How to Start a Welcome Service
First, let’s cover our bases. What exactly is a Welcoming Service? A Welcoming Service serves two purposes: 1.) to welcome newcomers to the area & 2.) to support and market area businesses. This service involves soliciting sponsors from area businesses, creating a pretty gift bag, compiling a list of newcomers and making the delivery. Sound easy? Well, it is, in theory. Putting these ideas to work can be a little more complicated.
Basically, what the consumer (newcomer) gets is a nice, friendly welcome from you & a beautiful gift bag filled with goodies from area businesses. Since Welcome Services are individually owned and operated, you can choose what types of ‘gifts’ you want sponsors to include. Some welcome services allow sponsors to include coupons or generic advertising flyers and such. Other, more selective welcoming services will only allow promotional items or gift certificates. It is generally up to you how to approach this. Some businesses may not have promotional items available, and this might be a chance for you to team up with a promotional items company and earn some commissions from those businesses.
From a consumer standpoint, the advertising that will stick out in their minds will be the gift certificate and promotional items. Those don’t generally end up in the trash like junk mailers often do. I know from personal experience that if I get a nice fridge magnet or a pen, I am not going to just throw it away. Flyers and coupons, in my house at least, get tossed upon arrival. Experienced Welcome Services will usually advise you to stress the importance of actual gifts to your sponsors. That said; please use common sense when approaching the sponsors about their items. You certainly wouldn’t want to lose a sponsor simply because you are too stubborn to bend your rules here and there.
Sponsors are paying to advertise in your bag. A good businessperson will understand the importance of gaining the newcomers as customers. If they can catch them before their competitors do and they provide excellent service, it is highly likely that they will gain a loyal and repeat customer. Most businesspeople will tell you that it is much easier to keep existing customers than to solicit new ones. From my experience, most businesses are very receptive to this idea of personalized advertising.
Think about a time when you were new to an area. What kind of businesses or services were you interested in knowing more about? Doctors, dentists, pharmacies, churches, beauty shops, daycares and plumbers are just a few of the businesses that newcomers will need to know about. I suggest thumbing through the Yellow Pages or even looking at your local Chamber of Commerce’s website to make a list of potential sponsors. The possibilities are endless and you should always be on the lookout for new sponsors. Joining your local Chamber of Commerce is also a great networking tool.
Though prices vary, it is up to you to set a price for sponsors who wish to advertise. You want to be sure you are making a profit after all of your expenses, but at the same time you do not want to overwhelm the sponsors. Another good rule of thumb is to set your prices at a decent rate in order to allow yourself some room to increase that price in following years. Always take into consideration your gas prices, prices for any lists of newcomers you may have to purchase, and gift bag materials. I have seen sponsor prices range anywhere from $2.00-$3.00 per bag delivered.
Another great method of selling your service to sponsors is the monthly delivery list. You should prepare a list at the end of each month detailing your deliveries. The family’s name, address and phone number should be listed here. Not only does that serve as an invoice to the sponsors, it also provides them with a little extra marketing tool. You should ask them not to abuse this information, but they can use it to mail promotional and information items in the future.
When calling upon sponsors it will be important to have a rough estimate of how many bags you will deliver each month. Several sources are available, depending on your area, to find the names of newcomers. In some areas, the water or electric departments area good source. The courthouse always keeps records of new people moving into the area. If you have any connections with real estate agents, those may be good sources too. I know some people who use title companies and pay a monthly fee for access to their lists. If your area has a newspaper with a good website, many times you can find these names and addresses in the Real Estate section. Having a rough estimate of how many newcomers move in monthly will be a deciding factor to many sponsors. Some may not want to spend a lot of money through this form of advertising, while others will want to reach as many people as possible.
I would also recommend having some businesses cards printed up. You can find a few websites that offer free business cards, others are very inexpensive or you can buy business card stock and print them up yourself. It may also be wise to print up some informational letters about your business. Keep it simple and to the point, and use bullets to highlight your services and what it will offer the sponsors. Remember: to businesses, the bottom line is what you can do for them, they don’t really care about the rest.
After you have a good estimate of the number of bags you will deliver monthly and you have some sponsors set up, please be sure to have the sponsors sign a contract. In your contract, you should state the purpose of your Welcome Service, the fee-per-bag, when and how you wish to be paid. You will also need to set up a time on a monthly or weekly basis to meet with your sponsors to pick up their promotional material. Once you have all of your bases covered, you are ready to start putting your bags together.
You can make your bags as simple or as elegant and you wish. I recommend scooping out a dollar store of some kind and find some attractive bags to use. Ribbons and tissue paper should also be purchased and any other inexpensive ornaments you desire to spice up your bags too. You should aim to make your bag attractive, yet don’t go overboard since these expenses cut into your profit. After you have your supplies and promotional items in hand, feel free to arrange your bag in any manner that you see fit. Simple elegance is a sure-fire way to impress just about any newcomer.
It is recommended that you attempt to contact the newcomer prior to the delivery. A quick phone call to say hello and tell them who you are is an easy way to set up a meeting time. If you cannot find a contact phone number, you can always drop the bag off without notice, however, this should only be done in extreme circumstances. Be friendly and open with the newcomer; most will be glad to see a smiling face in an area that they don’t know anyone. They will be very appreciative of your gifts and may even ask you questions about the area. Be prepared for them to ask you some common questions such as shopping centers, daycares, doctors, churches, etc. The point of your visit is not only to bring them the gift bag, but also to sincerely welcome them to the area and make them feel at home.
Your income from this business can vary greatly, but mostly depends on your drive and determination. Don’t assume that just because you live in a very rural area that it can’t work. Likewise, don’t assume that because you are in a metropolitan area that you will breeze through the processes. Take your time in learning about area businesses, look at local newspapers to see who is advertising. Getting a good feel for your market area is a necessary first step. Let’s say for example you are charging $2.50 per sponsor, per bag delivered and you secure 20 sponsors. You have a rough estimate of 20 bags a month to be delivered. Before the costs of the bags and accessories (which should be minimal), you have a gross total of $1,000 per month. That, in my opinion, is a very good income for such a very part time and flexible job. This is just an estimate – profit may be more or less depending on what you put into it.