In the early 1950’s huge new tracts of homes were replacing orange and avocado groves in the eastern and southern suburbs of Los Angeles. This inspired many women to start a newcomer welcome service in their home towns. Excited about their new business, they would hold informal gatherings (luncheons and casual evenings) to exchange ideas. One of these meetings was in the summer of 1955 at Jo Corbin’s home in Covina, California. Those present included Mary Bird, Jo Corbin, Zula Harris, Margaret Peterson and Dewey Wilkinson. This particular meeting was called due to a mutual problem with a competing service regarding address sources. The goal was to take collective action on this problem. During this meeting, Mary Bird stated she would be interested in helping start an organization of welcome service owners based on the concept of an "idea exchange." Meeting attendees were excited about this concept and many meetings followed--ultimately resulting in the "Association of Independent Welcoming Services."
In 1956, the first conference for California welcome service owners was held in Santa Barbara. The following year, at the Santa Cruz conference, the name was changed to "City Hostess Association." The name changed again in 1965, this time to "City Hostess International." This name remained until the early 1990’s when it changed to the current "Welcome Services International."
True to the original vision of this style of marketing, most welcome services still offer personal home to each newcomer with the greeter bringing welcome gifts and certificates. Many businesses have enhanced their services to include resources such as newcomer guides, church directories, baby programs, business-to-business programs, promotional item sales, newcomer club meetings and so much more!
For businesses, welcome services offer targeted, personal introductions at affordable cost to new movers who are generally reestablishing connections in their community. These ‘word of mouth’ style referrals are the most effective form of marketing for any size business. Whether a home visit or a mailed welcome package, local businesses have the opportunity to follow-up on all newcomers, giving them additional avenues to court the lucrative newcomer market. For new movers, welcome services offer friendly, trustworthy recommendations and tips on the community and local businesses. Often these newcomers are offered small gifts and lucrative, exclusive incentives by businesses as a means to connect with the new mover.
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