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 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.
1. Set a Budget and Plan
This is first on the list because it is the most critical. I’ve also grouped these two items because they are dependent on each other. 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 is going to be based on your expectations for the event and your budget. When developing a plan, it’s important to keep in mind your objective. In essence, 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 out 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.
2. Give Them a Reason to Go
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.
Ditch the Hotdogs and Chips
If your idea of a big event is hot dogs and flags, it’s time to think bigger. Food is a HUGE draw and more important than you realize Consider having the event catered, or if you have a grill master in your midst, rent an enormous grill and do the cooking yourself. Regardless, make sure the food will be GREAT and that your invites know it! You may even consider hiring servers so your staff can focus on interacting with customers.
Make it a Family Affair
Family time is invaluable for many of your customers. Providing games, face painting, jump houses, fireworks and more will attract contractors with families looking to entertain little ones.
You’re trying to make your open house a fun and memorable event. To make it more festive, decorate with balloons, signs, flowers, and plants.
Giveaways and Drawings
Consider raffling off prizes like iPads, TVs, or products. You can also set up demo stations and give guests punch cards. Once they have visited each station, they get a gift.
Pick a local charity and donate a monetary amount for each guest that shows up. Make a big deal awarding the donation towards the end of the open house (think over-sized check). Just don’t petition guests for additional donations; they won’t appreciate the arm-twisting.
Shake Things Up
If you find your event is a clone of prior events, you run the risk of growing stagnant. Looks for ways to do things different and improve the experience with each show. Consider exploring themes based on the season, holidays, or recent events.
3. Pick the Right Time
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. There is not appreciable increase in attendance and it makes your open house feel less successful.
4. Remember Why You’re There
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; they’ll leave feeling recognized and appreciated.
5. The List
Like any marketing campaign, your event is only as good as your list. Invite all your branch customers, but a good idea to is to 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 in your customer list? 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 chase, and they will benefit from the praise from your loyal customers.
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 percent attendance rate.
6. The Difference Between Good and Great is in the Details
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
7. Follow Up
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 to subtly shame them into coming in for a private walk through. It works.
A successful open house can be a huge benefit to your branch. They very often lead to future sales spikes and can really solidify your relationship with a customer. 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.