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Themed Events: Be a PARTY Animal

7 Feb, 2006 By: Ian Crockett imageSource

Themed Events: Be a PARTY Animal

Successful event marketing has
always been spotty at best in the office technology industry. Years ago, dealers
would regularly rent out space at the local Holiday Inn or Ramada and bring
their plain paper copiers and fax machines into a room to “dazzle” customers and

Numerous issues got in the way of that proud tradition, however. On-site demos
became an accepted method of selling, the machines got too big and heavy to
throw in the back of a station wagon, and customers lost interest in the analog

Premier dealers used the on-site method to show off their facilities and
theoretically put all the competitors to shame. But there was still no draw to
get high-level customers and prospects other than, “Come see my beautiful
building.” Once the visitors had been there, why would they want to go back to
the same place the following year to visit?

Give it a Theme

Personally, I learned successful open house marketing from a former client in
Columbus, Ohio. This guy knew how to put on a party that people would line up
for to attend.

Each event had a theme—one that typically had nothing to do with the products
that were being sold. Some examples:

• An Oktoberfest party with beer, plenty of sauerkraut and a polka band.

• A Hawaiian luau complete with grass skirts and Mai Tais.

I’m not suggesting serving alcohol at 8 a.m., but it certainly can loosen up
prospects and customers and likely lead to a few sales.

I’ve also had a number of clients host successful events that have included
giveaways that tied into the theme. Some examples:

• A Thanksgiving themed open house. There were four different demo stations and
anyone that visited all four would leave with a free turkey.

• A theme and giveaways that represent the specific area of the country in which
the event is held:

1. Lobster in Maine

2. Shrimp near the Gulf Coast

3. Beach towels in California

4. Cheesecake in New York

5. Crab in Maryland

• Sports themes with football or baseball ticket giveaways.

By having a theme, you’re creating interest in something other than your
facility or products and higher level executives, who can make decisions on the
spot, are more likely to attend.

Other Ingredients for Success

I used to believe that all events should always be held at the dealership.
However, with today’s digital technology being so remarkable, I now believe it’s
more important to get prospects to “experience” the features and benefits.
Having product fairs at off-site locations such as a football stadiums or
downtown hotels can be a big draw due to the curiosity factor.

Also, make sure to schedule your event at approximately the same time each year
and start planning in advance. By doing this, you give your employees plenty of
time to get involved and offer ideas to improve it.

Formal invitations are nice, but I recently discovered that a well-written
business letter personally inviting customers and prospects works just as well,
if not better. If you go the business letter route, make sure the envelope is
personally addressed. Either way, they should be sent out two to three weeks
prior to your event.

Advertising your event through the mass media can add credibility to your event.
However, it’s not necessary. You may want to hold an invitation only event. This
makes the recipient feel special and creates more of an obligation for them.

With all this said, there is one final step that always must be present for a
successful event: salespeople need to call the day before and remind the
customers or prospects. Even if they have a firm commitment, people tend to get
wrapped up in their own day-to-day matters and forget.

For major account prospects, I recommend sending a limo or having the
salesperson offer to pick them up and drive them to your event, which also gives
the rep the added benefit of spending time with a customer.

There is nothing easy about putting on an event or open house. If they were not
demanding more dealers would have them. But if you plan them at regularly
scheduled times of the year, have a theme, get your employees involved, and make
sure the salespeople do their follow up calls, you chances of successfully
pulling off a great party will drastically increase.

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