Being the “go-to” rental company for many venues, planners, caterers & other wedding professionals in Central Texas, we at Premiere are constantly invited to support and attend open house events. These are designed primarily for brides & grooms trying to decide where they want to get married and/or host their reception. Between our nine event consultants & management, we attend some 100 open houses each year. We see the successful ones & the not so successful ones. Some venues/businesses consistently have good turnouts for their open houses and this is not due to luck. Hosting a successful open house requires targeted marketing, smart planning and thoughtful use of lead lists.
Ann Loiselle, Private Events Director at The Hills Country Club in Lakeway, says that statistics show 76% of brides find their venue online. This means that a sharp website, containing excellent photographs and pertinent information is essential. Today’s bride wants to see at a glance whether or not a particular business is a “fit” for her wedding and budget. Wedding industry advertising dollars should be heavily weighted in favor of an online presence. In addition to a company’s own site, websites such as theknot.com, weddingwire.com and myweddings.com are common sites brides visit to seek information on resources for their wedding.
Although they go online, brides seem to have a good time attending the major wedding shows with their friends. In this setting, they can see a number and variety of the vendors at once and ask all the questions they may have. Generally, bookings are not solidified at shows, but vendors get leads from clients who want to be contacted. In turn, the brides pick up informational brochures to take home & peruse. The bridal show “lead list” is sent to every vendor participating in the shows. These lists are a vital source for vendors to contact potential customers.
Ann Loiselle says that she plans her open houses for a few weeks after a bridal show to capture those brides still looking for a place to marry. Her most recent open house was a 2 day event over a weekend to accommodate her clients and give them some flexibility on attending. After culling out brides who aren’t getting married in the area or whose estimated attendance exceeds her venue’s capacity, she prepares a printed invitation. If the prospective event holder has provided a physical address, Ann mails the invitation using software that makes her invitation look personalized. In the invitation she states that the venue will be set for a “mock” wedding, and that various vendors will be there to discuss their products. She also includes an RSVP to promote a sense of urgency & exclusivity. If a bride has filled out a lead card at the wedding shows, Ann sends a very personalized invitation with a handwritten note. The Friday prior to the open house, she makes phone calls to every show attendee who filled out the leads card.
In addition to all of this advance preparation, the Open House needs to be a “Wow.” Whether it is in house catering or independent vendors, there needs to be a good selection of food for guests to sample. Wine is also a plus. Guests will stay longer & enjoy the atmosphere more if they are “wined and dined.” The event décor should show the venue in the best possible light. Tables should be set with upscale linens and should show chair, china and other selections along the budgetary spectrum.
Poor promotion is probably the biggest reason for a poorly attended open house. Utilizing that leads list is extremely important. Although this is a digital world, there is still nothing like personal contact. Reach out to the most promising prospects and let them know you hope they can attend. Attending a show as a vendor involves a tremendous investment of time, energy and effort, and when there are no guests in attendance it is a big disappointment for all concerned. A show’s goals cannot be fulfilled when the attendance is lacking.
Some “don’ts” that we have observed over the years: the end of July at an outdoor site is not very appealing. If you must host in the heat of an oppressive Texas summer, be sure you have air conditioning & that the thermostat is set low enough to keep everyone cool. An open house is your chance to throw a party. Think of everything you would provide if you were inviting guests into your home. Host an event that is fun to attend, comfortable for all concerned & makes guests feel special & welcome. With proper planning, an enticing menu, the right mix of vendors and prospects, appealing “take-aways” and a warm, welcoming atmosphere, your open house can be a highly successful event for everyone involved ! For more information or to speak with Premiere regarding your next Open House event, please contact our Business Development Specialist, Abigail Turner, at Abigail.Turner@PremierePartyCentral.com or phone our South location at (512) 292-3900 or Premiere North at (512) 870-8552.