Name: Paul Berube
Dealership: Boater’s Exchange,
Number of annual events: 25
-Don’t get suckered into thinking that a
radio remote broadcast is going to draw
the crowds. Focus on real value for the
-Publicized seminars and giveaways work well.
-Cross promote with other local synergistic businesses that offer ancillary services. For instance, include the electronics shop and tackle store in the event and have them do a mass e-mailing to their customer base.
-Get your vendors to support you with free stuff to give away. No one will ever turn down the free t-shirt that you received free from your vendors.
-Make your sales yard look like a boat show.
-Have a plan.
-Get your existing customers to form a base so that you can introduce them to your new prospective customers.
Name: Joe Lewis
Dealership: Mt. Dora Boating Center,
Mt. Dora, Fla.
Number of annual events: 34
-Keep it fun, simple and low cost: a day trip to a state park or similar venue for a picnic lunch or cook-out.
-Plan well in advance and communicate often and in every way you can possibly think of. Some of the ways we get the word out are: calendar posted on our Web site, e-newsletters, message on monthly statements, event calendar/cards attached to service bills, stuffers/flyers in monthly statements, personal e-mail invitations, phone calls.
-Take lots of pictures and make sure everyone that didn’t attend the event knows what a good time they missed.
Name: Larry Russo, Sr.
Dealership: Russo Marine, Medford, Mass.
Number of annual events: 30-40
-Give invitees plenty of notice and several reminders. People have very busy schedules, and they welcome frequent reminders.
-Make it simple to understand what you are promoting and what benefit or value there will be for the attendees.
-Whether it is a sales event, an educational event or a social event, people want to learn something and have fun.
-Create a “wow” factor in everything you do. We want customers to come away from an experience and say: “Wow, I learned something new today” or “Wow, we really had fun at your event” or “Wow, we got a really good deal!”
-Create a color-coded schedule of your events, which includes a budgeted amount for each event. Create a good balance between shows, selling events, educational events and fun events.
Name: Barry Lieberman
Dealership: Hardin Marine Arrowhead,
Lake Arrowhead, Calif.
Number of annual events: 4-8
-Have the dealership’s staff serve the food themselves. Our customers seem to like that.
-Don’t use a customer appreciation event as a selling tool. We invite factory reps to attend just to answer customers’ questions.
-Offer a little something for everyone. At our customer appreciation party, we have a jumper for the kids, a clown, a band, door prizes, an open bar and a big BBQ.
-Once you discover what your customers like, stick with it. This is our customer appreciation party’s 14th year, and it’s always the last Saturday in August, the last big weekend before Labor Day. Customers always know when to mark their calendars for the next year.
-Ask customers to RSVP so you know how much food you need.
Name: Roy Parker, Jr.
Dealership: Parker Boat Co., Orlando, Fla.
Number of annual events: 20-25
-Limit your cruising club to those who buy boats from you. People buy boats from us just to get into the club.
-Don’t be afraid to charge for trips. I charge customers $600 for the Abacos trip and $300 for the Bimini trip. We organize everything. We give participants a book with all kinds of info on where we’re going, what to pack, etc. We take a technician along with us. The money we charge goes mostly to cover the loss of his income in the shop while we’re gone. I’ve never had anyone balk at the charge.
-Contact any marinas you plan to stay at during your trip in advance. Tell them, “I’m thinking about bringing my group to you. Can you comp my slip and host a cocktail party?” That cuts down on the cost considerably. The two big costs are the slip and the fuel. Most of the places we take our trips comp us our slip and sometimes a free condo.
Name: Tom Mack
Dealership: South Shore Marine,
Number of annual events: 5
-Find fun themes. Our most successful are a holiday open house, fishing seminar, island time cruise/rendezvous and demo weekend.
-Don’t do the same thing annually. Change it up a little to keep it interesting.
-Invite, e-mail, and call, call, call. By making the invitation personal, it ensures good attendance.
-Feed them, share a few drinks, treat them like friends, not customers. Have fun!
Name: Carly Poole
Dealership: Buckeye Marine,
Number of annual events: 25-40
-Come up with a plan. There are a lot of resources out there to help you. One I use that I’ve found very helpful is evite.com. It allows you to send out e-mail invitations, but there is also a lot of information on what to do when planning events. Brunswick Dealer Advantage also offers ideas on producing different types of events. Another resource for event planning is eventective.com, which is specifically for finding vendors.
-Don’t plan all of your events at once. Work on one per month.
-Create a “to do” list for each event with dates and times next to each item.
-Events don’t have to be expensive. Some of the supplies we use at different events I get at the dollar store.
-Consider working with local grocery stores. It’s an easy way to offer your customers food without hiring a caterer. Not only is the food usually well displayed, many stores offer a booklet of the food they offer, which also contains checklists and advice on planning events.
-Hold dealership events in conjunction with community events to reduce advertising costs.
-The first time you plan an event, consider holding it at your dealership rather than off-site to reduce potential complications.
-To increase attendance, consider having someone from the dealership call customers to personally invite them to attend. The first time we did this, we doubled the number of attendees. The person who made most of the calls is a high school kid who is good on the phone. We’re paying her student wages, so it’s a lot cheaper than direct mail.