In the business world, as sterile as it may be from time to time, relationships matter. According to the well-worn phrase, people do business with people they know, like, and trust, but it’s even more relevant in an age where this business is often conducted at arm’s length. In other words, it takes a lot more than a simple signature on a contract, and this is especially true in the events industry. If you’re an event organizer and hoping to attract new customers and sponsors to help you with your efforts, why do you need to go the extra mile to nurture those relationships carefully? What golden rules should you remember if you want your organization to thrive?
Go With What You Have
You don’t need an economist to tell you that it’s cheaper to cultivate an existing customer than to go out and find a new one. Yet, that is how many event organizers operate as they may treat their existing clients as simply a means to an end. Alternatively, they may take steps to groom a new prospect but fail to follow through and bridge that gap between a would-be contract and a relationship.
Bring Them Into The Conversation
If you have already worked with an organization and have produced an event for them with some success, you need to make them feel like they matter. Indeed, you may have signed off on the event, and the relationship may be treading water now, so what can you do to bring them back into the conversation? Introduce them to your social media world and invite them to talk openly about their experience. Don’t be afraid of what they may say if you truly stand by your product and understand that some negativities may arise from time to time. Overall, however, this will be a positive experience for not only you and the customer but also your prospects. They will see that you are transparent and that you can be trusted at the same time.
Go Beyond a Questionnaire
Many event planners send out a questionnaire to clients and participants following an event. Often this can be generic, and they may not act on the gathered intelligence in any case. Try to formalize this approach. Request a one-to-one meeting, even if this must be through a videoconference. As you gather the information, it’ll give some positive feedback to the customer as well. Take the honest criticism and be very grateful for the feedback. Again, this will show that you care and will make the customer feel better about the interaction.
They Are Only Human
Remember that quote above? People like to do business with people that they know, like, and trust? It’s far too easy to think that a customer is a corporate entity, but it is, of course, populated by human beings. They may have the company’s well-being at heart, but they still have feelings, individual needs, and problems. You need to balance this carefully but be prepared to reach past the corporate conversation and see if you can get to know the key people at that organization. Likewise, open if they actively join the conversation and come across as a caring and contributory individual. Suddenly, your event planning company is more than just an organization but is staffed by people who are likable – and care about others.
Turn to Sponsors
You can use the same approach when it comes to building a meaningful relationship with any event sponsors. Again, you are dealing with companies with goals to consider, but this is a different type of spend altogether. An event client may want to stage such an event to educate or reward employees, wine and dine their own clients, or for many other reasons. On the other hand, you may be looking for a sponsor to help you make an event financially viable, and they will have different criteria to consider.
Nevertheless, you will need to nurture any relationship with a potential sponsor and make even more effort once they are confirmed.
This is why you need to be proactive whenever you open the door with a sponsor. If you’ve got past the gatekeeper and are talking to the decisionmaker, now is the time to pounce. You may have started the process by sending out written or digitized material, but you should now request a face-to-face meeting. It’s always best to do this in person and even in these socially distanced and strange times. Tools like Zoom are all well and good, but nothing can replace in-person interaction. This is equally true when it comes to a potential sponsor meeting as it is for the actual events themselves. As reported in Tradeshow Executive, the pandemic has confirmed the value of face-to-face events. The site reports that 78% of people polled by UFI (the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry) felt that face-to-face events would soon bounce back strongly.
Show the Benefits
So, during your meeting, go through every detail clearly and show how the sponsoring company will benefit from any interaction. You will share the schedule, demographic, and expected turnout and show them how you intend to promote their involvement. At this stage, you should have some surprises in your pocket, and you should deliver a little more than they may expect without giving everything away to secure an agreement. Here, you’ll convince them that they are getting more than they are giving – as you are being seen to over-deliver. But keep some of those surprises in your pocket so that you can over-deliver even more on the actual event itself. This should be the “icing on the cake” delivery to convince them that they have done the right thing. You can then use this warm glow to start building forward and to make sure that you have a sponsor on board for the long term.
You need to use your imagination when it comes to those surprises. Look at the event, its deliverables, and the opportunities and see how you could extend the sponsor involvement. For example, you may let them introduce their product or service during a critical part of your event and in front of an engaged audience. This may be over and above what you had previously agreed. Or you may engage with a topic that is very close to their corporate heart if they are philosophic. Announce on stage in front of your audience that you are donating to this charity. Invite your attendees to do the same and make it easy to do so by sending an SMS message to their smart device. This will not only make you look good in front of your attendees, but it will undoubtedly make your sponsor happy. After all, it makes them look good in the eyes of the charity for no extra cost.
Get Personal Again
Once again, try to foster a more personal relationship with the key people who work at the sponsor’s company. You don’t need to go overboard here and should certainly not be intrusive. Test the waters gently in an off-the-cuff conversation and see how they respond. Be willing to open up in response to their questions too, and don’t be surprised at how much of a difference this can make. By all means, focus on business first, but become that person others can know, like, and trust.
Worth the Effort
Somebody in charge of sponsorship arrangements at a large company will often field dozens of requests in any given month. They may meet with several representatives before they make a decision, and most if not all of those other companies will be “all business.” If you can add a human touch to your approach, then you’re more likely to be regarded favorably, and this theme will continue even after you have secured the first deal. Continue to develop the relationship, and you may even bridge the gap between acquaintance and friend.
Keep the Momentum
Don’t let the dust settle for too long once you have agreed on terms with the sponsor and have staged a successful event. At a reasonable interval, reach back out to the sponsor and look for their feedback. Send them a thank you gift and, if possible, send some new business in their direction. Ask your customers to patronize the sponsoring company and give them some incentive if they do so. Perhaps you can offer them a discount on your services or products if they prove that they have patronized the sponsor along the way.
Take the Heat off
As you can see, there are several ways to foster relationships with prospects, customers, or sponsors. Explore them all and come up with your own methods along the way. In the meantime, make your job as an event organizer a lot easier by working with companies that fully understand your industry. eShow is just such an organization specializing in providing comprehensive event management solutions and can do a lot of the heavy lifting. Check out some of their programs and services here. This may help to free up some of your valuable time – so you can strengthen those relationships even more.