Going on month two of our downsizing efforts, John and I are discovering a number of ways in which we can divest ourselves of our belongings. Craig’s List and our building’s bulletin board served to empty our apartment of a number of key furniture pieces such as our leather sofa, two dressers John owned and my dinning room set. But, after diving head first into the storage compartments outside of our apartment last weekend (don’t ask how many) we realized we had a number of smaller items that could probably be moved along to our fellow residents via tag sale.
Being in the same building for 7 years means that you accumulate a few things, memories being the chief among them, so we took the time and effort to invite the entire building to a combination “Goodbye Open House/Tag Sale,” which was executed yesterday morning. Due to some careful planning and well-timed promotion, it was highly successful. We were able to share coffee and conversation with a number of our neighbors, and the apartment was emptier, and our pockets fuller, at its conclusion.
Running a start-up company that is developing a strong social media presence gave me some insight into how to market our little event to the building, the neighborhood and friends. Even a few soon-to-be-downsizers stopped by to see how we were structuring our sale, so we thought we’d share how we did it and what we felt made it work so well.
- Include an “Open House” in your Tag Sale: Our neighbors, those we knew well and those we were only “head nod” acquainted with, meant something to us. We had lived with each of them for part, or all, of the seven years we had been in the building. We felt it was important to invite them into our home, offer them some quality coffee (purchased from the Black Dog, our neighborhood coffee house) and thank them for being part of our lives. Acknowledging neighbors is an important part of any community, whether you’re entering or leaving it. All of our posters and invitations to our event made it clear that people could stop by to chat, even if they weren’t interested in shopping.
- Allow Two-Weeks for Promotion: Heard the phrase that buying 12 place-settings of china is too many and 8 is too few? Any more than two weeks of promotion for an event that will be primarily attended by your neighbors, is too far out on the calendar for them to remember. Any less, then they may have already made weekend plans. We banked on people having short-term memories and planted the seeds just two week prior. We felt it was a time span that was pretty easy to keep top-of-mind but yet might also enable people to plan a bit.
- Use Your Building or Neighborhood’s Social Media Pages: Our building and neighborhood associations and clubs have Facebook pages that many of our building’s residents, and individuals living in the neighborhood, are hooked up to. We implemented a lead-up campaign for our Open House/Tag Sale by posting an initial announcement on these pages, with our photo attached, leaning more heavily on the “open house” aspect rather than the “come buy our stuff” part. We included information about day, time and refreshments in that initial post.Then, each time we referenced the sale in our personal Facebook page posts, we linked the post back to these pages either by mentioning them in the post, or posting directly on the page. Also, in the few days prior, and during the sale, we posted photos and descriptors of specific items we knew residents might be interested in. For example, we have a number of athletes in our neighborhood, so we did a few posts with pictures of our skis, running and biking gear. It was really effective at pulling these people to our sale.
- Use Your Building or Area Business’ Bulletin Boards: This sounds like a no-brainer and it is, but you also need to keep the bulletin
board posts fresh. We put up a flyer in our building’s mail room at the two-week mark, the same day the Facebook announcement went up, and then put up “this weekend” and “tomorrow” flyers to draw fresh attention to the board. Remember, you’re not the only one using it and if you don’t monitor it, your flyers will likely get covered up or taking down during that two week time period.
- Invite Everyone Personally: Of all the things we did to promote our Open House/Tag Sale, the thing we heard from our guests as being the most effective and appreciated, was the personal invitation everyone in our building received. “It was so nice of you to invite the whole building,” many of our neighbors told us.Our building has 250 units, so while it wasn’t possible for us to get personal invitations delivered to every door, we did print out small, quarter page invites and got them to about half of the building the night prior to the event. Simple notes that said, “Thank you for being our neighbor for all or part of the 7 great years we’ve lived here,” and invited them to have coffee with us between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. the next day. No sales push. Just a thank you invitation. To cover the remainder of the building, we posted a flyer-version of the “thank you/coffee” invite at each elevator bank, just above the buttons, early the morning of our open house.
- Post Signs to Help Them Find You: Depending on the building or neighborhood you live in, you may or may not need this, but we felt it was essential to post good “arrow” signs at the elevator and down the corridor to direct people down our cavernous hallway. We also posted a “door entry” flyer above the security phone in our lobby’s entry way to enable neighbors from outside the building to contact us to be admitted.
Keeping the day fun, personal and focused on connecting with our neighbors furnished us with a great opportunity to say goodbye to some great people while we watched them take home things we knew they would enjoy as much as we did. We recommend this approach to anyone who is downsizing!