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Business Insight Rosemarie Monaco2

In our latest Business Insight feature - sponsored by EFI and written exclusively for Large Format Review - Rosemarie Monaco, CEO of Monaco International Ltd, an international marketing firm specialising in high technology and services, discusses how a well-planned open house event will bring new business and help build strong, lasting business relationships.  She also talks about the key factors to consider when organising such events...

"If you print exhibit displays, surely you love Springtime? It’s the time of year when tradeshows are abundant and you are the busiest. It’s probably also the time when you don’t do a lot of marketing. Why should you when your shop is working to capacity, right? Wrong. When you are busiest is the best time to market your services, regardless of the type of work that you do. Why? Because when your printers are rolling you can give live demonstrations of your work while flaunting your impressive client portfolio. It’s the best time to hold an open house.

The open house is a great marketing tool because it brings print buyers closer, providing them the opportunity not only to learn more about your operation, but to understand the care and attention you give their projects. Plus, it is relatively inexpensive. Even so, in today’s economy every penny counts. So if you are going to do it, do it right. A well thought out strategy with attention to detail will bring a greater return on your investment.

Consider the Audience Mix

There are advantages and disadvantages to mixing the audience. For example, if you invite corporate print buyers or marketing managers along with graphic designers, you are giving these groups the opportunity to network. The buyers will meet new designers and the designers may get new business. But this kind of mix can also work against you. The print buyer may resent any solicitation and can be made to feel uncomfortable. So the very first rule to follow is know your audience. Make sure it is a compatible mix.

Arrange Impromptu Testimonials

There is one audience mix that always works - prospects and happy customers. The best form of testimonial is having a customer praise your work to a prospect face-to-face, without it coming directly from you.

Give People a Reason to Attend

Your newest large-format printer may be sexy to you, but may be a yawn for print buyers, unless you can demonstrate how it will bring them value. On the tour of your facility, explain each technology in terms of advantages for the buyer—how it makes their jobs easier or provides a benefit they require.

Come Up With a Theme

Make it intriguing and educational. “Cut Costs with Higher Quality,” for example. Then invite your guests to see how your technology produces photographic quality, saves time and is economical all at the same time. Again, show the value from their perspective.

Get Permission

Consult with your clients whose work you might be showing. Make sure you are running one of their jobs and see if they are willing to explain the thinking behind the graphic during the open house.

Decorate Your Shop

Not too long ago, I interviewed the managing director of a company in The Netherlands. They produce everything from flags to mega-billboards serving a wide clientele including trade show houses, retail establishments and art galleries. What impressed me the most was how nearly every room of the facility was a showcase for the company’s capabilities. In the conference room, for example, the MD showed me how they install graphics for interior design projects by lifting a corner of the wall mural to display the mountings. Show samples of your work everywhere—most importantly, show their functionality.

Time it Right

Would it be best to hold the open house at the end of the working day so your customers can stop by on the way home? Or would they prefer an excuse to leave work early? Ask the clients with whom you have a good relationship what they prefer. Usually it will work for all your guests. Don’t keep them too late. Or, if there is a good reason to make this more than two hours - provide more than hors d’oeuvres. A light buffet will give them reason to stay.

Provide an Incentive

This could be in the form of a valuable giveaway or an interesting guest speaker. The valuable giveaway could be a white paper written specifically for the buyer on how to get the most out of their printing purchase. Or invite them to hear it from an expert. Consider inviting a great speaker from one of your equipment manufacturers to discuss environmental benefits of digital print. Or ask one of your clients to speak about how important print is in their marketing mix.

Communicate Well

Communicate the theme in the invitation. Include an agenda as well—the fewer surprises, the better. You want them to know you respect their time. Let the reader know what they will gain by attending—once again communicate the benefits for the buyer. Hire a designer. Make it very professional and send as many as four invitations over a period of eight weeks before the event. During that same period, send professionally designed email invites, letting them know an invite will be coming in the mail, and that they should keep it to redeem their special gift at the open house. Demonstrate the power of cross-media marketing.

Invite the Media

The trade press loves this sort of thing because they get to talk to a wide variety of subjects in addition to seeing your operation up close and personal. Be sure to invite the local business press; it will be equally interesting for them. I would also recommend consulting with public relations professionals or hiring them to contact the press.'

About Rosemarie Monaco: With 25 years experience in the graphic arts industry, Rosemarie Monaco is an expert in technology marketing. She is CEO of Monaco International Ltd, an international marketing firm specialising in high technology and services.