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Driving business during the slow season: entertaining clients

Business, Management | June 1, 2017 | By:

Everyone appreciates the time of year when things start to slow down. But after a recuperation stage, tent rental companies may find themselves twiddling their thumbs, waiting for clients to call. What do you do to drive business at these times? Many operations host a showcase or an open house, blending strategy and celebration. One event can offer a multitude of benefits:

• bring in all the loyal vendors and businesses you partner with for some face-to-face time

• show off the variety of your products and services, as well as those of your partners

• demonstrate the behind-the-scenes work many clients may be unaware of

• celebrate everything the company and community is capable of doing

• tell clients you value them enough to set aside this special event for them

These are just some of the general benefits of hosting a showcase. Every company will have its own different goals, budgets and ideas about the best way to pull it off. There are endless possibilities to consider: Do you want to host a big annual showcase? Or would you prefer a smaller, more market-focused one (weddings, corporate events)? Perhaps one every few years sounds more reasonable. What you decide will be determined by your company’s specific needs and resources. Following are some examples of how different companies approach hosting a showcase.

The ultimate

Kevin Moore, COO of Ultimate Events in Plymouth, Minn., has several years of showcase planning under his belt and knows what works for his company. Planning typically begins one month ahead of time, and he’s found that hosting the event midweek, from noon to 8 p.m., provides the best turnout. The company hosts an open house every couple of years rather than annually.

Ultimate Events markets the showcase through social media, the company’s own signage and invitations. At the event, guests enter their business cards in a prize raffle, which doubles as a way to make sure their information is in the company’s database. Tent and staging products are set up outside, and the showroom and especially the warehouse displays are dedicated to new products. “It’s surprising that even long-time customers who attend comment, ‘We did not know you carried this,’” Moore says. To give visitors a more holistic view of the company and its practices, staff members also demonstrate how products and equipment are maintained.

Ultimate Events wants to show clients more than its own inventory, so it includes florists, caterers, wedding planners and other business partners as part of the event. Moore reports that after the showcase, there is a noticeable increase in the rental of featured products. He advises that showcases are essentially a very costly, if effective, form of advertising—so budget wisely.

New York, New York

New York City: where grandeur itself must be topped in order to make a statement. David Tannenbaum, CEO of New York Tent, claims his motto is “Go BIG or go home!” What goes into a showcase event in the big city? “A lot of blood, sweat and tears,” he says. “It can’t be any other way when you’re trying to wow people in the event planning industry in the city that never sleeps.”

Tannenbaum says his company begins planning four to six months ahead of time. “Normally, we aren’t responsible for producing every aspect of an event we are part of. When it’s your own event, you are.”

Open houses and showcases require tent rental companies to go above and beyond typical event responsibilities; you’re in charge of invites, catering, decor, music, marketing—the list goes on. “We couldn’t afford to overlook any small detail while taking care of everything from invite lists and registration to the entertainment,” Tannenbaum says.

Why sign up for so much stress? Because this event could be the exclamation point on your company name. A showcase brings together the enormous potential of your entire staff, and all your products, services, resources and capabilities. You also call in your most celebrated vendors to multiply that effect. In the moments when clients and partners notice something new—it’s worth it.

Tannenbaum says New York Tent markets the event to all of the best local event professionals, including venues, designers, planners and production companies. Instead of using social media (because the event isn’t intended for the general public), the company sends personalized invitations. “At the end of the day, producing an epic open house concert doesn’t do us any good if nobody is in attendance,” he says.

Producing and attending an event is going to generate valuable lessons on what to do differently next time. Was there enough food? Did everyone freak out about the juke box in the bathroom but ignore the yard games outside? Humans are odd creatures, and what ends up being popular is often simply a matter of trial and error. Each showcase your company holds will provide valuable feedback not only for the subsequent year’s event (if held annually), but perhaps also for your operations in general. According to Tannenbaum, his company’s Concert & Cocktails events have been so popular that he is frequently asked about the next one, sometimes once a week.

Able, willing and ready

Ramsey Duqum, CEO and owner of AAble Rents in Cleveland, Ohio, has been putting on annual showcases since 2012. Planning begins in the fourth quarter when staff members start brainstorming a theme. One year the company invited some favorite partners to host a high-end event. Instead of having booths, the event was built on a beach with eight styles of tents.

Duqum favors soft impressions: “We didn’t talk about the acacia dance floor; we didn’t talk about our products. I just got up with the DJ and asked everyone to have a hell of a time,” he says.

AAble Rents does market the showcase on social media and is very strategic about it, says Duqum. “We let it simmer,” he says. “We have set schedules of highest peak times and prescheduled launches. Put a teaser out there, and you want that impression to be out there four times before they remember it.”

And because he wants to make sure that even the people who never show up to events come, he calls them personally. “It’s really fun to see people talk about it before it happens,” he says. “They’re all asking, ‘What are you going to wear to the AAble party?’”

According to Duqum, a good impression is more meaningful than a thank-you card or any other kind of follow-up—except, perhaps, an even better party the next year. “The greatest thing we can hear after an event is that they had an amazing time,” he says. “Event professionals usually don’t say that unless they actually mean it.”

The bottom line? What you need to do is assess your company goals for a showcase, and figure out how much downtime in the season you actually have. How have previous events benefitted your company? What proved to make the extra work worthwhile? Any event, no matter how extravagant or relatively simple, isn’t likely to be a breeze to host, but it’s definitely an opportunity to show existing and potential clients about your capabilities—and your style—in a way that makes a lasting impression.   

Amber Newman is a Minneapolis, Minnesota-based writer and editor.

Hosting an open house in the real estate market can offer a number of tips that will work in any industry.

1. Never plan to call people later. The focus should be on celebrating your clients and partners, not on making a sale.

2. Welcome visitors at the door. This isn’t so much a security measure to deter gate crashers as a way to make sure you have at least one personal interaction with each guest.

3. Stage your informational packets. Make your brochures and information easy to find, but don’t put them front and center.

4. Mingle with guests as they walk through the house. Introduce yourself, ask them if they’re enjoying the event, and if someone happens to mention how much they like diet Dr. Pepper, go and find them one.

5. Get the house in “showing shape.” Make sure the area is clean, attractive, uncluttered and safe before the refreshments and activities arrive.

6. Choose your open houses carefully. The event should be held in a location that’s convenient for your visitors, even if it’s not convenient for you. If you’re holding your event at your shop, that’s one decision made—but make sure that the event (refreshments, activities, entertainment) is worth their time.

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