By Nina Patel. Who doesn't like a good party? For remodelers with showrooms, hosting events on site can prove to be fun and profitable. Just remember that it takes a bit of work to have that much fun.
Levi Mize organized a successful customer appreciation day in his showroom. "It kept me busy for months," says the owner of Levi Mize Woodcraftsman, Camarillo, Calif. "I haven't had time to host another one." He served wine and appetizers and took clients on a tour of the attached 4,000-square-foot cabinet shop. "We showed them our equipment and the construction techniques on cabinetry that was in production," Mize says.
About 75 people attended the party. Because it was a customer appreciation party, Mize made a point to greet and thank all past and current customers. He set out business cards and portfolio books and gave out door prizes of hammers, mini tool sets, and jewelry boxes made of cabinet materials. Mize spent hours personally calling past clients and spent $300 on the party. That investment generated $50,000 worth of work from existing clients, plus countless referrals.
Pick a theme
About six months after he opened his showroom, Mike Gervais hosted an open house that was not well attended. For his next event, the owner of Prime Construction, Burlington, Vt., changed tactics. He hosted a Pampered Chef party. Pampered Chef is a direct sales company that hosts parties to explain cooking techniques using its line of kitchen utensils and accessories.
Gervais' former partner came up with the idea because he knew the local representative for Pampered Chef. "We asked for 10 minutes during the party to hand out cards and brochures and tell people what we do," Gervais says. His partner gave the Pampered Chef coordinator a list of clients and she sent out invitations and organized the event. "We arranged to have people come back to the office to pick up any product they bought," Gervais says, "which brought them back into the showroom."
Gervais would like to hold other home-theme parties. "It's a good venue because we have a working kitchen they can use," he says. He's also planning a contractor open house to offer the firm's services to 50 local contractors and home builders. "We sell cabinets to other contractors and offer our showroom for them to send clients," he says.
Renew old acquaintances
When Cupertino Kitchen Designs first opened, the company designed and installed cabinets. Over the years, the Cupertino, Calif., business has added design/build projects. Senior designer Carrie Dodd says they hosted a party to remind past clients of their expanded range of work. About 300 past and potential clients attended the event in the company's 3,500-square-foot showroom. The company incorporated the showroom's adjacent patio, where they arranged tables and candles. They had live jazz music, a wine tasting, and a chef who made desserts during the party. Owner Bill Reid says it was nice to see past clients. "The party gave us an opportunity to revitalize our reputation with them and re-energize the powerful word of mouth. It was money well spent."
Lori Bentley, vice president of Bentley Design amp; Remodeling in Hanford, Calif., is planning to host a workshop for homeowners at her showroom to help them prepare for a remodel. She will have them fill out a survey and plan a road map of what to do up to the point of hiring a contractor. Bentley also plans to install a working kitchen and offer cooking demonstrations through appliance companies.
Five Tips on Hosting
1. Advertise the event and/or send out invitations. Make sure you ask invitees to RSVP and then call those who don't respond.
2. Keep the menu and drinks simple.
3. Make sure your entire staff is present and wearing identifiable clothing so they can mingle and answer questions.
4. Make sure you have plenty of business cards and brochures for attendees to take home.
5. Be prepared: The event/party could bring you a lot of work.