Commercial Truck Events Strategies

It has become a very common thing to have a commercial truck event at the dealership and also invite vendors to participate and even to pay for the privilege. I have planned and executed my own and have attended many others over the years. Some even do it as an annual event. I have seen events with 15 vendors paying $200-400 each where very few prospects showed up, leaving the vendors getting nothing for their money and making it a waste of every one's time. I have also seen great events with over 500 attendees having a great time. As a result of all of these experiences, I have learned a number of things about these events and how they might be more effective.

I once had one of these events and sent out flyer's to a 10,000 name database. I prepared a test drive course and worked on the right display, invited the manufacturer of the franchise we had, got all the refreshments and a lot of fine details. About 50 people showed up. I was devastated and embarrassed. I vowed to never have another event without a better plan.

There are a lot of things to take into consideration, like timing, weather, handling the traffic if they actually show up, getting the needed support and so on. It plain words, it is a lot of work to put this kind of thing on.

Here are some things I learned that may be of value:
  • Plan the event way in advance. I suggest that you plan this kind of event a minimum of 90 days out and preferably 6 months to a year out. This will allow you to think of everything that you need, gain all the tools and support, have a plan B, C and D ready and so on. It takes time and effort to put this event together.
  • What is the draw? Some are called customer appreciation events, vendor day, commercial truck event, 4th annual . . . It doesn't much matter what it is called, the most important thing is what is the draw? Why are the prospects or customers going to take the time out of their day to show up? What will bring them in? A free lunch? Because you invited them? Think of them asking themselves, "What's in this for me? Why should I bother to go to that event?" You need a really good answer. Maybe you are giving away a Plasma TV along with a bunch of other desirable prizes and they must show up to have a chance. I have to assume they are not coming because of the trucks. But, maybe you get BigFoot (R) or a race car or some other unique specialty thing that will draw them. Think of your own time and how full your life is and then ask yourself, "would I go to their event based on what they are telling me?" Think this through thoroughly and get a really good answer. It is critical to your event. It is the most critical thing of all. Why?
  • Why? What is your purpose? Sounds like an unnecessary question, but I think it is an important one. Why are you having this event to begin with? What is the purpose? What do you want to achieve with it? What is the goal? You cannot do these events without other people's time and energy, so make sure that it is worthwhile.
  • Who will be there and why? Are you inviting suppliers, factory reps, aftermarket suppliers, etc.? Why are they attending and what will they be doing? What is the goal for them relative to your own goal for the event? Is there a payoff for them? Will it be worth their time and energy? Are there ways you can create teamwork that is mutually beneficial? Who are all the players?
  • The day and time are important. Having an event on Saturday or Sunday for a commercial prospect will not produce a good result. With a busy commercial customer, a weekday is much more productive. I have found mid week to be about the best and to have it in the lunch area time frame. Have a published start and end time and make it flexible enough that people can get there. As an example, 11am to 1pm is a pretty short window and 10am to 2pm would work better. It is easier to break away from work at the lunch time than any other time for many. After work in the evening they have other commitments that will compete with your event. Weekends are really full for most even if they are just unwinding from the week. The exception might be that you are promoting a family event with a clear family draw.

So, you've decided to go ahead and have answered all the questions above and have given the event the thought it deserves. . .

  • Three words: Advertise, Advertise, Advertise. You have to get the word out and it would be best to get that word out in a number of ways. Maybe you will put an ad in the local paper within a day or two of the event. Maybe you can get some advance free publicity due to the things you will have at the event. Certainly, email and other direct marketing is a huge advantage. You should plan at least two mailings, one about two weeks or so out and one a few days out. Make calls and tell people about it and get commitments of attendance. Get the rest of the dealership promoting it as well such as the service department, parts and so on. Get your vendors and suppliers promoting it and you might even provide them with a number of flyer's to get out. With any event like this, I think that too many people showing up is a good problem compared to not enough. The best way to achieve this is to advertise, advertise, advertise.
  • Make sure to be ready early. If the event starts at 10am, make sure everyone is ready full-on by 9am at the latest. Better to be over prepared than under prepared.
  • Event coordinator. Make sure you or your assigned parties are making sure that events are happening in a timely and efficient manner. If you are serving food, make sure everything about that is flowing smoothly. If you are having a lot of drawings, keep it flowing and maintaining interest. Make sure you have a PA system that works really well and that you are playing music or some other pleasant distractions. Make it work like a masterful performance.
  • Follow up. Make sure and thank all who supported and participated in your event. There will be plenty of people to thank. Gather the names of prospects and follow up with them, thanking them for attending and presenting any special offers again that you might have. Great job! A successful event! Many prospects and many sales! Awesome job! Whew! That was a lot of work! But, it paid off for everyone!

These kind of events can be very effective if well thought out, planned and executed. I wish you this kind of success with your next event.

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