By Rosemarie Monaco September 21, 2005 -- For many, the open house--an event that brings print buyers on site to see your operation--is simple enough. It's easy to arrange and often brings new business. But the amount of thought and creativity that goes into the planning is directly proportional to the level of success you will realize. Applying a well thought out strategy and paying attention to details will bring a greater return on your investment. The open house is an effective marketing event because it brings print buyers closer, providing them the opportunity not only to learn more about your operation, but to understand the care and attention you give their projects. It is also relatively inexpensive. But even so, in today's economy every penny counts. Applying a well thought out strategy and paying attention to details will bring a greater return on your investment. Consider the Audience Mix There are advantages and disadvantages to mixing the audience. For example, if you invite corporate print buyers or marketing managers along with graphic designers, you are giving these groups the opportunity to network. The buyers will meet new designers and the designers may get new business. However, this kind of mix can also work against you. The print buyer may resent any solicitation and can be made to feel uncomfortable. So the very first rule to follow is know your audience. Make sure it is a compatible mix. Give Them a Reason to Attend The installation of a new press is exciting for you, but may not be for print buyers, unless you can demonstrate how it will bring them value. On the tour of your facility, explain each technology in terms of advantages for the buyer--how it makes their jobs easier or provides a benefit they require. Come Up With a Theme Make it intriguing and educational. "Cut Costs with Higher Quality," for example. Then invite your guests to see how your new screening technology produces photographic quality, saves time and is economical all at the same time. Communicate the theme of the open house in the invitation. Demonstrate the power of print! Time it Right Would it be best to do this at the end of the working day so your customers can stop by on the way home? Or would they prefer an excuse to leave work early? Ask the clients with whom you have a good relationship what they prefer. Usually it will work for all your guests. Don't keep them too late. Or, if there is a good reason to make this more than two hours--provide more than hors d'oeuvres. A light buffet will give them reason to stay. Provide an Incentive This could be in the form of a valuable giveaway or an interesting guest speaker. The valuable giveaway could be a paper or brochure written specifically for the buyer on how to get the most out of their printing purchase. Or invite them to hear it from an expert. Communicate Well Communicate the theme in the invitation. Include an agenda as well--the fewer surprises, the better. You want them to know you respect their time. Let the reader know what they will gain by attending--once again communicating the benefits for the buyer. Don't send a letter. Hire a designer. Make it very professional and send as many as four invitations over a period of eight weeks before the event. Demonstrate the power of print.