Knowing your customer base is always critical to success, but this becomes even more important for tent rental companies considering expanding their offerings of non-tent event rental items. After all, taking on new products can represent a sometimes sizable financial investment; a major consideration for smaller operations in particular. The key to successfully creating a can’t-fail inventory? Look thoroughly before you leap, says Karen Alcock, partner at Classic Tents & Events, Norcross, Ga. The company provides tents/rental equipment for corporate and private events, festivals and movie productions.
“A common mistake is not researching to see if there’s a real potential market for the item,” she says. “Don’t buy on the hope you’ll be able to rent or sell an item. Reach out to current clients, asking them if they have a wish list. Research current market trends. Review your subrentals; have you had to rent something multiple times? Make a list of items that people have consistently asked for.”
For an item that isn’t generating the desired level of rental activity, Alcock suggests putting it out at an event to draw attention to it. Other strategies she recommends include featuring it in a “new items” email or using social media to launch it.
Social media, particularly sites like Pinterest and Instagram, is “really driving a lot of demand,” says David Cesar, president of Blue Peak Tents Inc., West Chicago, Ill. “There’s a lot more photos out there for all kinds of events for clients to review before making a decision on their personal events,” he says.
By monitoring these sites, tent rental companies can discern what people are looking at, what decor and styles are in demand, what products are generating interest and comment, what event themes seem to be trending hot, along with other useful information. (And, as Alcock observes, they can also use these tools to help juice demand for items already in inventory.)
Wedding websites such as The Knot offer an additional resource to tent rental companies, helping to “shape and inspire brides across the country,” says Carol Cundey, marketing manager for Eureka! The Tent Company, a Binghamton, N.Y.-based tent manufacturer that also offers lighting options along with other accessories.
“Now, trends become the norm much quicker than in the past,” she says. “Real-time styling, inspiration boards and keyword searches help drive demand for rental products that fit the themes.”
Facebook pages are another resource, Cundey says. Rental companies can post picture of items they’re considering adding, helping to gauge interest and determine rental potential. “You may even get a few solid rentals prior to making the purchase,” she says.
By actively working social media, tent rental companies can add to their inventories with greater assurance. Not only can doing so help them avoid costly mistakes, it may enable them to build their inventories more quickly, snagging rental opportunities that otherwise may have passed them by.