An open house is a way for a person who is curious about your business to come in and experience it for free. Not only is the cost barrier eliminated, but since an open house is a special day, people that would normally be too intimidated to come in and take a regular class now have a comfortable way to try it out.
Daniel McDonald, the general manager of Bikram Yoga NYC has found open houses to be a successful strategy for bringing in new prospects. “We do one open house per year at all four of our studios,” he said.
During the open house, your goal should be to up-sell attendees into becoming clients. It should be held on a popular day during peak hours, for example on a Saturday from 9am-2pm, so that more people are likely to attend.
Getting the Word Out
There’s a reason why realtors hang balloons to announce an open house: All those people walking (or driving) by are potential clients. So announce your studio’s open house in a big way! Put out balloons and an easy-to-read sign. Announce a free class coupon, or for signing up as a new client that day, a gift or special rate. Have some of your teachers do demonstrations and offer refreshments.
Printing a postcard is another great way to get the word out. Take the postcards around to other local businesses and ask to leave them on counters, give them to current clients to distribute to friends and family, or even put them under the windshields of neighboring vehicles.
Finally, for those clients who might already go to your website, place an ad on your homepage about the event. And make sure to post it to your Facebook page and ask current clients to bring a friend. (And offer them special thanks in the form of a discount, a coupon, or a small gift, for doing so.)
One of the most important parts of your open house is to know who is attending and how to get in contact with them. Without contact information, if you are unable to up-sell them at the time of the open house, you’ve lost a valuable lead. You should have contact cards ready, and give people an incentive to fill them out. For example, you can raffle off $100 of free services or a month of free classes and require participants to provide their business cards to win.
“Our raffle for new students is a free mat and mat bag,” says McDonald. “We allow current clients to enter to win a free monthly unlimited pass if they stop by or bring a friend to the open house. We also offer 15 percent off all merchandise that day only.”
Offer Exclusive Pricing
After an attendee experiences your service, it’s time to up-sell. To make the process easier, present the person with a one-time exclusive introductory offer. This can be a percentage off of a membership or package, or a month of services at a discounted price. Make sure that the offer is available on that day only, as you want to capture clients when they are fresh off of the experience.
“We offer our 30 Days for $30 promotion to anyone who comes in that day, and usually get anywhere from 80 to 200 new clients at an open house,” McDonald says.
Create a Special Schedule
A great way to give prospective students a taste of your offerings is to hold a series of mini classes throughout the open house. People will get to dip their toe in the experience of taking a class at your studio and get to know some of your teachers. Make sure that you leave enough time between classes or sessions for instructors to talk to your customers and up-sell to them. Why not have instructors give a five-minute pitch at the end of each session before the attendees disperse?
As your mini classes are going on, you need to make sure that your front desk is covered. And when the class gets out, you’ll need all-hands-on-deck to answer questions, run the register, and handle sign-ups and contact information. One employee at the desk can’t up-sell to 30 people pouring out of class. Assuming she can handle 5 people after each class, that means by the end of the open house, you’ve let 150 leads walk out your door without converting them into clients. This scenario can be avoided by leaving time between classes for your instructors to talk to the students and by having more of your staff working that day.
Three Things to Avoid During an Open House:
Don’t look at your open house as a free day of everything. You have to incorporate a sales component and lead generation; otherwise you lose money and gain nothing.
Make sure people come for your services. For example, if your event is catered, you don’t want people showing up just for free food.
Don’t under-staff. Make sure you have enough people working to be able to handle selling to everyone in attendance.