It’s All About Experience

It’s All About Experience

Using Events to Grow Your Business

By Coleen Sterns

There’s no question that custom installation is rapidly expanding. And as quickly as new home technology emerges, evolutions are occurring in the way firms carve out a competitive edge for building a greater profit margin. In order to stay ahead in the rapidly changing custom installation landscape, a company must extend the value of its service, providing customers with the extras that other firms don’t offer.

Special events are one of the most efficient and effective ways to position your company as the expert firm that’s keyed in to the true wants and needs of its clients, and goes the extra step to meet them. The type and size of an event you can organize is virtually unlimited, restricted only by your imagination. It can be a casual gathering of clients and friends at home, or a group of hundreds at a convention center. No matter the size and scope, producing an event is about creating an experience that opens previously untapped opportunities for business.

There is an event that fits every goal and budget; it’s only a matter of determining whom you’re trying to reach, how to reach them, and how much you’re willing to budget. It’s critical to have a fairly set idea about these things early, because it will make clear which options are within reach and worth exploring during the planning stages.

Whom you target depends on the types of jobs you handle and the demographics of your area. Are you interested in targeting end users, builders, architects, interior designers or other dealers and installers? Each group has its own interests to consider before you start vying for attention.

Another element that plays a role is your company’s identity. Is your target likely to be receptive to your image and message? Answering such questions will help you determine whom to target and how to reach them.

Options for communicating your event are as varied as the types of events themselves. Consider whom you’re trying to target and find out where they spend their time. Check out the parking lots of the local gyms; do you see a Mercedes and Lexus in every other spot? That may be a good place to spread the word. How about at church, or the movie rental store? Depending on your community, which outlets you choose, and how you combine them, you can fine-tune your approach and target a broad or narrow cross-section of people.

Residents of your town may drive by your storefront every day, but have no idea what sets “Joe’s Custom Audio/Video” apart from the local electronics chain. Spread the word on a movie night at your showroom, and wow the audience with the ultimate home theater, demonstrating your hottest new gear. Serve up popcorn and drinks, and hold a drawing for a gift basket. Fill it with DVDs, movie rental gift certificates, snacks, and your company brochure and business card. For some, it might be their first experience of a real home theater—and the entire custom installation concept— and the perfect way to make that introduction fun and memorable. When the movie’s over, you have the ideal opening to explain how you can build a system that reproduces the terrific experience they just had in their own home.

If you don’t have space for holding your own event, you can go to your targets instead. Develop your professional network by getting in touch with trade-focused associations. An easy and inexpensive way to spread the word on your service is to bring breakfast (something as easy as bagels and orange juice) to the next morning meeting of the local Kitchen and Bath Society. Or develop a continuing education program for the local ASID or AIA chapter. It’s a time-efficient way to inform an entire opportunity-rich group on the newest technologies you offer. There’s a good chance architects and interior designers are interested in broadening their services; you’ve given them a way to add value to their jobs, and have opened the door to making jobs come to you.

Getting involved with community projects—like installing a sound system at the neighborhood youth club or church— is very effective at spreading word of your company’s skills. Send word of the grand unveiling to local media and make sure plenty of invitations go out. Have plenty of marketing materials, like business cards and brochures, to give out at the event to those who are impressed by your work—and interested in finding out more. Such an event not only shows off your expertise to a crowd, but enhances your image in the process.

A smaller-scale example would be a home theater/distributed system cocktail party. After you complete the installation of such a system, suggest the homeowner invite friends for its “christening”—and that you be present to make sure everything goes smoothly. Bring some CDs, champagne, and company t-shirts and business cards to hand out. You’ll be able to tout all the bells and whistles of the new system, helping your client to leave the Joneses in the dust—and maybe pick up the Joneses business in the process!

No matter what type event you implement, be sure to be take note of the resources utilized, total expenditures, and resulting gains. Look for creative ways to gather contact information. Collect business cards and use them for a prize drawing at your event; you don’t have to give anything expensive away and it makes things more fun. Plus, it leaves you numbers and e-mails to follow up with after the event. Find out how everyone learned of your event and what they thought about it. It might lead to sales and will help you determine which part of your plan was effective and which to leave behind next time.


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