BUILDING AND BONDING This evening of "fun and education" can be a wonderful revenue-generating event that can equal $5,000 to $45,000 in just two to three hours. And the intangible benefits are even more compelling:
STEP 1: PICK A COORDINATOR AND A DATE Assign one person to oversee all the details so nothing falls between the cracks. Thursday, Wednesday or Tuesday are the best evenings (in that order) to hold an event and right after work is the best time of day.
STEP 2: INVOLVE YOUR VENDORS Vendors can be extremely helpful to you. They can assist in offsetting your costs with food, printing, products and/or samples and gift baskets, so work with them. They do the promoting that evening so you and your staff can relax with the attendees. In return, give your vendors a promotional mention in your marketing efforts for the event.
STEP 3: CATERING My experience has shown that the more you spend on these details, the better results you get. Patients will remember and talk about a beautifully catered event that ran smoothly, so details count. Since patients are coming from work, serve substantial hors d'oeuvres to keep them there so they don't leave for dinner elsewhere. Be sure they are bite sized and don't need dipping or cutting. Serve wine as well but police it. Wine helps people relax and makes it a more fun atmosphere that is conducive to buying.
STEP 4: MAIL THE INVITATIONS Pick a theme such as a holiday-specific party or seasonal (e.g., "Spring") event. Design an invitation that is eye catching, fun and professional, and include a list of benefits to entice those you invite to attend your event. Be sure to add "Bring a Friend" and an RSVP telephone number with a deadline date.
STEP 5: PROMOTE YOUR EVENT Now you want to spread the word so everyone knows about you and your upcoming event.
Begin by sending hardcopy and/or electronic invitations to those on your invitation list (be sure to send invitations early enough that guests receive them three weeks before the event).
Invite your patient database, including those patients who came in for a consultation but never booked; colleagues and noncompeting specialties that could become a good referral source for you; and other businesses in your building, nearby salons, spas, retail shops, gyms — anyone that shares the same demographics with you.
Also, be sure your staff talks about the event with visiting patients, and consider runnning tastefully designed ads in your local newspaper.
STEP 6: GET BUY-IN FROM YOUR STAFF Have a meeting with your staff and tell them what you are planning on doing and get their input. Most likely, you will have to pay them for the extra hours, and you may want to consider offering them a piece of the action, like 5 percent, split evenly, among all staff members who participate. This added bonus could make the difference between them standing around looking bored to actually proactively schmoozing and promoting your practice.
Have staff at the front door and at the front desk so they can have products ready, ring them up quickly and make appointments. Be sure they understand the special pricing that evening. Staff should wear lab coats or name tags so patients know whom to turn to for help.
STEP 7: PREPARE YOUR OFFICE Put everything away except the essentials, so nothing "walks away." Have fresh flowers on hand and protect your counters with linen table clothes. Candles are a nice touch and fun music helps make for a relaxing atmosphere. Also be sure to have plenty of garbage cans placed strategically throughout the room.
STEP 8: HOSTING THE BIG NIGHT Have your friendliest staff member at the door greeting your guests. The host's responsibility is to welcome guests, make them feel comfortable, and collect their contact information for future communications. The easiest way to get that information is to offer one or more drawings that require guests to fill out a form to become eligible for beautiful vendor gift baskets and gift certificates throughout the evening.
Consider offering 15 percent discounts on minimally invasive procedures and products for that evening only. No exceptions. You need to create a sense of urgency to prompt them to act now rather than wait. They may even stock up on services and products, which is a wonderful way to ensure that they will return to you all year rather than wander off to the competition.
Give 20-minute talks throughout the evening to small groups. Show before-and-after photos and allow time for questions and answers. You want to interact with attendees so they feel comfortable enough to book an appointment. Your talk will also prompt them to go back out to the vendors to learn more and/or to talk to you one on one about their own personal interests.
STEP 9: THE MORNING AFTER Follow-up is a crucial part of your success. Send a thank you e-mail message to everyone since you now have their e-mail addresses from the drawing. Invite them to your Web site or to your office for a personalized consultation.
STEP 10: TRACKING You can't know the true return on investment unless you track it. What you want to know includes the following:
You will get out of an Open House what you put into it, so be sure you and your staff are committed to having a wonderful evening of fun and education that will be talked about for years to come.
Ms. Maley is president and senior marketing strategist for Cosmetic Image Marketing (CIM), a San Francisco firm specializing in growing aesthetic practices using PR, advertising and customized strategies.
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