I love this industry we work in, it’s the most rewarding I know and I’m loving the change I’ve made from venue to planner however, there’s one thing that is clouding my new found joy at the moment. What on earth can that be, I hear you say?
It’s actually quite a hard one to admit, particularly with my background but it’s working with the suppliers from my original start in the industry…. venues!
Now don’t get me wrong there are still a number of you that absolutely have your customer service and enquiry handling spot on, and I’m by no means going to point any fingers in any direction. But what I would like to do is give a few pointers from someone who has experience of both sides of the industry on how you can work with planners better, and quite possibly convert more business.
1. Response times
There really should be no excuse for not responding to an enquiry the same day it’s received or within 24 hours. Times have moved on rapidly from the days that it was acceptable to take a few days to respond to a planner, mainly due to the rise of digital. For an international enquiry a 48 hour response is acceptable due to the differing time zones, but 24 hours max for a domestic or local enquiry is an absolute must.
I’ve worked in venues so I have first hand experience of how many clients, tasks, and different departments and colleagues there are to juggle and manage, as well as the countless internal meetings however, now having experience from the planners side believe me, they have just as many if not more to juggle and manage.
We all know that lead times for events have got shorter and shorter, planners are now working to tighter and more pressured deadlines than ever before and they simply do not have the time to be chasing venues to check they’ve received their enquiry and to see if they’re going to grant them a response.
The best way to manage your enquiries and better manage your time is to spend 1-2 hours in the morning and then another 1-2 in the afternoon that is devoted entirely to responding to new enquiries. Just a little change of 2-4 hours like this can make a huge difference, then you have another 4-6 hours of your day that can be devoted to other tasks.
2. If you receive an enquiry, reply to it
For those who know me well they know that this is a huge bug bear with me anyway, but if you receive an enquiry and an email from an event planner respond to it, whether you can accommodate it or not.
I have to be honest, of the enquiries that I have sent out of late to London venues, again I will mention no names, about 45% have responded to me, the rest I’ve had no response. This simply has to change in my view and there really is no excuse for not sending a reply, even if you don’t have the availability for an event or it’s not the right budget or fit for your venue.
This one also ties in nicely with number 1 and to offer another quick tip, when you receive an enquiry acknowledge with the planner that you have received it by sending a quick reply to say you’re working on their brief and will get back to them as soon as you can.
3. Read the brief
This one is so important, there is nothing more frustrating than when you contact a venue asking for pricing and they just send you their general price list that you have to score through yourself to find what you need.
It’s also increasingly frustrating when for example you ask for pricing for an evening networking event and you are sent prices for a lunch or for teas and coffees. Common sense should tell you that the planner is not going to be looking for this.
Again time will always play an important factor in this and of course it’s so much easier to just send out your standard email with your lovely event brochure that your marketing manager has spent precious time and money putting together for you however, planners would much prefer a tailor made proposal that it specific to them and their event and answers their questions. They also do not have time to be hunting through pages of glossy brochures to find the information that they need.
Remember also at times the planner may not give you all the information that you’re looking for. In an ideal world it would be great at the time of enquiry to give you all the exact timings, exact number of people, exact food and beverage requirements, equipment, alternative dates etc. and don’t get me wrong it would make our lives so much easier too.
But put quite simply a lot of time we do not have this information at the time of enquiry, we’re looking to get an idea of your best price and availability as we need to go back and report on the feasibility of an event, we’re almost certainly working with very limited information and a very tight initial budget as well.
4. Understand the planner and their business
We live in an information and digital age and the data that is now at our finger tips is fruitful.
When I started in the industry we didn’t have the novelty of social media profiles such as Twitter and Linkedin at our disposal, in fact when I first started we didn’t even have email, imagine that.
You can absolutely use this to your advantage and for the advantage of the planner to find out vital information.
Try and think a little proactively when you receive your enquiries. Check out Linkedin and Twitter to gain a better understanding of the person who has enquired with you. Remember they have contacted you, this is not a cold lead, they are interested in learning more about you so take a little time to learn a little bit more about them.
Find out what they do, where they’ve worked, and this is an important one and can really help you, who they’re connected to?
I can guarantee they’ve already had a browse through your website so take a look at theirs to try and get an idea of their business, brand and personality. Does this fit with yours and what you can offer, if so build this into the tailor made proposal you’re going to send them.
5. Make recommendations
This is an old one but it’s still such a great thing to do if you’re able to and is a great help to some event planners, particularly those who may not be familiar with your location or if you’re part of a chain of hotels and venues.
Those proactive sales managers managing chains and collections will also love me for this one.
If you’re unable to accommodate an enquiry make a recommendation of a venue you know that may be able to, a sister venue maybe. If you’re part of a consortium, like the London City Selection for example, then recommend a partner and it’s also perfectly acceptable for you to recommend a competitor.
This is a huge help to planners as I’ll be honest venue finding is a thankless task and with the huge choice nowadays it can take hours to shortlist a selection that may be suitable for an event. Gone are the days when everyone put all of their events in the same venue, most now have to move their events around as attendees demand more choice and variety, and also everyone loves a recommendation.
Finally doing so will put you in such good stead with the planner that the likelihood is they’ll come back to you the next time they’re looking for a venue because you helped them.
I’ve worked in this wonderful industry of ours for long enough now to understand that first and foremost the role of a supplier and venue is to work in partnership with planners to take away the stress and make their event run as easy and seamlessly as possible. I do however feel that as we’re all getting busier and the industry is again in boom times this is getting lost.
Perhaps if we were to spend a little less time checking financial targets and competitor benchmarking and spent more time getting to know each other and how we can work together better, everything else will just fall into place again.
Until next time #Eventprofs…