By  Neil McGill, Director of Operations, Allendale Machinery Systems

The process of planning an open house can be daunting. For any of us who’ve done it, at some point it’s likely we asked, “Is all this work really worth it?” And nothing is more worrisome than waking up the morning of the event and wondering, “Is anyone actually going to show up?”

In an age where a customer can get any information they want on a machine through just a simple Google search, we have had to change our approach to open houses, and we found ourselves seriously questioning our efforts. Long gone are the days that the draw to a customer was simply coming to see the newest machine. The internet has put an end to that anticipation.  

This isn’t to say that customers aren’t coming to kick the proverbial tires on new machines. But they need that extra push to get them out of the shop and into our showroom. That means offering something extra. An example could be hosting seminars with a variety of experts, such as tooling and workholding specialists, software specialists, or other special guests. In essence, you need to turn your open house into a trade show and offer more than just machines. Give your visitors solutions and knowledge. Not only have you now offered more to your customers, but you have given the “I’ll never buy Builder X” buyer a reason to come to your event.

Once you develop an event that people want to visit, you have to let potential attendees know about it.  Emails, snail mail, and flyers stuffed into invoices are all great but they do not create any sense of urgency. In the end, nothing beats personal calls and visits from your company’s sales reps. Getting people to an open house is like selling a machine: you need to state your strengths and differentiators (in other words, what will the customer get from the open house other than a hamburger and soda) and lean on those personal relationships.

In the end the open house is still an important part of our business and cannot be discounted.  Done well, an open house is time consuming, tiresome and a huge undertaking, but it’s a great way to thank your current customers, bring the guy on the fence a little closer, and introduce yourself to new customers.