Employment of meeting, convention, and event planners is projected to grow 33 percent from 2013-2022, which is much faster than the average of all occupations. As globalization grows and businesses continue to recognize the value of professionally planned meetings, demand for meetings and events is projected to increase. The best career opportunities will be best for candidates with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality or tourism management (www.bls.gov/01-2014).
This also means that competition will be strong and old relationships may not be as easy to maintain as they shop for more cost effective solutions. Event Planners need to leverage technology and the online medium to effectively stay ahead of the curve by managing costs and being creative with revenue generation opportunities. “Now is the time that event planners and organizers need to be smarter than the average bear,” says S. Friedman, CSP. A speaker, consultant and author for over 20 years.
Here are 6 key strategies for successful event planners:
- Know your financial goals.
- Increase your marketing efforts.
- Stay in close communication with your “A” clients.
- Be creative about saving and making money.
- Stay flexible.
- Take the long view.
- Know your financial goals
It is more important than ever to calculate what you want to achieve financially in the next year, and what that means in terms of monthly, weekly and daily activity goals, she says. “Just like the sales department in any business, you need to ask questions like ‘How much income do we need, and what does that mean in terms of new clients versus residual business from current ones?'”
A simple “pipeline exercise” demonstrate the concept: Assume you want to make $500,000 next year, and your average client project pays $10,000. That translates to 50 client assignments per year. If you already have 10 jobs lined up, you need 40 more.
Now let’s back into what that means in terms of disciplined sales activity. Assume it takes you three proposals to land one new deal, and 10 prospect contacts to get one proposal opportunity. That translates to roughly three proposals per month, and 10 prospect contacts per week.
Every situation is different; you need to base these metrics on your own averages. But the point is: You need to quantify accurate goals and develop a disciplined work plan to accomplish them. That’s even more important in an challenging market like this one.
- Increase your marketing efforts
As an Event Planner you have to build your brand for your prospects and customers. With the advent of Social Media there are multiple opportunities for you to promote your brand and the quality that it represents. Each tool has its own unique strengths & weakness which you will have to familiarize yourself with. Fortunately it does not cost a lot of money to use these new avenues. It won’t be easy, but when things begin to pick up, you will see rewards. This is an investment which will help you improve your game, but you have to be determined to move forward despite the initial learning curve.
Marketing doesn’t necessarily mean spending more money. It does however require energy and time to build your online professional identity. The way to leverage Social Media is by educating your audience via articles, tip sheets, checklists and the like. By writing and publishing your content on the web as well as your specific social media pages, you have an opportunity to let your prospects and customers know your brand promise. The most relevant social media properties for event planners are listed below.
- Stay in close communication with your “A” clients
“I think it’s essential to remain loyal to your existing clients,” says Friedman. Just “being there” for them and asking “How is the economy affecting you?” can mean a lot. She recommends listening carefully and taking a consultative role, rather than a self-centered I-have-got-to-get-their-business approach.
A needs-oriented method will pay off, even if the client doesn’t buy from you this time around. As Friedman puts it, “We all do business with people we like and trust. Just finding out how you can help them is a fine strategy. If you are there for them during rough times, when things get better you will be the one they call.”
- Be creative about saving and making money
Look at each situation creatively. Find diverse ways to do things that will provide the same or improved results for less money. “A lot of people follow a systematic approach year after year, meeting after meeting,” Friedman says. “It can be energizing to start with a clean slate.”
Questions to ask:
- Can we use another facility?
- Can the meeting be shorter in duration?
- Who really needs to be at the meeting?
- Do we need that big workbook printed, or can we distribute it online?
“I’ve worked with many people who would spend a lot less if the money came out of their pocket and not the company’s checkbook,” she says.
While you are at it, examine other ways you can make money, Friedman says. “Business as usual will not work in today’s environment. You have to be creative. The people who do things differently will come out ahead.”
Some examples: Consider holding an teleconference or webinar that helps event organizers address their meeting needs. “You can educate people on how to run their own meetings, for a fee,” Friedman suggests. “That is a savvy way to set yourself apart from your competitors — and produce a separate revenue stream.”
The online medium also allows you to create other revenue generating opportunities through sponsorships and “edutainment”. By having a robust email & social media strategy you can create online real estate to promote your sponsors. Informational content can be included as part of this strategy which allows you to better position your event site for promotional opportunities.
- Stay flexible
Often, planners feel obligated to offer “full service” event planning. They take care of every last detail (turning “busy” into “tizzy” in the process). And yet, Friedman says, the more you can educate clients into handling things on their own, the more they appreciate it. That calls for a more flexible approach to client engagements.
“If you show clients how to do things in-house instead of paying someone else, you can unburden yourself of all the ‘grunt work’ and focus on higher-level strategic issues, which delivers more overall value and pays more.
- Take the long view
In today’s economy, it’s human nature to worry about where the money is coming from. Friedman calls that kind of thinking a “poverty mentality,” and says that it interferes with many event planners, because it places too much emphasis on making money in the current moment, at the expense of their long-term client relationships.
“If you treat each client relationship like a marriage, with inevitable ups-and-downs, you take a different mindset into each interaction,” she says. “There’s more give and take, more of a partnership approach, more open communication and more working together to solve problems.”
Those who take the long view and put client needs first will succeed, Friedman says. The quick in-and-out approach may deliver faster results, but it invites bidding wars and puts you in the “vendor” category, rather than trusted associate and advisor — which is a much better position to be in, no matter how good or bad the times are.