Event Planning and Relationship Development

September 24, 2008

5 Min Read
Event Planning and Relationship Development

Calculating. Systematic. Exacting. Rigorous. Methodological. Orchestrated. Does this sound like the ingredients of a successful relationship-building event? Although relationship building is traditionally considered a soft-skill, executing the perfect relationship-building event is both a science and an art. Many neglect to remember that event planning is a subset of marketing.

The elements of event planning and relationship development should be treated as a disciplined and detailed science with the same rigor as any element of marketing planning. Event planning and relationship development should be implemented with the same precision, care, attention and strategic foresight that go into marketing, sales, financial or operational planning. The objective is to create the best possible event that enhances business relationships for the short- and long-term, which takes development, planning (including contingency planning) and flawless execution.

The Three A’s

The essential elements to successful, goal-oriented marketing and event planning are demonstrated as three discrete yet relatively influential activities: attribute assessment, alignment and action.

The first step is attribute assessment. This is the objective-identification phase and the first developmental stage of the event. Are you trying to impress one key client? Trying to close a deal with a current client? Aiming to attract new clients by having key client advocates share their experiences with other prospects? Working to enhance your image? Looking to be identified with a certain class of product? Or showing that you and your company would go above and beyond to cater or break through to your clients?

The fashion in which an event is executed should reflect the style and manner in which the business interests are managed. Set the tone of entertaining the way the tone is set in business. Whether outrageous or elegant, it should reflects the company’s true and natural business image.

During the attribute assessment, remember the adage in all client development: “It’s who you know.” Moreover, it’s who you show. What level of decision-making is your key target or attendee? Too many times, an event in the B2B setting ends up with sales people from competitor companies looking idly at each other. Too often, key decision-makers are few and far-between—or worse, no shows. Consider this when creating an enticing and compelling invitation.

Understanding the External/ Competitive Environment

The next phase is alignment. Is the event to be held at a trade show, or is it a stand-alone event? Does it have a particular purpose such as a celebration or new launch? Where is the intended audience coming from, and where are they going? Is the event intended as the final nightcap? Remember, other companies are not only event competitors, but time or other concurrent activities can be competitors.

What are you doing to break through in a cluttered, external environment? What vehicles can you leverage to support your event? How can you design continuity into the communications to convey this information? Keep in mind that an invitation should be personal, and exude some personal essence to break through the external clutter. Real relationship building is person to person. Ensure the invitation conveys its personal reach.

Once you understand your company’s attributes and assets, use this to develop the personality of the event. Push this through to the intended audience in every piece of communication. Personality and a personal touch are critical elements to breaking through in a crowded communications environment. Repetition and consistency in look and feel require diligence in execution, but are well-rewarded for their efforts in the professionalism that it conveys. Whether you are part of a sponsorship of a large event or hosting a private gathering, ensure your corporate identity is woven into the fabric of the event. Most companies put painstaking efforts into branding and brand management; this same diligence should be put into developing and executing the communications elements associated with any event.

Setting The Stage

Once the event is planned, the invitation designed and printed, the selected audience targeted, and your team excited about the event and ready to extend those invitations, it’s time to take action. During the planning and execution of any event, the sales team should be on the front line of the invitation and client development process. Solicit team input to select food and beverages, décor, party favors and enticements, when any speeches will be made, even whether to have entertainment. The planning should also include a planned post-event follow-through to ensure guests’ expectations were met.

The sales team and leadership team must be well versed in what the event will entail, from theme to food to any special touches. Just in the way that sales team members should be able to articulate the company offerings in an “elevator-speech,” they should be able to convey to their intended attendees as much information about this event. The sales team should be hosts, not guests, with an understanding that entertainment is a part of the relationship development and selling function.

As a case study, consider a hospitality event co-hosted by a raw materials supplier in the nutraceutical channel. One of the company’s signature products is an imported grape extract. The successful event was a premium wine-tasting event that showcased wines from around the world to its clients and audience. Painstaking detail associated with the décor, food and ambience, along with specific instruction and guidance to the host company resulted in a memorable event with accolades from its client attendees.

A company president for a large marketer/manufacturer stated, “Your party is the party that brings the presidents of companies together.” Another attendee stated, “It’s the detail that makes you appreciate the event because everything is so well laid out, down to the type of chocolates on the table in the individually laid out tables.”

Diligently planned details make the execution, and make an event impact-driven. Still at the end of it all, remember to enjoy the event along with your guests. So, raise a glass, make the connections, and stay focused on the business details in the course of your event planning, execution and client relationship cultivation. Things may not go as planned, but remember this mantra: A little impertinent, endlessly enthusiastic and always gracious ... and you and your event will be successful.

Charlene Lee has managed brand and business portfolios in the packaged goods, pharmaceuticals, and nutraceuticals industries. Her company, Fruition Marketing and Strategy Services, is a marketing firm that manages client communications and event planning services. For more information go to FrutionStrategy.com.

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