Community Engagement

Sterling Lumber Co. increased sales by 23% at Customer Appreciation BBQ events from 2018 to 2017.

Bryan Elliston, Vice President of Operations at Sterling Lumber Co., works with New Media Retailer to market their annual Customer Appreciation BBQ events each year. Through a combination of website content, Facebook events and posts and email blasts, 2018 was their best year ever.

23% growth
Event sales
2018 vs 2017

45% growth
Sales increase from
one particular event

19.21% growth
Facebook Likes increase
during the events


Each year, Sterling Lumber Co. puts on a Customer Appreciation BBQ at each of their 12 locations. These events started 11 years ago, out of the back of a truck with a grill on the side. “We started out just selling some tools that we had gotten some specials on,” said Bryan, “and the rest was history.”

These events give Sterling Lumber an opportunity to thank their customers for choosing them over big box stores all year. “Without their participation, we wouldn’t be able to host events like this,” said Bryan. “Events like this put our customers in front of manufacturers, allows them to be educated on a variety of topics and products and also save some money while they are here.” Of course there are giveaways and attendees are provided both breakfast and lunch, but aside from those goodies, there is a real value for customers to attend outside of Sterling Lumber just saying “thank you”.

As the events grew in popularity, so did the incentives for big brands to participate and offer discounts to customers. Vendor participation has helped the events grow in success year over year.

Standing out

In today’s world, customer’s are often enticed to shop online with big brands and that can be scary for independent retailers. “Customers can choose to shop anywhere, but we make it our mission to encourage them to shop here and want to take time to thank them for doing so.” “Creating these events gave us an opportunity to get out from behind the counter and really get to know our customers – and they can say money while they are here!”

How was this year different?

This year, Bryan sat down with Francesca at New Media Retailer to develop a plan to help these events be as visible as possible to customers. Scheduling the time out in advance allowed Francesca to develop a strategy to create awareness about our events.

First, we created graphics that we used for the following channels:

  • Website banner
  • Website events
    • added updated technology which allowed visitors to add events to their calendar right from our site
  • Email blasts
    • 2 per month
  • Facebook cover photo
  • Facebook posts
  • Facebook events
    • allowed visitors to RSVP in advance

Customer Appreciation BBQ

Using these channels helped to guarantee that the events would in front of both current and potential customers. Staff was also encouraged, managers and employees included, to share the events that related to their store. This way, the events would have a higher chance to be visible in front of their family and friends on social media.

Francesca made a content calendar to ensure social media posts and eblasts were going out in advance of the event. “I would also send Francesca photos and videos from the event so that she could post them on Facebook and Twitter for me. This way, I knew content was going up in real time, but I didn’t need to be the one thinking of captions or scheduling posts out. This allowed me to focus on the event and interact with customers and introduce them to brands.”

The increased engagement on social media channels helped to increase our Facebook likes by 19.21%. This means we now have more customers to connect with on this platform.

Economic Outlook

“Based on our success in the past and knowing that we were doing everything to promote the event, there was a great incentive for brands to participate.” Specifically, DeWalt Tools brought their DeWalt Nascar and Stanley Nascar cars to our event at Ponderosa Lumber. This definitely helped to draw a bigger crowd. We had been hyping this specific event up on social media and in our eblasts, resulting in a 45% increase in sales compared to the same event in 2017.

Due to the increased efforts, overall strategic planning and vendor participation, there was a 23% sales increase as compared to 2017 from the 12 Customer Appreciation BBQs.

Bryan from Sterling Lumber provided a glowing recommendation to anyone considering joining the HSW (a brand of NMR) program, stating: “The team at New Media Retailer has managed our website, email marketing and social media for over 7 years. Recently, another member asked me about my experience working with NMR. I told him that this is one vendor I don’t believe we pay enough money. There isn’t a price tag we could put on the service they provide us. We are so grateful to work with New Media Retailer as a valuable part of our business.”

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