Open your doors

A well-planned open house is a major marketing tool to help rental owners increase business

Looking to increase business during slow periods? The winter months in the northern states bring strong winds, cold temperatures, snow and ice. Construction practically stops because its 10 degrees on the jobsite. Even in the South, extended rain, tropical storms, heat waves, etc. can dramatically affect outside working conditions. During these slow periods, why not host a well-planned, organized open house?

Let's look at the advantages that hosting this money-making event can offer your rental business:

  • Many new customers are exposed to your business.
  • Existing customers learn more about your entire product offering.
  • It's an ideal time to sell specially priced used tools and equipment that were formerly in your rental fleet but have been replaced with new models.
  • It's a great time for in-depth conversations with regular and new customers. When ensuring long-term relationships, there's no substitute for one-on-one meetings.
  • It can increase future business.

As owner and CEO of Pro Cut Products Inc. years ago, we hosted several well-planned, well-attended and profitable open houses at our headquarters in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Pro Cut also participated and supported many local rental dealer open houses throughout the country. Most were well attended and very profitable to our dealers. A few, however, did not do well due to a lack of good planning, which is the key to a successful open house.

At least six weeks prior to scheduling, sit down with your entire staff and plan the event. List everything in the order to be accomplished, including absolute deadline dates for specific jobs, etc.

Below are some helpful suggestions:

  • Establish a theme for the event, i.e., company anniversary, new expansion of company building, Valentine's Day, etc.
  • Print professional-looking invitations and mail to all contractors in your area (electrical, plumbing, general, remodeling, etc.). Also mail them to existing accounts and homeowners. Important: make sure you have an extra supply for counter top and outside salesman handouts.
  • Invitations should be sent at least two weeks ahead of time. Even though responses are generally light, still request RSVP to get an estimate of refreshments requirements.
  • Schedule your open house during the work week, starting late afternoon (4 to 8 p.m.), which is the ideal time for contractors to stop by after work.
  • Advertise. Contact local newspapers and radio stations.
  • Enlist suppliers. Most manufacturers have dealer co-op money to contribute when their products are featured. Invite selected factory reps to work the open house with you.
  • Refreshments - Don't try to do this yourself. It's worth the extra money to hire a caterer. Normally, sandwiches, hot dogs, cheese spread, chips and dessert (brownies or cookies) along with soda pop, beer and coffee, is enough. Note: donate leftover food to the local food bank or Salvation Army.

What about the open house? Below are some recommendations:

  • Thoroughly clean all rental departments and equipment. Clean and straighten shelves, wash company vehicles, etc.
  • Replace worn old signs and posters.
  • Establish an area for used tools and equipment that you're selling at special pricing.
  • Place company employees at their normal work place to discuss their job description and (most importantly) how they help give better customer service.
  • Station factory reps near their tools and equipment for show and tell and possible demonstrations.
  • Position a table with a company employee at your main entrance with a guest book for everyone to sign (including addresses, etc.). Give out written name tags for all to wear. Note: Be sure to get addresses for future mailings, etc.
  • Buy four $50 gift certificates from a well-known restaurant nearby and have four drawings at different times during the evening.

The bottom line is, you have to spend money to make money and with the help of your suppliers, the cost should be quite reasonable.

After 40-plus years in this business, I know from experience that a well-planned, organized open house is a profitable win-win situation for both large and small rental businesses. Start planning now!