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Putting on an Event

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Analyzing how dealerships can get the most out of hosting community events.

In Craig David’s experience, an auto dealership can make a massive marketing impact for as little as $700.

And, in doing so, it can make a sizeable impact on its surrounding community.

David, the brand marketing manager at Audi Flatirons near Denver, often helps his employer host community events. And, while a chief reason the dealership hosts events is to serve its community, those gatherings can also often create loyal customers down the line.

“From the get-go, it’s been a part of our core, of how we engage with people,” David says of throwing an event at the Colorado dealership. “It helps give insight to our personality, and to the way we do business.”

But, he cautions: “There’s got to be a purpose to it—you’ve got to make it worth people’s time.”

Yes, David suggests that all dealerships consider hosting the occasional community event, mainly because customers often view gatherings like fundraisers as a reflection of a business’s values. But, even though throwing an in-house event could cost a dealership as little as a few hundred dollars (or, roughly $10 per attendee), the events often require careful planning.

David, whose employer boasts a CSI score of 980 out of 1,000, provides tips for how dealerships can get the most out of hosting community events.

Study Your Demographic.

Above all else, David feels it’s important for facilities that host events to know their area well. Only then can a dealership host an event that truly resonates with local residents and potential customers. For example, since the Denver exurbs tend to feature citizens that are socially conscious, Audi Flatirons has hosted fundraisers for homeless organizations.

“It goes back to your demographic: where are you at, what are people interested in, what fits the brand, too,” he says.

And Audi Flatirons’ legwork with regard to hosting events has paid off: After servicing fewer than 800 vehicles per month a couple years ago, the Broomfield, Colo., facility handled 1,422 ROs in July 2018. Event attendees often say things like, “Oh, I didn’t know you were here; I wouldn’t have thought to stop [at the dealership] without meeting you outside the store.”

Audi Flatirons’ service director, Rudy Wagner, says that the events, “help the public get awareness of who we are and what Audi is; it’s just being part of the community.”

Allocate Time for Planning.

No matter how small the gatherings are expected to be at Audi Flatirons, the events don’t come together overnight. For example, for gatherings that Audi Flatirons hosts along with another business or organization, David often puts in 23 months of planning.

And, even for the facility’s smaller, in-house gatherings, David notes, “if you’re going to launch a car and have a cocktail hour or whatever, I would [plan for] 4–6 weeks.”

Leverage Partnerships for Promotion.

While David is no stranger to writing a press release, he says business partners can be especially helpful in promoting a dealership’s upcoming events. That’s why he reaches out to businesses, like a local wine store, to occasionally have them put up a promotional poster, or mention Audi Flatirons’ events in their digital newsletter, or on the store’s Facebook page.

 “If they’ve got an avenue of communication with our mutual demographic, those are really partners that we’ve sought out,” David notes. “I mean, like attracts like.”

Get Visitors’ Email Addresses.

Once a dealership gets prospective customers within its footprint, it’s important to be able to leave an impression, so the business can stay at the top of potential clients’ minds. That’s one reason why David typically tries to get visitors’ email addresses at events.

While David takes care not to bombard fundraiser participants with marketing emails, he typically sends out emails recapping events, with photos, within 4–5 days.

“I think it’s more about building the relationship than it is for an immediate sale,” he says of sending out marketing emails.

Giveaways are Always Appreciated.

David has helped plan countless events in recent years, and those experiences taught him one thing, for certain: people almost unanimously love winning weekend vacations … or even hats or water bottles.

“We usually try to give something away, whether it be a weekend in a car, or a prize pack,” he says. “Everybody likes to win something.”

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