For construction dealers, open houses represent a unique marketing opportunity. No other approach competes when it comes to developing good will, meeting face-to-face with customers, and demoing to a large, captive audience – all in one day.
The following are seven elements to a successful open house that will make or break your next event.
This is first on the list because it is the most critical. Determining a budget sets the stage for how much you plan to spend on your open house. It also prevents out-of-control expenses and surprises down the road. Your plan will be based on your expectations for the event and your budget.
An open house is a public relations event. This is your opportunity to put your best foot forward so everything should be well thought out. Your plan should be developed at least two months before the event, with task owners and due dates clearly defined. It’s also a good idea to assign someone as the lead to keep everyone on target. Staff who are detail-focused tend to make the best project managers.
This may seem obvious but your customers are busy and their time is precious. If you expect them to give up a portion of their busy work day or free time, you had better give a good reason why.
Here are a few things that might help bring people to your open house:
This one is simple enough. Avoid scheduling your open house around holidays, major sporting events, graduations, inclement weather, or any other time that would prevent customers from attending. Fridays often have the best attendance but avoid two-day events. For two-day events, there’s often not appreciable increase in attendance and it can make your open house feel less successful.
While future sales are sure to follow any event, keep in mind the real reason for your open house: public relations. Your objective is to foster good will among customers, show them a good time, and educate them on your equipment and services. This is not the time to close deals. Make it a point to thank each customer for their business and they’ll leave feeling recognized and appreciated.
Like any marketing campaign, your event is only as good as your list. Invite all your branch customers, but also personally invite each of your best customers. They’ll appreciate the individual attention and will be more likely to attend.
But what about equipment owners not on your customer list? You can use EDA’s national database of equipment buyers to identify potential prospects in your territory. With EDA’s online search feature, you can target prospects based on geography, fleet size, or equipment purchased. Fresh prospects will give your sales staff someone new to approach and help you find more potential buyers to invite to your open house.
Two days before the show, call each registered guest to confirm their attendance. You’ll be amazed at how many more people show up. With this simple tactic, you can expect a 60-70% attendance rate.
Often it’s the little things that make or break an open house:
Assign one employee to continually clean the store during the open house
Have a host at the front door to greet people as they come in.
Make sure you have enough parking
Provide directions to the office
Consider music or live entertainment
Have name badges for all attendees and your staff
Have plenty of garbage cans available by food areas
Have space set aside for people to eat and talk
Notify neighbors and invite them to minimize conflicts[/box]
This is a no brainer but you’d be surprised how many dealers fail to follow up with attendees. After the event concludes, distribute a list of all visitors to the account owners and make them accountable for reaching out. Calls may be a simple thank you for visiting or, hopefully, to continue a conversation and initiate the sales cycle.
It’s also important to follow up with no-shows. Let them know they were missed and make them feel appreciated, even if they couldn’t find the time to come.
A successful open house can be a huge benefit to your branch. They often lead to future sales spikes and can really solidify your relationship with customers. The key to pulling off a successful show is having a strong plan going in and implementing that plan.
Hopefully you have some new ideas for your next open house. If you haven’t done open houses in the past I strongly encourage you to try one. They are a great PR tool and one that will help build your dealership.