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Special Events

Making the Sale with Corporate Events

Corporate business is big business, event professionals say. The readers of Special Events Magazine tell us that corporate events account for 35.8 percent of their total revenue from special events, the largest single segment. Further, more than 70 percent of our readers expect that corporate events will be one of their top arenas for growth this year.

But bringing home corporate event business means much more than staging a stunning gala. Corporate clients view special events as one more tool in their marketing arsenal. To win corporate business, event producers must sell events as marketing tools with a demonstrable payoff.

This month, marketing expert Tina Ruggiero gives insights on how event producers can position their services to corporate clients.

Special Events Magazine: How can events serve as more than "parties," but rather as critical components of a marketing plan?

Tina Ruggiero: When our agency coordinates an event, it becomes a personal selling opportunity for our clients. With this in mind, we create productions that have a measurable return on investment, introduce or remind attendees of a product or initiative, and reinforce brand aware-ness or image.

Q: What do you mean by a "personal selling opportunity"?

A: Event planning has so many more possibilities beyond hosting a group under a tent. Events can take place on a golf course, on a boat, on a plane-anywhere that is different and refreshing and fun. Any place that keeps our clients and their customers captive, that we consider a suitable venue. Personal interaction is what makes special events strong marketing tools. Our clients look at an event as more of a business opportunity than a party.

Q: How do you measure the return on investment for an event?

A: Our clients will look at the attendees: Have we brought their key customers to the event? Have we brought key media to generate publicity for our client? The event should ensure that the clients' message will reach their customers.

Follow-up also helps us measure the effectiveness of an event. With a new product launch, we like to generate customer awareness first; this makes it easier for the clients' brokers to sell to the customer. We will call the brokers to see if more leads have been generated because customers attended the event or read about the production in the press. Did our message help the brokers bring the product to the marketplace more easily?

Q: How can an event planner work with you?

A: We bring to the table the knowledge of our clients' strategic business goals, promotion ideas, creative tactics and a vested relationship with our clients' customers. We look to the event planner for creative, efficient execution of the event and results that are in synergy with each client's business goals.

The professional event planner will do a little research about my business. He or she will recognize that I work in the business-to-business arena.

Someone very professional will call me after mailing me information about his or her services. I read my mail! I like to read information first and then will follow up with a phone call with my questions.

If event planners can demonstrate some food-and-beverage event experience, that's great. Or maybe they will call me with a new service. Often I partner with people because I think that they are creative, open-minded and flexible. Then I teach them about what I do and what I need.

Q: What makes an event proposal strong for you?

A: Details make or break an event. I look for tiny elements in a proposal. They make the event a signature, one of a kind. If I see planning details, I know that the execution will also be well-supervised, well-coordinated and totally buttoned up.

Q: Please describe the relationship between yourself and the event planner.

A: In a sense, we form a whole. The event planner comes to with me with an out-of-the-box idea. I come to him or her with a client, a project and a tactic. Together, we coordinate our skills to create a unique event that leaves our clients with a lasting, positive impression.

Tina Ruggiero is executive vice president and general manager of the New York office of Lewis & Partners Advertising, a San Francisco-based food marketing communications agency. The firm's clients include Nestle, The Perrier Group and Tropicana. She can be reached at 917/754-7214.

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