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Working with corporate clients can be very different than working in the personal event space, but it can also lead to big rewards. Corporate business means larger events, expanded budgets and most of the time higher stakes. While working in corporate events can be a lucrative business for many planners, you need to work hard to maintain relationships with your clients in order to thrive in this industry over the long haul.
The importance of maintaining a relationship with corporate partners plays a big role in your continued success as a planner. Retaining a client and nurturing a connection is much easier and more cost effective for your business than constantly scouting and attracting new clients. Most customers in this genre will bring you repeat business, sometimes multiple events each year! Using the tips below will help you to maintain lasting corporate relationships which will be your key to obtaining their future business.
1. Listen to their Needs
Anytime you meet with a new client you spend time listening to their desires and needs for their event. After an initial meeting, we as event planners often times have an inherent ability to “know” what the client is looking for. We all have a knack for reading people and using this talent to predict the requests our clients will ask for, often times even before they have asked. While this characteristic is wonderful to have as a planner, it can get you in trouble with corporate clients.
Unlike personal events, every corporate event is very different. You need to truly listen to what they say and take notes to ensure the purpose of the event is always the focus. Are they entertaining potential business partners at the event? Debuting a new service? Recruiting future employees? Dig into the main goals of the event and keep this purpose in the forefront throughout the planning process.
2. Define the Event Objectives
Although you may be listening, corporate clients don’t always come forward or even know the full purpose of the event that is being planned at the start of the planning process. Make sure you do some digging to get to the bottom of the true event objectives. Learn about the history of past events, who the big decision makers are (not always the person you are working with) and what buttons you need to push in order to make the event a success in their eyes. Without fully understanding and defining these objectives with your corporate client there is no chance for you to shine and exceed expectations.
3. Understand Branding and Culture
Branding and culture have become major buzzwords in the corporate landscape. Every company is looking to develop a strong, definitive brand and culture that can be reflected in everything they do.
When you are planning an event for a corporate client, take some time to learn everything you can about their company. The way they do business and the things that are important to them should become important to you. This will show the client that you are a dedicated part of their team and that you respect the atmosphere that they have worked hard to create.
Use the event to expand upon the mission or purpose they serve. Everything from the venue choice, to the color of the uplighting should properly identify with the company you are working with. Partnering with companies that align with your personal values and beliefs will make working in corporate events even more enjoyable and easy to integrate into your planning process.
4. Meet Face to Face
Meeting in person is something we often overlook in the hustle and bustle of the busy, technologically driven world we live in. However, you need to arrange for at least one or two face-to-face meetings with your new corporate clients. Try to plan the meeting in their office space, so you can get a feel for the vibe of their company, staff and culture.
As a huge proponent of conference calls and video conferences, I know it can be hard to see this as a priority, but there is just something you gain from an in-person meeting that you cannot obtain from a digital or voice connection. This will also show the business that you are invested in making their event an accurate portrayal of everything their company represents.
5. Be Careful of Competition
When working with a corporate client you run the risk of having to turn down other business from other companies in the same sector. While this may seem like a drawback to the corporate event landscape, it is an important part of the business. You are working for a company that is likely to have major competitors and they may not like the idea of you planning events for both.
Do your best to be open and honest with the companies you work for, while also being smart about the business you take on. Trust your gut and spread your work throughout a variety of industries in order to avoid an overlap between two fierce competitors.
6. Get to the Point
In the personal event space, some planners have a tendency to sugar coat certain aspects of an event. You may tread lightly when speaking about an unforeseen expense or change to the event schedule, but with a corporate client they want you to cut to the chase. Don’t talk in circles around a potential issue. Identify the problem, provide solutions and work it out in the most productive and efficient manner. Corporations are in the business of making tough decisions on a daily basis. They will respect you more if you get to the point and provide transparent communication.
7. Respect the Budget
Corporate clients often times have a lot of money to spend, but that doesn’t mean you get to take advantage of the situation. Even though they may bring more money to the table than a private event, you must find a way to fit within the budget they have established.
Showing them that you are willing to negotiate prices and come in under their set budget will establish a solid relationship with the client and show them that you are on their side, not just another vendor looking to make money. This level of mutual respect will pay off for you as the planner and will do wonders to ensure that you are their go-to planner for future events.
8. Bring Innovative Ideas
Even though corporate events will have an established budget (see above), this industry is a great place to spread your wings and try out a new exciting technology that a small private client isn’t financially able to explore. If you can provide proof that an innovative idea is worth the added expense, the client will often times find a way to make it financially possible.
Think outside the box and give them options on possible ideas that will set them apart from their competition. Businesses love the idea of being on the cutting edge of their industry and the event space is a great opportunity for them to show off their forward thinking ideas.
9. Maintain the Connection After the Event
Even though the corporate space isn’t as intimate as a private event, you should do your best to establish a real personal connection with the lead decision makers. Follow up around the holidays or on their birthday with a handwritten card or letter just to let them know that you appreciate their business and see them as not only a client, but also a friend and partner. This small personal touch, in the sometimes harsh corporate world, can make all the difference in getting future business from their company.
Every event planner is different, but each of us could benefit from working with a corporate client. This portion of the industry can bring in big money for your event business and also give you room to explore new and innovative ideas. Using the tips above will help to improve your relationships and increase the future opportunities you have within the corporate sector.