great thing too: A rise in your bank account. Are you ready? Here are just a few ways to profit from the upcoming papal visit.
1. For starters, stop you’re whining. There are 1.5 million people expected to visit the city during the World Meeting of Families. And that’s not including those of us trapped inside of the city during the weekend. What an opportunity for your business to introduce your offerings to a ton of new customers! Sure, there will be some challenges. But you’re a business owner. You’re used to challenges. So, for God’s sake (and this time He really may be listening) put on a smile and look at this as a great opportunity to rake in the bucks. Profit is all about attitude.
2. Give a special discount to residents. Many of my neighbors are fleeing town. But most are staying around. Some of us are well … kind of stuck here. And long after those tourists leave, we’ll still be here. So show us a little love, huh? How about a special 10 percent discount to those that can prove they live inside the Green Zone? It’s a good incentive for us to try your food or buy your products. Who knows? We may even be back.
3. Collect data. You will have lots of new faces coming through your store or restaurant that weekend. And even if many are tourists, they’ll be back. They’ll have friends who will visit the city. And you want them talking about your business. So ask for their email address. Start a VIP club. Implement a mobile loyalty app like Belly, Affinity Solutions or Perka (to name a few). That way you can start collecting some names and build a community for you to send special offers, news and incentives in the future. Your goal is to keep these customers (and/or their friends) returning long after the Pope is back home at the Vatican.
4. Clean up online. All those potential customers are coming to Philly with money to burn and appetites to satisfy. They’ll be looking for you. And they’ll be looking online. When’s the last time you revisited your website? Is there a mobile version? Have you made sure your Google for Business, Bing Places and Yahoo business listings are up to date, let alone your Facebook and other social media sites? Have you had a photographer take Google 360 photos of your business so people can “walk in” online before visiting? Are you up and running on Yelp, Foursquare, OpenTable and No Wait? Is all the information current? Have you addressed any poor reviews with professional responses? Did you tell your brother never to do that again because it’s just not funny? It’s 2015, people will search for you. Make sure you’re ready.
5. Create drama. People in the city are FREAKING OUT about the Pope’s visit. So take advantage of the terror. Tell our customers and prospects that the weekend will be very, very busy. Items will be selling out fast. Tables will be hard to come by. So you better buy now. You better make your reservations well in advance. Tell them they can rely on you for a good meal. Use everyone’s panic to fill up your reservation book and make a lot of advanced sales.
6. Embrace Catholicism. OK, you don’t have to convert. But in the few weeks building up to the big weekend take the opportunity to pay honor to all things Catholic. Have a Catholic-themed quizzo at your bar. Create signage welcoming pilgrims to the city. Offer specials on your “virgin” drinks. Open your store up for mini-services or educational programs that will draw in different visitors. And while you’re at it give a free meal to someone who can reasonably explain how a guy who looks like this can become a Holy Roman emperor.
7. Celebrate the Pope. As Popes go, this one seems like a pretty good one, don’t you think? I personally like him. He’s Argentinian. He’s an environmentalist. He’s a populist. A smart business owner will use his example and embrace his principles — it’s good PR. Use the papal visit to publicize how green your business is, or green products you sell. Offer a special contribution to homeless charities. Put a few special Argentinian dishes on the menu in honor of the Holy Father. You’re a business owner, so why not profit where you can?
8. Partner. You say you don’t mind your competition. But face it – you hate them just like I do. But let’s put away our petty differences this weekend and make the Pope proud by embracing each other. Many Center City businesses are wondering how they’re going to cope with supply and people issues, so you’re not alone. Reach out to your neighbors and pool resources. Share expenses for a rented refrigerator, added security or a car service for your employees. Use each other’s inventories if possible or at least take advantage of each other’s unused space. Sure, you’ll be back to hating each other in no time, but for now, accept that we’re all in the same boat. The Pope would be proud of you for at least trying.
9. Lean on the city. Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger’s office had a lot of suggestions for me too. “Plan ahead,” they said. “Stock up. Organize your employees in advance.” All good stuff. But most importantly, check out the special resource center that the city setup here. On the left side of the page there are FAQ’s but even more importantly there’s an email address you can use to submit questions. I did this a few days ago and…ready? They answered it! Very professionally too. Take a deep breath and accept that the city doesn’t have all the answers yet. It’s not like this happens every day. So bear with them. What, like you’re so perfect?
Bless you Holy Father. You will bring peace, happiness, joy — and profits to our great city. We welcome you and all your pilgrims to our places of business.