Hosting an event for your customers can seem like a daunting task. Themes, prospect lists, invites, promotions… not to mention giving them something worth showing up for! But in spite of all the planning and effort involved, event marketing can be the perfect way to improve customer retention, while teaching clients a little bit more about your business and the ways you can help them succeed.
Over the last eight years, I have held an annual open house for our clients and prospects. It all started as a way to show off our newly remodeled business center, as well as a few new pieces of equipment we had recently purchased. So, we came up with a Mexican Fiesta theme, picked a date, and sent out a fun, festive invite (with the dual purpose of showcasing some awesome printing and design work). I called up a client a few blocks away to cater some Mexican food, and then sat back and hoped that I had not made a big mistake.
A few days after the invites were mailed, we started to get a pretty good number of RSVP’s, and really started to panic! How were we going to design an event that benefited our attendees? I called my team together and asked for some ideas. They suggested that we use our new large format printer to print out posters as giveaways. We added a little “fiesta” theme to the posters, and decided to also order a margarita machine just in case (never hurts to loosen things up a bit).
We all came in the Sunday before the open house and did a thorough top-to-bottom cleaning of the business center. We sorted through and tossed any old items, wiped down all the equipment, cleaned the carpets, dusted all the shelves and really gave the center a new shine.
A few days before the open house, we sent a personalized email “reminder” with a map to our clients. We decided to email even the clients who had not RSVP’d, to give them another chance to join in the fun. We also mailed out a festive dimensional mailer to all non-responders: a miniature sombrero, with a handwritten note inside that told them we were sorry they would not be attending the open house.
On the day of the event I made sure that all of our team members were dressed to impress, had neat name badges on, and were briefed on how to “engage” our clients and be proper hosts. One person greeted all the customers at the front, gave them a name badge, and directed them to the beverage and food area. We gave each customer a B-I-N-G-O card which they filled out by visiting each department of the business center (where we taught them a little more about our product and service offerings). Attendees were directed to drop their completed card in a bowl for a drawing for a $100 gift card.
Event marketing is self-promotion at its finest. What better way to build interest and dialogue around your company than by throwing a party?
Our first open house event was a huge hit, and our clients really enjoyed the time to chat and take a look at our facility. We had a great turnout, and the common remark was, “I had no idea you guys did all this stuff here!” After such success, I decided to make it an annual event, and the rest is history.
The moral of the story? Hosting an event at your business doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Start simple, by inviting a few of your best clients, and a few of those prospects you’d like to convert into clients. Promote the event several weeks in advance with an interactive direct marketing campaign, engage attendees with giveaways, and make the event clearly beneficial for them.
Try sharing your expertise by holding a seminar or lunch-and-learn. Make sure to consider your budget, and take the time to get your facility and team ready for the event. You may just find that building your business through events is easier than you think.