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Planning an Open House
The Purpose of an Open House
Hosting an event is an excellent marketing tool for businesses of all types and sizes to educate customers and prospects about products or services. There are several triggers that may prompt a company to consider holding an open house:
- Grand Opening for a new business
- Merger or acquisition
- Vendor partnership (e.g., a new relationship with a supplier or a partnership with a marketing firm)
- New facility/building
- New equipment (e.g., new printing press, digital printing device)
- New products/services
- Community benefit
- Just because!
Whatever milestone your company has reached or is approaching, there is always a good reason to open your doors and showcase what you’re up to.
Planning Your Open House
Effective planning is the key to a successful open house. From the budget to the program, hosting a well-executed event starts with defining and following a well-laid-out plan. This document includes eight steps for you to follow.
Step 1: Define Goals and Set a Date
The primary reason for holding an open house event is to generate business. The first step is to determine the event’s focus. Are you:
- Unveiling a new digital printing device?
- Launching new services or capabilities?
- Showcasing overall capabilities to educate customers?
Next, define the results that you expect to gain from the event and then map out a plan for achieving them. You may want to consider creating a theme for your event. Themes can help drive creativity throughout the planning process and should also peak interest and excitement among your attendees. When setting a date for your event, be sure to consider your internal production schedule and the timing of other industry/community events that might impact attendance. Also, if you are hosting your event to showcase a new facility or production equipment, make sure that the remodeling/construction and installation will be completed ahead of time.
Step 2: Prepare a Budget
Budgeting should be a top priority in the planning process. Outline all of the requirements for your open house and determine the budget, or vice versa. Regardless of how you plan your budget, failing to set aside the money and list what is needed for your event (e.g., rentals, creative and production costs, advertising, staffing, food and drinks, door prizes) may cause you to spend more than expected. Be sure to account for all costs when planning your budget, including your internal costs.
Step 3: Create a Guest List and Invitations
Your invitation list might vary depending on the size of your event. Attendees should include community members/prospects, existing customers, business associates, and partners. Ask your sales team to create a list of customers and prospects and flag any VIP attendees. When developing the event’s invitations, showcase your production capabilities. For example, if you own a RICOH Pro C7200X Series Graphic Arts Edition device, showcase its unique product applications by printing the open house invitations on specialty media or including a 5th color effect. Invitations should always include an address, a telephone number, directions to your business, and a map. If you are using your digital printing device, you can take things a step further by showcasing capabilities such as personalization. Beyond personalized invites, you might also consider providing personalized directions. You could include an element of interactivity with social media. For example, create a Facebook event page that includes surveys about your event plans, or use Twitter to get your customers excited about what to expect during the event. Mix your creativity with your marketing ideas and production capabilities to showcase what you can offer clients for future projects. If you don’t have an in-house creative department, consider outsourcing the creative needed for your event… but don’t forget to add that into your budget! Consider personalized URLs for responses (and to collect data), then follow your print invitation with e-mail reminders about your event. For printers, this is a very important way to showcase your products and create opportunities for your business.
Step 4: Outlining Your Agenda/Program
Align event activities with your goals and the purpose of the event. If you’re celebrating an anniversary, create a video or slideshow of photos from the past to show your company’s history and loop it on a projector throughout the event. If you’re showing off your latest digital press installation, plan a demonstration of the press (depending on the size of your event, this might occur once or be ongoing throughout the event). Other things to consider might include an introduction/welcome speech, ribbon-cutting, mini-seminars, or contests. Brainstorm about all the activities that fit with your business offerings and all the activities that fit your theme and blend them together for a well-planned event.
Step 5: Promote the Event
Beyond invitations, you must promote your open house across all channels. Consider the best way to reach your target market when creating your promotional plan. Consider radio and print ads with the promise of discounts, raffles, and giveaways to entice people to attend your open house. Use social media and encourage sharing, unless you have decided to host an exclusive event. Create a press release. Reach out to your local Chamber of Commerce and advertise on community events pages.
Step 6: Create a Task List
List tasks, assign responsibilities, and take action. Some of the essential tasks include:
- Food and Drinks: Plan the menu and hire the caterer or coordinate the ordering, delivery, preparation, and serving of food and drinks. (Tip: Hot dogs and chips are out… combinations like wine and cheese are preferred, and they might even be expected!)
- Rentals: Reserve and coordinate any necessary rental equipment, such as tables and chairs, microphones and sound equipment, projectors, games, uniforms, and/or security.
- Activities: Create, produce, and buy any necessary items for planned activities like games, contests, and raffles.
- Samples and Business Cards: Have plenty of business cards and samples printed in advance.
- Promotional Materials and Signage: Create and print banners, door signs, directional signage, programs, name tags, etc.
- Training and Staffing: Assign staff members to key event roles such as guest greeters, tour guides, or technology demonstrators. Prepare written scripts for employees to follow that convey the goals and opportunities for the open house.
- Event Staging: Test the layout and placement of tables, chairs, and other event resources. You don’t want to find out on the day of the open house that a planned configuration won’t work or that a table you planned on using doesn’t fit!
Step 7: Host Your Open House
As all your preparations come together, assemble your team, welcome your guests, and then enjoy your event! Be sure to learn as much as possible about everyone who attends.
Step 8: Follow Up!
The real measure of success for an open house event is the work gained from hosting it. The conversion of attendees into customers shouldn’t end when the event is over. Develop a plan for following up with attendees. Send out thank you postcards and e-mails with information about your products and services. The success of your open house is largely dependent on you taking the time to follow up and connect with your current and potential customers to build a loyal client base.