Every event is unique, but when you strip it down to the basics, you are left with a few key elements that form the foundation of any successful event. The venue is, of course, at the very top of the list. Without a venue, there is no space to hold an event. As a result, booking a venue is often the first step a client takes on the path to their perfect event.
Since venues hold such importance in the planning process, they are in a unique position to provide referrals to local vendors that they’ve grown to trust and respect. Thus, it’s in every event professional’s best interest to cultivate strong relationships with the venues in their market. It takes time to earn a highly-coveted spot on a preferred vendor list, but it’s well worth the effort as it can be a significant catalyst for bringing in more business.
In addition to the benefits you stand to gain, a good venue-vendor relationship is also a win for clients. The client experience is far superior when the event team is made up of professionals that have worked together previously and have a deep respect for one another.
The “why” of building positive relationships in your network might be obvious, but the “how” is where it can get tricky—especially if you’re trying to stand out from the crowd in a noisy market. Here are a few ways to ingratiate your brand with your favorite venues.
Stay in contact.
This is basic marketing 101. When you’re trying to sell new clients, it often takes seven or more touchpoints until they’re ready to make a booking decision. We need to remain top-of-mind so that our clients don’t forget our brand amidst their busy schedules; then, when the time comes to purchase, they’ll think of us. This may come naturally when seeking to attract profitable clients, but it’s also an effective approach when developing industry relationships.
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While you won’t be making sales calls, per se, you should think of treating your venue contacts like you would a prospective client. After all, you want to build the Know, Like, and Trust factor that will solidify for your relationship for good. This isn’t about sending out a form email and forgetting about them altogether; instead, keep a steady stream of touchpoints going with your local venues. Email them to share updates about new inventory, like their social media posts, call to congratulate them on a new award—you get the idea. Treat them like a close friend and you’ll earn the same treatment in return.
Make a partnership worthwhile.
A healthy relationship is rewarding for both parties, so don’t start engaging with local venues in a self-serving manner. Will you benefit from this? Sure, but they must also get something out of the deal. A great way to spur this type of partnership is to send business their way first. Become a brand ambassador for the venue and tell your referrals to mention your name so the venue will know who to thank for the new business. Referral traffic is a two-way street and, sometimes, all it takes is one to kickstart the flow of clients.
Another creative way to take a venue relationship to the next level is to suggest hosting a joint open house on their property. For example, if you are a designer, you may need a space to truly show off your skills. A local venue can serve as a canvas for you to showcase your work, while the property reaps the benefits of your prospective clients visiting their space.
In a similar fashion, caterers can propose tasting events, rental companies may offer some fixtures to live onsite, or a photographer might suggest bringing clients around for photo shoots. If you can provide a venue with real value—in this case, exposure to prospects—they will see that you have their best interests in mind and will be far more inclined to work with you.
Show up and be a great asset.
At the end of the day, venues only want the best of the best to work on their site. They have a good idea of the vendors that are professional, those that are notoriously late, those that go above and beyond expectations, and those that complain about the smallest of details. You can guess who ultimately makes it on their preferred vendor list.
Thus, it’s just as important to be a great team player on event days as it is to nurture your relationship outside of production mode. You can talk the talk during the week, but if you can’t walk the walk when the weekend rolls around, those thoughtful gestures won’t seal the deal. You must be recognized for your professionalism, attention to detail, and all-around willingness to work with others.
Quality of work is, of course, an important aspect; however, an industry newbie who is helpful and open-minded will garnish more favor than a skilled event pro with a bad temper. Talent can be improved, attitude not so much. Be a good sport when working onsite and always be prepared to offer a hand when you can.
The best venue-vendor relationships are those that are mutually beneficial, allowing each party to flourish and thrive from the support from the other. Although we may not be in the full-on live event stage just yet, it’s worth taking the time now to cultivate your venue relationships so you can hit the ground running when the industry reopens. Two heads are better than one, so go forth and see how you can build strong partnerships that will help revitalize your local market at-large and set your business up for a smooth recovery.