Dealer Open House Know-How

Many dealers hold spring open houses. They are a great way to strengthen relationships with customers and kick-start sales. Working with your distributor to make sure people come, the event can run smoothly—and you can turn those open house attendees into lifetime customers.

The whole premise of hosting a dealer open house is to try and get customers through the dealership door. It is often a chance to show appreciation to the customers that have done business with you in the past and to offer them a nice lunch while they check out what’s new for the year. To host a successful open house, dealers need to promote it well and offer customers high value at a low cost to the business.

It is only necessary to host an open house once a year. Any more than that is redundant and the business will likely not benefit. Most dealers know the best time to host an open house is in the spring before the season breaks. It should be before the buying decisions have been made by the commercial customers who plan to reload on equipment for the year.

PROMOTION & FOLLOW-UP

The best way to promote an open house to commercial customers is with a direct mailer sent out two weeks ahead of the event so they have time to schedule for it. The mailing can be sent to all of your commercial accounts or to your area’s zip code. To even further guarantee commercial customers attend the open house, dealers should follow up the mailing with a call as reminder of the upcoming event.

One of the biggest mistakes dealers make is not taking the time to follow up. Reminding them is especially necessary when the season starts early and they are already busy. Additionally, that personal touch will make the difference. Contractors may feel more inclined to attend if they were contacted personally.

To attract homeowners, dealers should put an ad in a local paper or flyer. If you do a mailer, get extras printed so you can place them on your sales or service counter ready to hand out to customers. They might have already gotten one in the mail, but it is also nice to hand them one and tell them personally that you would like them to attend.

HAVE A SET-UP CHECKLIST

Most distributors are willing to help out at the open house in addition to hosting a booth. Distributors should be there the day before the open house to set up booths, banners and signs. It is a bad idea to do this set-up in the morning the day of the open house because most contractors start the day early and will arrive shortly after the dealership opens.

At Florida Outdoor Equipment, we provide our dealers with an open house checklist. Having a program or format written out for the open house can help the process run smoothly and successfully. Ask your distributor or salespeople if they can provide you with a checklist to be sure you are doing everything properly.

DON'T BE SO QUICK TO DROP PRICES

One of my biggest frustrations with open houses is dealers thinking they have to knock down their prices for the event. I hate to see that happen because they are losing money and training customers to buy that day when they would have bought equipment at a higher price later on.

A better way to offer value to customers is tying equipment into accessories. It is better to discount the high-profit items like blades, oil and parts. Offer customers a few complimentary blades or oil changes with the purchase of a zero-turn mower at the open house. This way you are offering something that has value to the customer with little cost to the business.

Distributors can also help dealers offer buying incentives. If a distributor has a commercial mower and handheld line, they may be able to tie them together in a promotion. If a customer buys a zero-turn mower, they can get a free blower or string trimmer. The blower has a $400 value to the customer but yet co-op’d through the distributor, the dealer may only pay $100. The customer sees the perceived value but the dealer is not out that total amount. In the end, the dealer has two pieces of equipment returning to their service department for maintenance or repairs.

Follow-up after an open house can also be good for business. You can have a sign-up pad to write down all of the customers that attended. If the open house features some type of giveaway, you can get the list of attendees from the giveaway sign-up.

When done right, an open house can be a great way to create or maintain ties with your customers while still preserving the bottom line.

Thanks to Mark DeShetler of distributor Florida Outdoor for these ideas.

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