From the Editor: Open Your Doors Again
When Iowa State University (ISU) Printing Services opened its facility to in-plant managers last month as part of an In-plant Printing and Mailing Association Road Show, it got me thinking about open houses. The past two years were not an ideal time to bring large groups into your in-plant, so it’s a safe bet none of you has held an open house since at least 2019. It would be easy to just let this marketing opportunity slip away as you focus on your everyday management tasks — but that would be a mistake.
As anyone who’s held an open house at their in-plant can attest, these events drum up business. And in a time when many customers have gotten used to PDFs instead of printed pieces, holding an open house is a great opportunity to not only remind them of your capabilities, but also show them new applications they hadn’t dreamed of.
Managers tell me that even long-time customers who visit their shops will see a printed piece and say “Oh, I didn’t know you could do that.” It’s likely your wide-format capabilities have improved since your last open house, so this is the perfect time to show off some of those graphics. Visitors will see items you printed for other departments and start brainstorming ways they can use such a product.
If you’re thinking that everyone already knows what you can do, think again. New employees are being hired all the time; most aren’t aware your in-plant even exists. You need to get them in there and get them excited about using your services.
Holding an open house humanizes your department and its employees. It shows visitors you are coworkers in the organization, all serving the same goals. This may motivate them to send work to the in-plant rather than seeking outside providers.
When planning your open house, make sure it’s both educational and fun. Have games and food available. Include an activity that engages visitors, whether it’s shooting hoops or installing floor graphics. If practical, let them run a piece of equipment (maybe not the cutter, though they will really want to. And speaking of the cutter, have plenty of projects on hand to cut because this piece of equipment is guaranteed to attract the most attention).
Create a theme for your open house. Highlight a new piece of equipment, with samples produced using that machine. The University of Missouri – Columbia did this a few years ago at an open house showcasing its new five-color offset press. So did Encompass Health's in-plant when it recently opened its doors for an In-plant Printing and Mailing Association Road Show that drew 24 attendees.
You could use a big anniversary as your theme, like when ISU celebrated a century of service at the recent IPMA Road Show. Or, have a holiday theme, like Valentine’s Day or St Patrick’s Day. Oregon State University’s in-plant held a Halloween Open House a few years ago with staff dressing in costumes, Halloween-themed snacks and games, and a photo booth in which visitors enjoyed posing with props and costumes.
Get your vendors involved in your open house. Give them tables so they can display their products or services and meet your customers. Ask them to donate food and prizes. (Everybody likes prizes; some will show up just for the raffle.)
You could also use the open house as an opportunity to show attendees best practices for preparing files, using your Web-to-print portal, or creating cross-media campaigns. Be sure to also highlight your sustainability efforts, and be ready to educate visitors who come with a “print kills trees” attitude.
A few years ago, I attended an open house at Penn State’s in-plant. In addition to tours, prizes, and mountains of food, the shop offered quick sessions on online stationery setup, visual identity standards, and preparing data files for mailing. Vendors had displays and answered questions. Visitors ogled the in-plant’s line of dye-sub products, such as mugs, shirts, and blankets. They left impressed, educated, and excited to order some of the items they had seen. And that’s the goal of any open house: to drum up enthusiasm for your services and let new employees know what you can do for them.
Related story: Making Open Houses an Experience Customers Won’t Forget
Bob has served as editor of In-plant Impressions since October of 1994. Prior to that he served for three years as managing editor of Printing Impressions, a commercial printing publication. Mr. Neubauer is very active in the U.S. in-plant industry. He attends all the major in-plant conferences and has visited nearly 170 in-plant operations around the world. He has given presentations to numerous in-plant groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including the Association of College and University Printers and the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He also coordinates the annual In-Print contest, co-sponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.