Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right. – Oprah Winfrey
I know the new year rang in a month ago (already!), but there’s no time like the present to re-assess and make sure you are on the right track. Do you have the foolproof plan you need to rock those resolutions and make permanent, positive changes in your life? Are you ready to implement some strategies that will have you on top of your goals long term, rather than fading out within a few weeks or even days?
In case you are already struggling, here are some tips that will have you setting both feet on a solid path this coming year. It’s never too late to recalibrate for success.
I’m all for dreaming big, but if you’ve got 100 pounds to lose, don’t expect to lose it in a month. You want to set goals that give you drive and push, but not goals that feel so out of range you feel you can’t accomplish them.
So sit down and look at your list of goals. Now put them under the microscope:
Am I being realistic?
For example, if you have a goal to host 15 corporate client events this year (each with a budget of 60k)…and you haven’t hosted one event yet under your company’s name, perhaps you might want to scale it back to 2 or 3 events. I’m not saying that 15 can’t happen. But perhaps it can’t happen right now. So review your resolutions/business goals and write ones that are the perfect balance of challenge and attainability.
Setting specific goals is great because it gives you something to evaluate. When your resolution is something specific, you will better know how you are doing with reaching it. That being said, it is important to be able to adjust along the way. Just because a goal is specific, doesn’t mean it has to be set in stone.
Maybe you have a goal to spend a certain amount of time on your business and find it is not enough or too much. Challenge yourself to be open to the process. Perhaps you set the goal based on the time you can spend during a week or a month rather than a daily goal. Or maybe you want to roll out a new website or sales plan by February. While that is a good goal, I’m betting that it will take hours of revisions and failed attempts before you are ready to launch.
So be flexible!
One of the best ways to keep up with those resolutions is with support and accountability. Let those around you know what you are doing and why it is important to you. Ask them to help and tell them how they can. Getting a team of supporters on your side will give you the motivation to keep going when you feel like giving up.
This is especially key when you select a goal outside of your comfort zone. For example are you going to attend 5 networking events to drum up new business? But you are shy at networking events. Tell a good friend who is also an entrepreneur and attend together. You will be much more likely to stay committed to your promise
Squash Those “Setback Demons”
When you do have a setback, accept it and push through it. Don’t let it derail all your progress. Sometimes, we have something minor happen, like a day off the diet plan, a mistake at work, etc. and just give up.
We throw our hands up in the air like all is lost, and life is ruined. Don’t let that little voice tell you that you might as well quit! Instead, tell it to “Sit down and shut up!” A set back is not a good reason to stop striving all together. Remember, you wouldn’t slash the other three tires because you got a flat in one.
I challenge you when the setback happens to start small again. If you wanted to start blogging or a social media campaign and you have totally failed to tweet for 2 months – don’t start by just diving in. Spend 10 min a day only. Just commit to something short and doable. It will make the setback seem less intense.
I wish you and your business the best this year! So good luck rocking out your New Year’s resolutions!!
Think you work with everyone?
Think again. You need to know EXACTLY who your target client is in order to save money and time on your marketing.
Learning about your target market is not a luxury for when you get some extra time. It is essential to your business success! You’ll earn more and be able to line up future events easier when you nail who your target client is. Believe it or not, knowledge of your target audience affects everything from your social media campaign to the way you bill customers. There are many reasons to know your target market. Here are three of the most important ones.
If you are not solving a customer’s problem, providing some kind of information or entertainment, why does your business even exist? Knowing your target audience goes a long way in helping you clarify the purpose of your business and vice versa. To keep a business going with passion and success, you have to have a purpose and it has to be greater than just income. And if you think it’s just because you are a great event planner – think again. There are thousands of great planners out there. But what do you do differently ? What is that extra special touch that has them call you again and again rather than other planners? Think hard about what your client needs are and share in your branding how you serve them.
If you don’t know whom you’re targeting, how will you know how to communicate with them? You wouldn’t start talking golf swings to a scientist, or women’s health to a musician because you won’t connect that way. You have to know your customers and be able to talk their talk. Address their pain points. For example,
- Are you working with fundraisers who need variety in their events with donors?
- Are you working with corporate clients who want to be very hands on with the overall event and you know how to involve them yet add that extra touch that they cannot focus on?
- Or perhaps you are working with a conference who needs you to be available 24-7 a few months prior to the event?
Consider how you can communicate addressing your client’s pain points. The better you understand who your target client is – the better you’ll be able to nail your communication in your marketing.
Along with communication, your marketing will also fail if you don’t know who you are marketing to. Your marketing campaigns need to be laser focused and not for everyone. You may think you want everyone’s business, but trust me; you will be a lot more successful if you target.
Try this activity – write out a sales page for your target client. Start writing as if you are talking directly to one person who is in your target client group.
Now review it against your current sales page.
See anything you could tweak or edit? I’m betting that the one that was written to one person as if it was a “love letter to ease their pains” was more compelling than a generic sales page. The truth is, you just cannot serve everybody. And, you will not be everyone’s cup of tea. Get behind those laser beam eyes and figure out who your target is. Your brand will thank you.
Testimonials and positive reviews need to be a key part of your marketing strategy. Don’t just tell your prospects that you are great. Point to testimonials that you’ve received. But exactly how to you get raving reviews ?
Well, I’ve got three concepts for you that we shall call “RDA.”
RDA is the answer to happy clients, repeat clients, and clients who write those “raving reviews.”
Respond, Deliver, Ask…
Responding to your customers is about keeping up with messages, being gracious, and making adjustments. Be responsive in all your communication with clients whether through email, social media, or by phone. Respond as promptly as possible with professionalism and kindness.
Customers want to work with businesses where they feel heard and understood. If you desire raving reviews, you must treat your clients well and let them know they are heard and appreciated.
As Benjamin Franklin so aptly taught us, “Well done is better than well said.” So, the second step in our formula for raving reviews is to deliver great work! This one sounds obvious but is sometimes neglected. If you expect your clients to provide great feedback, you better make sure you are doing your best to serve them.
“Customer satisfaction is worthless. Customer loyalty is priceless.” Jeffrey Gitomer
You need your clients not to be only satisfied, but thrilled with the work you are doing!
There is a concept in life and business that says “Ask and You Will Receive.” If you don’t tell fans, customers, and clients what you need them to do, they won’t.
Put a call to action in your marketing asking your clients to please rate, review, and help promote you and your services. And don’t hesitate to ask them to list specific things that you did that made the difference for them. I’ve found it helpful to give your clients the option to write them or call them and record the phone call (with their permission of course!).
You don’t want to get general ones like “Mary was great”. You’re aiming for “Mary was the best event planner we ever had. I never had to worry throughout the planning of our event if everyone attending would be welcomed and feel attended to. She went out of her way to direct the team to make our guests feel special”.
See the difference? So ask for specific actions that you did that delivered on the promise.
If you have done your due diligence being responsive and providing great work, clients will likely be happy to help! Respond, Deliver, and Ask for raving reviews and brand loyalty.
You spent hours working on your website and are loving the final product. You researched, talked with friends and other planners and set your prices. And of course, you LOVE hosting events and are passionate about the details and setting a good environment. But there’s a big problem you are experiencing….
Where are your clients?
When it comes to drumming up new business, where do you go and what do you do? You found your first few clients through referrals. But the steady stream of clients and events that you hoped for…hasn’t happened yet. So, aside from hunting random people down on the street, what is a business owner to do?
Here are two ideas to get your started:
Define Your Ideal Client
First things first…Who is your ideal customer? Before you start searching for just anyone, you need to know who your target audience is. If you had an ideal customer who would they be? And please, don’t start by sharing “But I’ll do ANYBODY’S events”.
Defining your ideal client is the key to marketing well. So spend some time thinking about the following:
- In the past, who are the types of clients that you have really enjoyed working with
- What types of events did they need?
- Where are they buying their event planning services from now?
- What’s their peak event season?
In order to know how to reach out and draw in more business, you must know who you are reaching out to.
The market has changed with the emergence of social media networks. People don’t want to feel prospected that want to feel connected. We often want to cut to the chase and share our business. But, in this age of information, people are overloaded. The way you stand out is by forming connections and earning people’s trust.
Yes, it takes a bit more time, but the payoff is huge. You will have loyal business followers who share your offerings with all their friends.
Here are some ideas for building relationships:
- Try providing quality free content in line with your services and share it over networks that your potential clients frequent. When you add value to the lives of others, they are much more likely to remember you and want to give you their business.
- Make sure to spend extra time with your top clients/customers if you know they might be interested in repeat business. Don’t just send out regular holiday greeting cards. Find a personalized gift that you can create or buy to show how much you care about them individually.
- Underpromise and overdeliver – Simple things like meeting your deadlines or communicating quickly when you can’t meet them is key to building the overdeliver factor throughout the course the relationship.
While these ideas won’t generate customers overnight, they will produce a stream of customers/clients in the long term. So I encourage you to get started and have fun with it!
Can’t find time between clients to keep your marketing going on a regular basis? Spending all of your days working with client events – and no time lining up your next clients? It can be tough to be an entrepreneur. Especially an entrepreneur with an event planning business. You make money by satisfying your clients – which involves a lot of long hours that can negatively impact your business if you are not careful. So let me encourage you – in the midst of everything you are juggling, spend some time each week finding a way to market your business to ensure that you have an endless list of referrals – and future events.
Here are a few tips:
1. Block out time in your calendar
One of the first things I recommend is that you schedule your calendar – especially during your busy season. Find a way to spend at least 10% of your working hours on your marketing. People need to hear from you. And it’s super easy to get caught up with the one or two clients that you are working with – and forget that you need to line up clients six or seven months down the road.
There are ton of things that you can do during this time. I highly recommend you find one marketing activity that fits your business model and your personality and stick to it regularly. There are a ton of resources where you can get marketing ideas – like www.bizsugar.com or http://www.marieforleo.com/. Find something that works, talk with your business coach or mentor and get started. Even if it’s only 20 minutes a week
2. Offer referral fees – and make it clear and transparent
Do you provide referral fees? I’m sure you do. Does everyone…and I mean EVERYONE…in your network know this?
So challenge yourself – how can you share that you offer referral fees to your network? What would encourage them to recommend you more? Is it cash they want? Is it access to people in YOUR network? Is it vendor discounts or referrals?
Find something meaningful that you can share with your network. And then get to work telling them.
I recommend you include language about referrals in a few places:
- Business cards
- Your invoices – always a great place to say “super thanks” for a job well done!
Make sure people are aware of your interest to grow your network and provide the them with something of benefit – be it cash, contacts or resources. Because if you can help those in your network achieve what they are seeking – I’m confident that you’ll land more referrals in the process.
3. Recommend others
Is there a way that you can show appreciation for those that have been great to you? That’s one of the secrets to staying top of mind – and getting your own referrals.
Refer other people!
So consider this – are there vendors that you work with that you love? Something that they do that provides consistent value to your customers? Ask them how you can help them get business through referrals. Are they looking for online testimonials? Do they need a character reference when new business comes their direction? Can you be on the look-out to connect them to others in you network?
The list is endless of how you can promote your network. I encourage you to build it into your regular business practices. Set a goal – each week or each month – to give direct referrals to those in your network who do amazing work for you.
It only helps set you apart as an amazing event planner to refer to others!!
Tell me how these tips work for you. Are there others to include?
I know as an entrepreneur we often cringe at the word “FREE” when it comes to our business, but I’m going to share something that can be very powerful for your long term brand – give away your best stuff for FREE and watch how you can grow your brand as you position yourself as an expert.
Now let me clear up quickly what I mean by what you should give away for free. You are NOT giving away your services to manage an event for free.
- Discounted – yes.
- Offering to do more for the same fee – yes.
- Free – NO way!
What I’m suggesting you give away for free are your best practices, ideas and the reasons why customers hire you again and again to deliver their events. Yes, I’m suggesting you blog or find some method of sharing your best ideas via a content management strategy with your business. It will help position you as an expert and allow your prospects to see why you are the best at what you do.
Because here’s the truth – they can read about all of the great ideas and suggestions you have for their events. But that doesn’t mean they have ability – either time, desire or both – to implement it.
And while you are worried that they are going to “steal” your ideas or worse someone in your industry “copies” it – you’ll be landing new clients and coming up with even MORE ideas.
Because here is what most people don’t realize about their website – it is the most powerful business development tool imaginable. If someone wants to learn more about you – send them to your website and let them spend hours learning more about why you are the best in your event category. You’ll spend less time on initial introductions and more time with qualified prospects who want to buy what you are offering – because they will have a clear sense of why you can solve the pain they have.
Now I’m clear – this idea I”m suggesting is not easy. I spent over 6 months last year writing, writing, and doing more writing for my own blog. Only the best articles made it to the site. But after 6 months, 12 months of sharing content, I am meeting more and more prospects that “get it”. They are easily familiar with what I do and I’m learning more about how to solve my client’s pains even more effectively. (How do you do that? Find out what pages are getting the most traction through your analytics and that’s a key indicator of where they need help)
So take the first step. Get started on writing your best ideas down. Get help from a friend on starting your own blog. And promote. Promote. Promote.
Well that’s a whole ‘nother post about how to spread the word. But you get the idea. Just get started!
Are you tired of “feast and famine” sales in your event planning business? I’ve got just the strategy for you to find ways to market your current events and land new clients – in the midst of keeping track of ALL of the details and operations!!
The brainstorm: A friend emailed me recently to promote an upcoming event where she is the featured speaker. Unlike most of her events, it was open to the public. I thought it was a smart strategy for her to invite her email list to share in her presentation and potentially land some new clients.
Now if you are thinking – I missed it. What’s so special about that? No worries. Her marketing was very subtle – but I would argue powerful in keeping her company name top of mind.
Here’s how you implement her idea to help market your event planning business:
1. Keep your email lists current
Do you attend networking events or meet people who might be interested in your business? Of course you do. But if you are like most, you don’t know what in the world to do with the business cards once you get home. So I recommend asking them on the spot if it’s fine that you add them to your event newsletter for update of events that you are hosting. (And if you really want to go the extra mile – send them something free in exchange). If you sense any hesitation – DON’T add them. But if they seem fine with seeing photos of your past events and finding out what you are doing – then add them when you get home to your current email provider.
Two categories I use regularly are “Entrepreneurial friends” and “Prospective Clients”. This makes it super easy to email them when the opportunity arises.
Every month look at your upcoming events – both those you are managing and those you’ll be attending. If the events are public (even if there is a nominal fee), send them out to your network. I recommend personalizing them as we all get hit with wayyyyy too many events and often want to know – why should I attend?
3. Capture photos and social media highlights
Yup in the midst of the logistics and managing the event – set a goal to capture TWO photos and send two Facebook or Twitter messages. That’s all. I know I know. It’s easy to get caught up in the details but one of your most important details needs to be YOUR business promotion. So spread the word while you are dressed in your best and can feature the quality of your work.
Write a blog, send a tweet, update your social media and/or email everyone. Even if you couldn’t attend (or capture photos), there is no reason why you can’t share with everyone how successful the event was. It’s a great way to stay top of mind.
This won’t end your feast or famine sales overnight. But it will keep you top of mind for your clients. And I promise that whenever you least expect it, you’ll find prospects reaching out to YOU for potential new events.
Start using Twitter to both follow AND meet industry professionals.
Oh the beast called Twitter. How do you meet someone you’ve never met in under 140 characters? Lol. It can be done. And I’ll share with you as one business owner to another – it’s a powerful tool to really establish your brand – both in your industry and in circles that you follow – trends, groups and associations you like, causes you believe in, etc.
I recommend that you challenge yourself to meet industry professionals on Twitter.
And don’t just follow them. Start a conversation.
Easy. Keep sharing something of value for THEM.
- If you are under 1,000 followers – Pick someone you want to meet in your industry. Check out Twitter lists like wefollow.com or other directories to find new experts.
- If you are over 1,000 followers – find someone that has engaged with you who has an interesting profile…and you haven’t spoken directly to them.
In both examples, don’t ask the person for anything. Find out some things that interest them – recent news, areas of interest – and share information that will be helpful to THEM.
One of the simplest ways to start this is RT a few of their links. Read their material and see what causes matter to them. Do you know any points of intersection? People you could introduce them to? Articles that you read they might find helpful?
I’ve done this several times and been pleasantly surprised when person reaches out to me directly. Often when they connect, we don’t have the awkward “Who are you?” dance. I’ve already learned some things about them and we probably chatted informally so they know something about me as well. Without trying hard, I’ve had contacts share coupon codes for events, freebies via a link, and the best one – advice on how to handle a situation I was dealing with. All because I continued to build a relationship by sharing something of value to the other person.
Building partnership and long term contacts takes some work to stay engaged. If you find out what other people value and stay interested in them, you’ll definitely stay top of mind for them!
Running a successful event business is not easy. You are in the industry where you meet contacts all the time – the super hot leads that land into new customers/clients and the lukewarm contacts – the ones that you know you SHOULD follow up with but often forget after the first meeting. Not that I would be telling on myself! Lol. The luke warm contacts though are often very powerful in your long term strategy. Keep them engaged and connected and they could turn into powerful allies or clients down the road. The challenge is juggling the day to day demands of your business while balancing this long term relationship building.
For the advanced networker, I recommend going straight to an email newsletter or blog. Start sharing information on a bi-monthly or weekly basis to keep your friends, family and networks in the know about your events, your successes, challenges and news you want to share. But when you are first starting, keep it simple. Here is one tip to get you started.
Email a LinkedIn contact
I’m sure most of you have a LinkedIn network. But how many people have you emailed/messaged your network in the past month? Especially someone that you haven’t spoken to in the past six-nine months. I started doing this recently. I made a commitment of contacting two people each month. People that I haven’t heard from in the past year. During this past month, one friend shared with me news about a new contract that she won. We celebrated. Another friend told me that her business had fallen on hard times and she was looking for work. We started brainstorming employment options, I reached out to someone in my network, and we both said some prayers to keep her positive. After doing this for a few months, I’ve moved up to reaching out to four or five contacts. I keep the bones of your email for most of the people that I reach out to and customize only a few lines. Keeps it personal yet also is not overwhelming for me. And yes, while I’m only staying connected with four people at a time in my network, I am taking the time to reach out to them individually. That’s what networking is really all about.
If you are like many service providers, you gain your business from word of mouth. Create an amazing experience for one client and they refer you. Design a great experience for the referral and they ideally will tell someone else.
The challenge is maintaining a positive relationship with the first client. I’m sure you have heard that it’s cheaper to keep an old client happy rather than gain a new one. (And if you haven’t, think about how much the lifetime value of one client is and it will make total sense)
But how to do you balance the demands of your current clients along with staying in contact with your former clients? It can drain both your time and wallet even if you see the value of maintaining the relationship.
I’ve got three easy steps to consider:
Send them a great thank you gift. Even if it is a few months after you finished the project.
I try my hardest to always thank my clients. But sometimes in the heat of planning several events, you forget. It’s fine to go back a few months later and send them the thank you note (handwritten) and a personalized gift. Get creative with the gift. Consider using some of the vendors who have helped you with other clients create personalized thank you gifts for your clients. Don’t just send flowers or gift baskets. Personalize it based on their preferences. One of my clients loves fine dining. I was always happy to send him a gift certificate to a leading restaurant in his area. Another was obsessed with the latest tech gadget. I found out a few stores that he frequented (aka had a personal relationship with the sales people) and got him a gift card. People will remember that you remembered them. So don’t worry if it’s been some time. Just send the thank you anyway.
Share relevant articles via email with a quick note
A good friend of mine was excellent about delivering articles via snail mail at least 2-3x a year. While I am not this good, I do keep article links and copies of information that I believe my clients will find useful and send it to them with a personal note to touch base. Not to solicit business. But just to touch base and see how things are going. You can get super fancy here and use contact management systems and send out birthday cards or other greetings. Or you can go simple and just send the link via email. Set up a schedule monthly to reach out to 10 clients at minimum and share what they will find important/relevant. It’s a free and easy way to say top of mind.
Share a free promo item – event ticket, tasting or some other free item they would value
Do you have an extra ticket for event opening? Are you inundated with free samples from a new promotions company that started? Consider passing along those items to your clients. It will cost you very little to send these items and it will go along way in staying top of mind – especially during the year when you don’t have time to reach out to them. And everyone loves free things! So I’m confident they will be delighted with the promo/swag you send them.
These are just a few teaser ideas for how you can keep your clients engaged – even when you are not working directly with them. There are hundreds of other low-cost ideas that would work as well. I didn’t even touch the area of social media and your ability to share links, contests and other fun promotions with your clients. So get creative and build in time during your weekly marketing activities to consider how to keep your clients top of mind. This way when it’s time for them to consider the event planner they want to work with – they will keep you and your company top of mind as well!