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Competition is stiff for attendees and for clients. It’s hard to “get heard” in today’s world. You have to do something to stand out and beat the competition. Here are a few ideas.
When it comes to competition, event planners get it from two fronts. There’s the competition they have from other event planners in securing the best event clients and then there’s the competition for attendees’ time. Most people have budgets they have to live within, whether they’re employed by a large company, the government, or themselves. There are only so many conferences or events they can attend within that budget. That’s why you have to be the best. Here’s how you can slay your competition and host the best event in the land.
Know the Competition
You can have no idea how you’re better if you don’t get to know the competition. This means learning all you can about other event planners in your area or niche and attending events that have the same target audience. Establish who they are and what they offer.
Figure Out How You’re Different
If everything you offer is the same as your competition, the differentiator will always default to price. No one wants that because it is a one-way trip to Cheapsville and no one can eat in Cheapsville. If you are exactly like everyone else, the client will look for the cheapest planner. If your event is exactly like all the others, people will look for the cheapest and closest one to attend.
You must do something to differentiate yourself from the crowd. This could be that you organize an event faster than anyone else and so you specialize in last-minute event planning or your event could bill itself as the only marketing conference that targets micro-businesses and their needs. Whatever you do, you must stand out and you must market to that differentiator.
Look for an Underserved Group
This idea goes hand-in-hand with finding something unique about yourself. If there isn’t anything unique in your offerings or abilities, look for an underserved group. The old saying, “the riches are in the niches” applies here. Find something people need and be that. Starbucks didn’t invent coffee but it did brand a lifestyle and coffee-house experience into that cup.
Know Your Audience
While you’re trying to decide what makes you different, it’s also important to know who you’re trying to reach. This is essential for two reasons:
- You want to be able to personalize your communications to them and offer them things they will find value in. Plus knowing who they are helps you find them and helps you create a solid marketing strategy to get their attention.
- You need to know who they are so that you can decide if your unique value proposition (as those fancy marketing and sales people call it) will appeal to that audience. For instance, a cable company looking to sell an Internet package to people of means will miss a number of sales if they concentrate on selling their “cheap” price. What that audience is looking for is speed. They don’t care about saving $10 a month. They want good quality and high speed that allows for streaming without buffering and that’s what the company needs to focus on if they’re trying to reach that demographic.
Make Strategic Alliances
After you’ve done the work on figuring out your unique value proposition and your ideal audience, and you’ve put together a solid marketing plan on how to reach them, look for ways to bring additional value to your audience and/or clients by making strategic alliances with vendors or companies that offer complementary services. This can help you increase your offerings and give your audience or clients something your competition hasn’t yet thought of.
Catch Them off Guard
People do business with people they know, like, and trust. An easy way to establish trust is to say something they don’t expect you to say. For instance, admit a benefit of one of your competitors such as saying, “If you’re looking for an enterprise-level marketing event, Conference X is the best. However, if you’re a small business you’re looking for something different. Someone who knows what you go through. We are that conference.” When you admit something they don’t expect you to, like giving compliments to your competition, that establishes trust.
Remember earlier when we addressed finding your ideal audience? This is one of the reasons it’s so important. Once you know who they are, you can personalize your approach to them. Use demographic research or personal research on social media to find things your ideal audience is interested in or worried about and craft a message that will sound as if you had read their mind. By personalizing your message it will stand out from all of the other noise.
Don’t Waste Your Time on Bad Fits
Knowing your ideal audience is also important because it helps you identify who is not a good fit. If you go after a client or an attendee who is not your ideal fit, you’ll spend more money and time trying to make them happy and you’ll be miserable in the process. Recruit your ideal attendee and don’t worry about the others. Speak to your ideal client and don’t worry if no one else is listening.
Ditch the Sales Pitch
Whether you’re approaching a client or attendees, the heavy-handed sales pitch is so 1990s. Instead, look to be of service. Offer valuable resources, personalize your approach, and be as helpful as possible. People don’t want to be fed a line. They want to do business with people they know, like, and trust.
Ramp Up Your Website
Most people do their research before they even approach you. According to Adweek, 81% of customers research a product online before buying or talking to a salesperson. If this is true of conference attendees, as well as people who hire event planners, your website is essential. It should make it easy for them to find the information they want. A difficult to navigate site, missing information, and a site that makes them hunt for the information they do want are all reasons that people will bypass contacting you. If they can’t find the information on your website they’ll just keep moving.
Differentiating yourself from the competition is necessary if you want to beat them. There’s no way to win big consistently and land those top clients or lure more and more attendees every year without separating yourself from the pack. Once you do that, you can begin to launch a very effective campaign and offer your ideal audience something no one else does. When you do, you’ve not only made it necessary for them to turn to you to get those expectations met but you’ve also made hiring you (or coming to your event) much more about skill and talent, and a lot less about cost.