The past three years for Minneapolis-based Wild Rumpus Books have been the best yet. Sales have been up and customers keep coming through the doors. Marketing consultant Felicity Britton admits that the success is a little unusual, considering the state of independent bookstores. But then again, Wild Rumpus Books isn’t your average bookstore.
With an orientation toward young readers, Wild Rumpus holds a lot of popular events for children. Whether the kids are hopping onto a vintage trolley car to ride around town or authors are speaking in the store, there are plenty of things to make reading a fun and interactive experience. In fact, the trolley rides and readings became so popular over the years that sales staff would have to work after hours just to field calls for attendance, and customers trying to register had to listen to a busy signal, sometimes for hours on end. That meant extra overtime costs for the store, and a lot of unhappy faces.
Since 2008, the store has been using Constant Contact Email Marketing to notify customers about special deals and new titles. In late 2010, Wild Rumpus Books decided to try Event Marketing to register people for trolley rides and author events. That left the phone lines open and the staff available to help with the operations of the bookstore itself. Taking events online hasn’t exactly dampened attendance — this year, the October trolley rides sold out in four minutes, without one busy signal.
Real value from virtual registrations
Felicity says that Wild Rumpus Books originally tried using a free event invitation tool to better organize events, but the service only added to the chaos. There was no way to cap attendance for each occasion, which was a problem because the modestly-sized bookstore can hold 300 people and the trolley can hold 60. So, without the ability to limit registration, children could end up crammed into the store or hanging from the trolley’s side.
By creating an intuitive RSVP system through Constant Contact’s event marketing tool, Wild Rumpus Books now offers a way for people to quickly register and pay online through PayPal.
“Using Constant Contact has saved Wild Rumpus time and money,” Felicity says. “Especially by automatically taking RSVPs to events. Now we don’t have to pay staff for overtime just so they can handle phone registrations.”
Felicity explains that email marketing has made it easier to keep the store’s “whimsical tone” and still look professional. Online newsletters have been a cost-effective alternative for Wild Rumpus Books, as well. More than 15,000 people have signed up to be on the mailing list since the store opened in 1992. Without email, that would have meant a lot of extra postage.
Sometimes, success means a chinchilla
“Independent bookstores are a dying breed, and we’re lucky that the last three years have been our best to date,” Felicity says. She believes that the continued growth of Wild Rumpus Books has been due to the personal and unique experience that customers get when they enter the door. The Wild Rumpus was started by Collette Morgan and Tom Braun, who both had theater backgrounds and shared a love of the Maurice Sendak classic Where the Wild Things Are. Consequently, drama and adventure are around every corner.
“Live chickens wander the floor alongside manx cats, and ferrets, a chinchilla, a tarantula, an African lizard named Spike, fish, birds, and even some rats are located around the store,” Felicity explains. “If you look up, you’ll see the ceiling splits open revealing ‘the sky’ and a garden shed at the back of the store gives you a feeling of being outside.”
Three years of great growth despite a weak economy and the threat of e-books is particularly admirable. And Felicity says that Wild Rumpus Books isn’t just about the books — it’s about giving time for parents to get together with their children and do something that everyone can enjoy. By combining an unforgettable experience with a good book, the store has ensured that trolley rides are still full, kids are still reading, and chinchillas, tarantulas, and African lizards all have a home to call their own.
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I'm interested in all things content marketing, especially how they relate to good writing. I'm an author at heart and I think that the internet and quality books and articles have a healthy future together.