How to start an event planning business, Q & A

What factors determine your pricing strategy? How to stand out in a highly competitive industry? How important is it to be a certified planner? These are just few of the questions we discussed during the second part of #EventPlanenrsTalk LIVE event last November “how to start an event planning business” with Kelly Brown, Founder of KC Events, specialising in events for the corporate sector and Jason Allan Scott who is a co-founder of VenueMe, the Uber for venue finding, mentor, digital influencer, speaker and author.

What is the best marketing channel to promote events?

According to Jason the strongest ROI is still on email while social media goes into niches. Pinterest for example is for weddings, Facebook is bigger in the US than in Europe etc. Twitter is a good way to start a conversation. These are all different streams that go into one big lake, which you need to feed with content. As a start-up you will need to do it yourself and therefore scheduling tools are recommended. He added that “liking” is not enough, the power of engagement on social media is very strong and you need to comment and share. Lastly he talked about LinkedIn and said that it depends what you use it for. A friend of him set up a group to start a discussion which he later monetized through live event. You can also blog on this platform or start a conversation with someone who looked at your profile.

Kelly sees Twitter as a great platform for building presence among your industry peers and sharing your knowledge to raise your profile but said that if you are a corporate planner, law or financial firms are not looking for you on Twitter.

What is the lead time to win a client?

Jason suggested that big corporations are “seduced” on a daily basis so there is a protocol one should follow. Shortest lead time for Kelly was four weeks, others can get up to a year – the company needs to know you better, due diligence can take long and agencies are required to go through long process to become a preferred supplier (e.g. – ISO, delivery schedule etc.). She even got one client after nine years!

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How to build a client base while you are still in a full time employment?

From Kelly’s experience, “people will remember if you are loyal, if you are discrete, if you are good at what you do – that is a great client base and advocates to have that will follow-up with you after you leave”. She added that you can ask them to recommend you to others or if you can add them to your database/ email list so you can keep in touch. Jason added that it is all about relationships, connections, personality and personal brand.

What about the “boring stuff” – registering the company, filing accounts etc.?

Kelly said that she does her own finances and uses an online cashflow software and her account does the VAT and submits annual accounts to Companies House for her.

Jason’s advice is to open a business only when you need to, after you have first customers. Don’t open the business and wait for customers to come. As an entrepreneur, you can’t invest all at once in a website, business cards, logo, company set-up, accountants etc. Test your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to test your concept or idea into the public before putting your money and time (My tip: if you want more information about MVP I highly recommend reading the book Lean Start-Up which covers extensively this subject).

How important is it to be a certified planner or a member of an association?

Kelly sees the benefit of being a member of MPI or ISES because both are transatlantic, and while ISES is more on the creativity side MPI is more corporate therefore sees the benefit in being an MPI member. On the other hand, all have joining fees, so when you are a small company you can’t join every association. MPI for example is more important in North America than in Europe and that can help win business. Because she has clients in North America she sees the benefit of getting CMP certification, but also for personal development.

Jason also sees the benefits of joining an association and suggested that if you are to join you should join the board and be part of shaping association’s strategy and “making things happen”. Comment that came from the audience suggested to also, as a member, engage on social media with other members to leverage your membership, otherwise what’s the point of being a member?

© The MICE Blog - event management blog

How can you make your business stand out in a highly competitive market place?

According to Jason knowing your niche and finding a way to stand out – the more niche you become the easier it will be for others to find you. Kelly added that it is about business strategy, business objectives, transparency and integrity.

What factors determine your pricing and billing (location, industry, experience etc.)?

As mentioned in the first article, Kelly charges management fee and Jason has consultancy fee and risk partnership fee. Risk partnership fee is when he guarantees profit and takes percentage from it, otherwise the venue don’t pay. Jason continued and said that negotiation is important “find the pain point, emphasize the pain point, exceed it to the point it is unbearable, provide a solution and monetize it”. Best is asking the client to come up with the price first or what their budget is. For Kelly her pricing is based on the size of the programme, the longevity and the geographic location.

There are different streams of making money in this industry: management fee, introduction fee, commission based on supply chain, consultancy and annual listing fee. While some of the biggest agencies charge for pitching as well, start-ups can’t afford it and need to “pitch to play”.

How about charging your fee, all in advance or in the end? You can charge all in advance, especially if the event is planned and booked within three months, or 50% upon signing the contract and two instalments of 25%, leading to the event.

We all know, when starting out it is not easy to determine the price and might accept lower offers. But both suggested that you shouldn’t go below your pain point, and if the client thinks he can find the same service cheaper elsewhere, then it is better for him to do so. Don’t be afraid to pass it over because that is about making the right decisions for yourself.

What is the best strategy to market yourself to potential clients (Social media, mailing, networking events)?

From Kelly’s experience best is to know your clients, your target market, who you appeal to and from there expanding to new markets comes organically. Big brands are now interested in speaking to smaller, more personalised agencies, but it is still necessary to pass their procurement requirements. Jason added that it is all about sales – if you cannot sell your product or idea get someone who can! Research – know who you are selling to. Everyone gets many emails today so think what will differentiate you and bring your message across to potential clients. When you do get hold of them, have your research ready. And last but not least, because of social media you can get to everyone today.

Big thanks goes again to Late Night LondonEvoleroTweetwall Pro and our fantastic speakers who sponsored and supported this event! Photos by Sandeep Rai.

© The MICE Blog - event management blog

© The MICE Blog - event management blog

New to #EventPlannersTalk? #EventPlannersTalk is an online community on Twitter for global event professionals and every Monday we host a Twitter Chat about current industry topics. #EventPlannersTalk LIVE event aims bringing the online community into the physical space to continue share ideas, best practice and network face-to-face, extending event life-cycle and making it a 365 days event!

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