Be Thorough When Planning Your Grand Opening
Advertisements and public relations articles help create awareness, but a grand opening puts you directly in touch with your specific audience.
And in this venue, the more that people are able to see and talk to each other about a given product, the easier it is for you to sell it because benefits are easier to highlight and objections are easier to refute.
When should you hold a grand opening? The simple answer is ― only after your product or community has been built and prepared to your satisfaction. Plan to offer your product for display when it is sellable or when people will have the most favorable impression of it.
Plan in Advance
Begin planning your grand opening a minimum of two months before the event. Preparation takes time and, while putting together a grand opening is not difficult, a successful event does require many different factors to come together satisfactorily. Start by ensuring that you have uniform control over the development process.
When making your preparations, be sure to work with companies that have proven track records. The success of your event will depend upon them. Remember, many of your peers and, more importantly, prospective buyers, will judge you by the success of your event.
During your intial planning, be sure select a caterer and menu, the wait staff, parking attendants, port-o-johns, flowers, signage, guest book, plaques, presentations during the event and, of course, party favors.
You should have one — and only one ― coordinator to direct all facets of the event. Having too many people in charge leads to more chances for mistakes. In addition, a single coordinator can handle the accounting and ensure that your subcontractors will get paid promptly — which means happier subcontractors and a better chance of success for your event.
Location, Location, Location
Don’t overlook the importance of location when planning your grand opening. After ensuring when your product will be ready and sellable, pick the location and plan that you want to show. Then review traffic flow (cars) and parking as well as traffic flow (people) through your event and model.
Pick a Date and Time
Some days of the week are better suited for a party than others. When choosing the day and time, it’s especially important to consider your target group’s lifestyle or work schedule. For example, you probably don’t want to schedule a promotional event for real estate agents on a Monday morning because that’s when they usually meet with clients to solidify their weekend transactions.
It is equally important not to compete directly with any other major events in your area such as high school sporting events, entertainment events or competing grand openings.
Shore Up Your Guest List
The next item on the checklist is your guest list. Who should you invite? Simple, again. Invite those people whose appearance can help you sell your homes and, of course, those who are interested in buying.
Once the guest list has been prepared, create a tracking system for the guests to get an accurate count of how many people you can expect to attend. Track the letters sent, telephone calls, RSVPs, everything. The more accurate your tracking, the more accurate your attendance count for the event.
The copy should be direct, to the point and simple. Include the date, time, place, dress code (if applicable), RSVP and a contact person. If possible, include a map.
Mail your invitation two or three weeks prior to the event. Do not send it out bulk mail. Send it first class so you know it will get there.
Additional Marketing Material
Create and prepare brochures and other related marketing materials about your property. The material should be complimentary and project a consistent “brand.” Be sure to have displays (plat maps, blueprints, elevations, etc.) prepared that will help consumers understand what you are offering, too.
Don’t forget to contact your local police once your guest list has been prepared. They will help traffic flow through the neighborhood adjacent to your property.
They may request that you hire off-duty policemen for the event. Don’t balk at this. It won’t be too expensive and it’s worth the investment.
Contract a photographer and make sure that he or she is at the site at least half an hour early and stays throughout the program. Plan to use the photographs with press releases of the event, as gifts to business associates or clients and in future marketing materials. Consequently, have the photographer ready to distribute the necessary release forms.
Adequate, hassle-fee parking goes a long way toward reinforcing a successful event. Consider hiring parking attendants for a touch of class.
Follow-up Phone Calls
Once the invitations have been mailed, have a telephone solicitation squad ready to call guests for an immediate RSVP and to keep records of the people invited to your event. By calling guests, you’ll generate attention for the event and create awareness for your community.
Prepare individual name tags, have a guest book or hostess onsite to register your guests. Your entire staff should review the list of attendees and prepare to visit with your guests.
The Day of the Event
There is no getting around it. This will be a hectic day no matter how carefully you have planned and followed through with everything. Arrive early and make sure everything is clean, presentable and appealing. Set up for the event six to eight hours in advance in order to minimize any last minute problems that may arise.
Be sure your staff is dressed appropriately for the event and that they spend time with the guests rather than each other.
Happy Guests Make Happy Salespeople
Treat those in attendance as if they are guests in your home. Make sure they are “happy, well-fed, well-beveraged and well informed.” Give them a memento when they leave, and try to see them to the door.
Review the Event
After the event, meet with your staff to get feedback as quickly as possible. If your staff has heard any complaints, correct them. Finally, use the time post event to contact everyone you invited ― those who attended and those who could not be there ― to update them about the event and generate some excitement about your product. Contacting them after the event is another gives you another fresh opportunity to sell your product.
S. Robert August, MIRM, is president and founder of S.Robert August & Company, Inc., a national marketing and public relations firm based in Denver that specializes in providing home builders, developers, manufacturers and lenders marketing/management consultation and sales training. August is the owner of Colorado-based RealtyWorks, Inc. a real estate brokerage company. He is also past chairman of NAHB’s National Sales and Marketing Council and the only person to receive the prestigious Bill Molester Award twice. For more information, contact August by phone at 303-220-8480 or via e-mail.
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