Fresh Marketing: A New Twist on a Marketing Fundamental

If your club is like most, you probably haven't run an open house since the presale days. Open house promotions can provide a low cost, exciting boost to your fall marketing plan and attract special markets like families. The benefits of an open house are threefold:

1. Fresh Traffic: Many people who would not respond to a direct mail piece or a radio ad from your club will come to your open house. The implication of the open house is "welcome with no pressure." Open houses put people at ease.

2. Fresh Reps: Let's face it - there are only so many things we can do to keep the reps excited and "up" for the business of selling memberships. An open house may be just the ticket to boost your team's spirit until the New Year.

3. Fresh Look: An open house can also be a needed wake-up call for the entire club. It's a great excuse to reaffirm a uniform policy, clean up offices and get the staff involved in the selling process.

Tips for a Successful Open House
* Timing is everything! If you are working to attract the local family market or your club is in a suburb, then Saturday is your day. Urban clubs should choose Friday lunchtime or Thursday evening. If you are going to do them frequently, then run them for shorter lengths of time (like 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on a Saturday or 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on a Thursday). If you want to run one big event, then plan further out and run it all day, weekend or evening.

* Get into it! As with most promotions, you get what you put into it (hopefully more). I have some London clients who have an open house (called an Open Day) every single week. My suggestion would be to commit to a certain length of time (1 to 3 months) and have them weekly or monthly during that time. Develop your own "recipe" for the open house and make everyone follow through in the same manner every time.

* Food, fun and friendly. The food and activity at your open house depends on your budget (or your ability to barter). At a minimum you should have cookies and punch. Open houses are known for offering face painting for kids, live music, a special appearance of Barney, hot dogs, beer and the list goes on. Make it your own.

* Don't forget the goal! Oh yeah, this is for more sales isn't it? All reps should be present (even if it is their day off) for open houses and should make themselves available for tours and maybe set up a special membership-information table.

A special offer or trial is fine, but make sure it is not presented in a pushy manner or you will defeat the purpose of the open house. As with all functions, dressing and behaving professionally are musts.

* Promote your open house. Many clubs simply mention the open house to all incoming calls during the week prior. Ideally a mailer (even if it only goes to prospects on your database) or newspaper insert would go out the week before each one. Open houses are also a great excuse for the reps to call every single person in their personal lead box or database.

* Try to keep your open house simple. We do have a tendency to over-think things and dilute the effectiveness. Most of all have fun and watch the traffic pour in.