The ramp-up to the spring real estate season brings several things every year, an increase in postcards, reminders of daylight-saving time and yet another article proclaiming the death of the open house. The arguments don’t vary much from year to year. Open houses don’t attract a buyer; they are a waste of time; they are only a benefit to the real estate agent who uses your house to get more clients.

The arguments have some merit; certainly not every open house yields a buyer, and one of the reasons junior agents sit open houses is to meet new potential clients. However, there’s something magical about face-to-face marketing and about getting potential buyers to experience a home. One of the things that has increased in popularity is event marketing. What is event marketing? It’s any event you hold that puts you in contact with your clients, potential clients and sometimes, but not always, buyers for properties you are listing.

Event marketing can take many forms. A client appreciation party is a form of event marketing. The agents I work with have hosted cocktail parties, bowling nights and afternoon get-togethers. Some have held classes in wine appreciation, food and coffee tastings, design or staging, and others have held events that raise money and awareness for a particular philanthropic cause. The overall idea is that the event is both something with true value independent of the house or agent, and that it is fun. In markets where getting rival brokers in to preview a luxury home for their clients is key, these events can provide a true enticement.

Some things to keep in mind:

1. Start with the why.

Why will people want to attend? Free food or liquor is terrific, but it isn’t always enough to get people out of their houses. What other attractions can you add in that will make people show up?

2. Borrow cool.

Associating your personal brand and a house you represent with something else that people already like can pay big dividends. See if a local car dealership would be willing to display its latest model at the house or collaborate with a well-loved local musician or lecturer. The more you can connect your event with things people already like, the better. In some cases they might even be willing to share their database with you to promote the event.

3. Be local.

What local shops or restaurants do you love? It makes sense to work directly with the stores in your community. Offer your favorite local boutique a table to showcase their wares or a local fitness studio the chance to do a demonstration. Local businesses are often looking for ways to market themselves as well, so this can be a benefit for them, too.

4. Make it matter.

What charities do you support? Offer to host a fundraiser or have the group become part of your event. Not only are you raising awareness for a cause you believe in, but this can also help other brands become more excited about participating, too.

Once you have the main elements in place, it’s time to market. For the most value you want to promote the event to your sphere and the databases of the brands and individuals that will be sharing this event with you. Facebook events and electronic invites such as Paperless Post are great, though an old-fashioned paper invite sent via mail, ideally with a personal note on it, still gains the most attention and response.

Take pictures during the event and share them socially, encouraging the brands you worked with to participate, too. You can also use some photos on your website or newsletter and in your marketing materials. Follow up with the attendees you know personally with a quick note thanking them for attending.

Event marketing takes a lot of work and isn’t as much about replacing the open house as it is about exploring ways of connecting with clients in an ongoing way. Many home sellers are wary of an open house. For them, the idea of a more curated audience viewing their home might be more attractive. Event marketing focuses less on just opening doors and hoping for attendees and more about creating a truly crafted experience that puts you and the homes you represent in the best possible light.

Have you had successful marketing events? Please share your stories in the comments section.

Deidre Woollard was part of the marketing team at and is currently the head of communications for Partners Trust, a leading luxury brokerage in Los Angeles.

Email Deidre Woollard.

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