Max Kornell

At the end of a major remodeling project, Anthony Wilder Design/Build (AWDB) clients plan a party for their friends simply by creating a guest list. The Cabin John, Md., remodeling company pays for the party, and its marketing staff handle the planning and catering. Customers choose the style of party they want to host — an intimate dinner party for 10 friends, a 50-person cocktail party, or a Sunday brunch — and decide who to invite.

The party differs from an open house in that the company does not display brochures, business cards, or marketing materials. The goal: to allow the home­owners to enjoy a night with friends. “We believe our work will shine through,” says Danielle Frye, marketing director.

Frye says that choosing the type of party and the food is exciting for clients. The party budget depends on the size of the project — a typical whole-house-remodel client receives about $3,000 toward event expenses. Clients who want a larger or more elaborate celebration add their own funds.

Invitations are designed and mailed by marketing assistant Dannye Ayre. For larger renovations, she uses a watercolor of an exterior rendering on the invitation. She also tracks RSVPs and helps the client choose food and flowers. Clients tell Ayre that, because she handles all the details, they are able to really enjoy the party at their home. “They are so excited about their space,” Ayre says. “They want to show it off.”

The company considered eliminating the parties during the recession, Frye says, but in the end opted to keep them in the marketing budget because, in a tough economy, “it’s nice to be able to get together for a party that’s upbeat and happy. It’s in line with our [company’s] positive-thinking, positive-acting mantra.”

Subtle Marketing

AWDB aims to create tasteful events, not to inundate guests with marketing materials. To that end, servers wear aprons with the company logo, and on the coffee table there’s usually a bound book of project photos, which the marketing staff creates through Shutterfly.

AWDB owners Elizabeth and Anthony Wilder attend the parties, but clients may or may not choose to invite designers and crew. The Wilders hand out business cards only if guests request them, and any inquiries from the party follow the company’s usual leads process. Frye says that party leads are more difficult to track because they come in months after the event, and the friends or neighbors don’t always recall that the party was associated with the remodeler. Some party-goers call just to ask Anthony for his general advice on projects or the market.

The party usually takes place six months to a year after project completion. Ayre brings up the idea when contacting clients to set up the project photo shoot.

She is currently working on a party for 100 guests for which she brought a caterer to the client’s home for a tasting. Ayre taps into her creative side for the parties, creating the flower arrangements herself and sometimes writing poems for the invitations. For an upcoming brunch at a house that underwent a master bedroom renovation, to encourage guests to circulate in that area, she’s setting up a bar on the balcony off the master suite.

—Nina Patel, senior editor, REMODELING.