Secrets of Hosting a Successful Open House

Dec. 1, 2008
You have the product, the timing fits, your schedule permits it, and the weather (you hope) will be perfect. The trick is to plan everything carefully,

You have the product, the timing fits, your schedule permits it, and the weather (you hope) will be perfect. The trick is to plan everything carefully, creating a sure-fire checklist that will help drive your contractors' customers to your business. Here are a few proven techniques that increase the chances of making YOUR open house a whopping success. These include:

  • Friday is by far the best day to have an open house, and Monday is the worst. Warm seasons usually work better, but this is not absolute.

  • To ensure a strong turnout, make sure key management personnel at the distributor (the owner, president, vice president, sales or branch manager) personally invite key contractor personnel (presidents, owners, buyers, shop foremen). Do this in person, if possible, or at least via phone.

  • Personally invite as many people as possible. Send invitations at least three weeks in advance, and the same person should make reminder calls or send an e-mail 72 hours before the event.

  • Send e-mail and broadcast faxes to as many contractors possible, and ask if you can post a flier in lunchrooms and jobsite trailers.

  • The flier and e-mail should look professional and include key bullet points for the event: location, times, vendors, featured items, specials, food and serving times, promotional items and giveaway outlines.

  • All key people from the distributor management should be present during the event. If you don't show importance at this level, don't expect it from your customers.

  • Invite key vendors and provide a tabletop so they can display their key products.

  • Ask vendors to donate to the event, but keep it to a reasonable amount. Distributors and vendors should also provide a door prize, promotional items and samples. If a key vendor cannot attend, they should still contribute and send samples and promotional items, and a distributor salesperson ought to represent the key vendor. Examples of good door prizes are gift cards and gas cards. It is usually better to give out multiple door prizes, more than just three top prizes. Make it clear that you must attend to win.

  • Owners are more interested in promotions, sales and what services you provide. Make sure to coordinate the timing of vendor promotions and sale items with the event.

  • DON'T SKIMP ON FOOD! Even if you are on a budget, serving hot dogs and hamburgers as the main dish is going to ensure limited turnout, and most likely no key people will show up. It is better to have the food catered by a reputable company whenever possible. It keeps all distributor personnel focused on the customers, while assuring that someone is always maintaining the temperature and quality of the food.

  • Make sure to have someone greet attendees when they arrive, especially key people. Key people should have someone (distributor or vendor personnel) with them for as long as possible. Give a tour of your facility, but keep it light. Ask questions of the customers.

  • Clean your facility and make sure inventory levels are strong. Have an additional line card for normally stocked items and services provided.

  • Define everyone's role during the event. No one should be standing around with their hands in their pockets.

  • Always send a follow-up “thank you” to attendees. If someone key was unable to attend, you should also send a follow-up “sorry you missed our event.” Sending a follow-up flyer outlining the success of the open house is not out of line.

Tony Plantz is the national sales manager of Charleroi, PA-based, Ductmate Industries Inc.