Other than your staff, your showroom is your most valuable tool for generating new business. Enticing new people to come in and view your products is essential to your business. Getting the most out of your displays requires getting as many eyes on them as possible.
But how do you entice people to come through your door?
While social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter can help to create a personal connection with customers, it doesn’t necessarily prompt a Facebook friend to drop into the showroom.
One strategy that does invite more showroom traffic is hosting casual community events such as wine and cheese tastings, cooking demonstrations or charity fundraisers.
Here are some key things to consider when planning such an event:
- Make it fun – not a sales event;
- Include other local businesses;
- Fully utilize your showroom;
- Consider tying in a charity fundraiser;
- Plan well for a successful function.
Make it Fun
Not many people will leave their homes to participate in a sales pitch. But a fun night away from the stress of life – that’s a different story. Introducing your showroom in a festive atmosphere creates a positive impression that is likely to be remembered in the future, when guests are in the market for your product.
A popular theme for showroom parties is a “Ladies Night Out,” where women can get away for a few hours with friends.
Stewart’s Appliance, a kitchen appliance and electronics store in Elyria, OH, holds a Ladies Night once a year. And for the men, Stewart’s hosts an annual “Man Cave Night,” featuring a parking lot barbecue.
“Our last Ladies Night drew 200 attendees,” says Ed Stewart, co-owner of the family business. “The purpose isn’t to make it a sales event, but rather a fun party; a chance for people to get out and have some fun while being casually introduced to our store.”
Ladies Night at Stewart’s features refreshments and ladies’ activities – like manicures, massages or displays of the latest fashions in purses and jewelry.
Meanwhile, it’s “no girls allowed” at the firm’s annual Man Cave Night, which offers “guy things” like beer tasting, golf games, guy flicks and jamming with drums and guitars.
The key to large attendance is the offer of fun without obligation – which means no sales presentations are allowed, according to James Justice, owner of Justice and Company, a Medina, OH design showroom that offers kitchen renovation and granite countertops. Justice and Company has hosted several showroom events in the last couple of years.
“The idea is to get new people into the showroom,” Justice notes. “Once they are in here, we feel that our showroom sells itself. We never try to sell them anything during the events. We think that would be a turn-off and it would interrupt the fun of the evening.”
An important part of the showroom event is gathering new leads – collecting addresses and e-mails for future notices and promotions. Be sure to have a guest book for visitors to sign in, or consider holding a drawing as a way of collecting new names.
Partnering with local businesses accomplishes several things. First, involving more than just your own business reinforces the community feel while further distancing your event from being perceived as a “sales trap.” Second, it heightens your marketing efforts – your partners probably will be happy to pitch in to promote the event.
Finally, it creates a synergy with fellow businesses. The partnering businesses can be natural partners – such as a kitchen appliance dealer and a cabinet showroom – or they can be unrelated businesses that are brought in to enhance the entertainment of the event.
Utilize the Showroom
Although you don’t want to pitch your products, you do want your guests to see what you have to offer. After all, that’s the main reason to invite them in.
Consider how you can best spread people throughout your showroom so that all of your displays become part of the activity. You might serve coffee in one kitchen display, present appetizers in another and run a non-intrusive promotional video on a flat screen TV in yet another area.
If you have a working kitchen in your showroom, think about how it can be used to take your event to a higher level. Bringing your display to life by using it as the setting for live cooking demonstrations, for example, gives your visitors an appreciation of the products you offer.
At a recent event, Justice and Company filled its showroom by hosting a live cooking demonstration by a popular local restaurateur. The party gave attendees the opportunity to enjoy an educational and entertaining demonstration, while Justice was able to casually show off the firm’s new products.
Doing a charity fundraiser offers many benefits, including the perception that your activity is for a good cause. It also can be an additional inducement for the local press to help promote the event.
Stewart’s increases its community “buy-in” by including a raffle at Man Cave Night, with proceeds going to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, a national youth mentoring organization.
Trevarrow Inc., a kitchen appliance distributor, frequently opens its Parma, OH showroom to charity events, says Nancy DiVita, who adds that Trevarrow’s showroom is the perfect venue for a party, featuring three live kitchens and a culinary training auditorium.
In January, Trevarrow hosted an open house featuring home decorating products from Southern Living at Home. A portion of the event’s sales were donated to A Spark of Hope – an organization that raises money for pediatric cancer research.
“When the opportunity came up for a Southern Living party, I knew it would be a fun event for my design community to bring people into our showroom,” DiVita says. “I was even more delighted when I realized that it could support a special organization. It gave a more personal aspect to the event.”
Planning is Key
Along with the benefits of hosting a showroom event, Stewart cautions that it takes a lot of preparation to make it a success.
“It takes time and organization to contact the other vendors and do the setup,” he says. “You have to be sure to promote the event through the media. We do a lot of fliers and an e-mail blast to our customers, and we encourage other vendors to blast it to their customers as well.”
Word of Mouth
There is an ancillary benefit that comes from showroom events – word of mouth. The people who show up are obvious new leads. But don’t forget that almost every visitor is likely to tell at least one other person – and probably a lot more than one – what he or she “did last night.” Enthusiastic reviews from your visitors will likely plant seeds of interest for future events – or sales.
When designing a great showroom, remember that nothing is better to fill empty space than a customer. Creating a fun and exciting event may just be the perfect way to get it done.