August 7, 2018

How About a Customer Event at Your Place?

By Paul Bieber

How about that. What is it? It’s a day, or an afternoon, or from 4 to 7 p.m. when you invite every customer to come to your shop and meet your full team. Call it an open house or customer appreciation event or just “Drop in at Paul’s Glass.” Whatever. Invite every past customer you’ve had, and a list of customers you would like to work with.

Not everyone will come, but what happens if 20 or so customers do visit and they see how professional your company really is? What happens when they meet the face behind all the good phone calls they receive about job updates or quotes? I absolutely guarantee you that these 20 or so people will become customers for years to come. People like to buy from people they know. That is the number one, no doubt about it, reason that sales take place in any industry. Our glass industry is no exception. If someone undercuts you by 15 percent, a personal relationship won’t make up that difference, but with a 5-percent lower price, you will get a phone call asking what you can do, giving you the chance to explain why you are better than brand X. Also, the event lets customers know what else you do by walking through your showroom

How do you set up a day like this? Start planning four months ahead. Make sure all employees know they are working in your place and not on the road. Contact your key vendors so they can provide displays or samples of glass or metal. Ask your top three vendors to have a salesperson at your shop to answer technical questions. 

Three months before, send out a flyer to your mailing list announcing a special day at your business, with details to follow. Have your sales team develop a mailing list of every customer they would like to meet, from local architects to end users, and send personalized letters to each one inviting them to your shop.

Two months ahead, start cleaning your showroom, your offices and your back room, or factory or whatever you have. This will take a month, don’t be surprised. All those “Well, I might need it someday” cutoffs go in the dumpster now. If your trucks have dings and dents, get them fixed and painted. Make sure that your employees have new uniforms if you give them out, or give each one a one-time check of $50 to buy a new blouse or shirt. Prepare your advertising outreach. Prepare flyers that your sales team and installers leave with everyone they meet in business. Call the local architects association and see if they have a newsletter you can advertise in. Is there a new geographic area you have wanted to go after? Now is the time to advertise in that area.

One month ahead, get your food order ready and placed. If you are serving wine or beer at an afternoon event, your employees cannot have anything. Make sure you monitor guests and limit their intake. All things given, I prefer not to have alcohol at an event like this. Are you going to hold a raffle? Put this in your flyer and have your prize ready. A prize can be a material good like a radio, or a discount at your store. Collect everyone’s business card on the day of the event, making sure their email address is on the card, as the raffle entry. Have a stack of blank business cards that someone can write their information on if they forget their cards or just don’t have them.

One week before do a dry run. Have all of your people in place and brief them on things to say and what not to say. Talk about which products to stress and why. Assign each an area that fits their expertise. Set up the functions going on in the shop. This includes cutting glass to shape, special miters on aluminum, reading of blueprints, safety in handling glass, how an insulating glass unit works and whatever else your company is good at. Plan what materials you need to have on the day and make sure you have them in-house and ready to go.

On the day, everyone, including you, has a name tag, with their first name and their role in your company. If it is raining, have someone outside handing out umbrellas. Have the food there an hour before the event starts. Don’t panic. Get a good night’s sleep. If you have done your prep you will have a great day.

On the day after, send each person who came a personal note thanking them for their time. Mention one part of your business they were interested in and say that you would be glad to help them in this area. Spend a minute or two with each employee thanking them for their efforts. If it was a successful day, and that means many contacts and good information shared, give each employee a small gift. It can be a 20 dollar bill or tickets to a ball game, whatever works for you. You will need to have these ready in advance, which is why cash will work, or maybe a gift card which can be purchased the next day before you get to work.

Start follow-up visits to each person, get ready for more business and start your planning for next year’s day!