Business Advice for Event Planners (Part 4)
Forging Business Relationships
So your business is off the ground. You have a good reputation, an online presence, and have acquired a few clients. Now’s the time to think about partnering with vendors and venues to get greater discounts and traffic to your company.
The more partnerships you can forge with vendors, the less you’ll have to spend on traditional forms of advertising in the long run.
Here’s the catch: You need to get the vendor’s attention first!
Before we discuss methods, let’s turn the tables a little: Imagine you’re running a successful, profitable, busy event planning business. A caterer comes to you and says “Could you give my clients a discount on your services?”
Your answer would probably be “maybe, but what will I get in return?”
Now imagine if that same caterer came to you and said “I have 50 businesses who regularly come to me for catering services and I’d love to recommend your planning services to them, could we form an mutually beneficial arrangement?”
Then your answer would likely be “YOU BET!”
I think you can see where I’m going. It’s all about your approach. If you’re approaching a vendor looking for a hand out, you’re most likely to encounter a closed door. Whereas if you come to them with an offer that benefits them, you’ll have their attention.
Here are a few easy offers you could make to vendors:
The simplest is a straight-up exchange: You recommend their business to your clients, and they do the same. But, you can go further.
Feature their services as a preferred or executive vendor on your website and social media platforms.
Offer to use and promote their services as part of your next staged event.
Hold a contest or some other promotion for your clients, where you give away a gift card from this vendor.
Arrange an exclusive arrangement whereby your company will ONLY use their services (be careful with this however… you wouldn’t want to drive customers away by limiting their choices)
Offer a referral program, where you pay the vendor for every customer they send your way. (Note, there can be some ethical controversy around this one. Make sure to do your research and only associate with highly trustworthy people if you go down this road.)
How to get noticed by Vendors
So this is where the rubber hits the road. How can you get a vendor’s attention long enough to present your offer?
Use Social Media
Odds are whatever business you’re targeting has a social media account. Start off slowly by following them on their social media page and commenting on their posts. Engage in discussions with their followers and offer your opinions where appropriate. This will help you learn about the company’s values and you might just get noticed by the business owners, too. If they do notice your participation, they may remember you when you come to them with an offer, and will be more receptive at that point.
Have a face-to-face meeting
There’s nothing like a direct meeting with the owner of a company. A face-to-face meeting will allow you to observe their reaction to your proposal first-hand and modify your offer to suit their specific preferences or needs. You can either call the business first and arrange a meeting, or just drop by. Calling first is a more professional approach, while dropping by has more chance of succeeding in securing a meeting. You can try both and see what works best for you.
Emails and phone calls
Unless you’re dealing with a bigger corporation, I’d stay away from emails for this type of venture. Just think about the amount of junkmail you receive every day as a small business: your carefully crafted email message has a real chance of being deleted without ever having been read.
Phone calls, on the other hand, are a nice way to casually break the ice. Practice a quick elevator pitch and be respectful of the other person’s time.
Flyers and Ads
This approach is useful if you’re targeting a large number of companies at the same time. You can create a beautiful and informative flyer or brochure advertising your services and partnership opportunities, and drop them off at local businesses.
The downside to flyers/ads is that you’re missing out on that personalized approach, and this option has the added disadvantage of costing you more than your time.
Whatever your method, remember these key points when approaching vendors:
- Have your numbers ready. Before a business owner agrees to a partnership, he/she will want to know your customer numbers, your reach on social media, etc.
- Have their numbers ready, too. If you’ve done your research, you should have an idea of what the business’ reach is as well. This will show them you’re serious and committed.
- Don’t beg. You have a great product and as long as you have an appealing offer, they should WANT to work with you.
- Don’t argue. If someone doesn’t want to work with you, be graceful and thank them for their time. Arguing their reasons is an easy way to damage your reputation in the business community.
- Stick to your values. It’s normal to want as many partnerships as possible, but associating with less-than-reputable or questionable vendors will only hurt you in the long run.
So what are you waiting for?
Getting your name out there isn’t easy. Like anything else it takes a lot of work, sweat, some tears, and most importantly, absolute determination!