Come On Over

May 21, 2012

Ahh, the beginning of summer…time to invite your friends over for a leisurely day of barbecuing, bench racing and discussing the finer points of glasspacks versus turbo mufflers. Plus, it’s a chance to shine up Ol’ Betsy and maybe even take the kids for a spin around the block with the top down.

You do know I’m talking about work, right?

For many speed shops and performance retailers, a summertime open house, car show or customer appreciation day is a chance to spend time with clients in an informal setting, getting to know them, their vehicles and the ways you can serve them better.

Plus, it’s tons of fun.

Customers love to bring their cars out for everyone to admire, creating an instant car show in front of your shop that causes others to stop and stare. Keep them around a while with 50-cent hot dogs, prize giveaways or maybe a free concert by a local high school band. Meanwhile inside, one-day specials help move older merchandise, or plant seeds for future purchases.

During my 14-year career as an automotive journalist-and another 10 covering local community events-I’ve learned that the ingredients for a successful open house are nearly limitless. Some that stand out include: free or discounted dyno runs, a 1K fun run, pet parade, judged car show, displays by local police/fire agencies, raffles, burnout contests, safety seat checks, product demonstrations, car wash, local celebrity appearances, clowns and live radio broadcasts.

The important thing is to make it a fun, low-key event that fits with your community and celebrates the types of classic cars your customers love most.

One of the best ways a small performance business can draw attention to itself is to “market the shop by opening it up to the public with Dyno Days,” notes Allison Blackstein of Dynocom Industries. “The more traffic you can bring into your shop, the better.”

And if your clientele is a little more serious about their performance, you can mix in some educational opportunities as well.

“Have seminars and open house days,” suggests Lake Speed Jr. of Joe Gibbs Racing. “Education is the key to keeping guys racing. People do better when they know better. Education days and open house days provide a great way to build excitement for the upcoming season and show off all of your new products.”

If you’re wondering when to hold such as event, here’s a suggestion: July 13. That’s the day SEMA and its Automotive Restoration Market Organization and Hot Rod Industry Alliance councils have set as “Collector Car Appreciation Day.”

“On July 13, 2012, collectors and enthusiasts will host hundreds of events across the country,” said Laura Bergan, ARMO chairman. “We will again proudly partner with individuals, car clubs and businesses as they organize car cruises, club gatherings and other educational events to celebrate the day.”

So make plans now to get in on the fun. If you’re going to talk shop anyway, it makes sense to plan a day each year when you do it at the shop itself.