Thursday, June 14, 2012

Capitalize On a Successful Event with a Flood of Referrals

By Heidi Richards Mooney

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If the first, most important outcome to hosting an event is that it is a SUCCESS, what is the second most important outcome? Like any endeavor, one success becomes the model for future successes. To get to that end result (which, in my mind, is really the beginning), there is another crucial component to staging a world-class event. And that is the front and back-end promotion. By that I mean cultivating referrals from your clients/vendors/attendees. Promoting your services for other events to this base of referral business requires careful, strategic, ongoing planning. You could turn one event into many with the right marketing mix. It's the personal attention, the details and the relationships you build that will create this flood of referrals.

Gather Information
Create information cards that will be your resource for referrals. The cards should be completed for both clients and vendors. Vendors can be a great source for referrals and should be treated with the same care and personal attention as the clients. Information on the cards should include:

  • Names and birth dates of family members
  • Wedding anniversary and other special dates such as the # of years in business or with the same company
  • Interests of each family member to include hobbies, talents and accomplishments
  • Place of employment of client and spouse
  • Special designations, offices or memberships of client
  • Corporate client cards to include information of your contact within the corporation and the CEO
  • Birth dates of key personnel within the company
  • Any annual celebrations the company hosts

If you are a meeting planner or planning a meeting for your company, ask your client/colleagues for an evaluation immediately following the event. If you are hosting an event for a nonprofit or other type of organization, ask all stakeholders (volunteers, staff, interns) for the same.

Handle any complaints professionally and proficiently. Do not allow time to lapse before addressing. Make it brief and concise. Send the evaluation with a thank you note. Be sure to include a self-addressed stamped envelope.

Ask one or two open-ended questions to elicit candor. Ask the client to be open and honest about all aspects of the event you were involved in. Handling and correcting complaints quickly will solidify the relationship and increase your chances of working with the client in the future. Remember the statistics, which imply that when a complaint is handled quickly and favorably, 87 percent of those who complain will do business with the "offending" party again. You've worked so hard to get that client; in most cases, it's much easier to keep a client than find a new one.

When appropriate, it is also a good idea to send an evaluation form to your vendors, eliciting their opinions of the event, and be sure to include a "ways to improve" comment section.

Send thank you notes to your vendors, catering and sales professionals, volunteers, staff and any and all of those that may have had a hand in ensuring the success of the project. Thank you notes go a long way, especially when you find yourself in a jam at one time or another. If you have been doing this for any length of time, you probably have needed to find a last minute replacement for the entertainment, photographer or speaker. You know the importance of appreciation.

Once the event is over, while it is still fresh in the minds of your client, ask for a testimonial or letter of referral. Happy clients are happy to oblige. However, they may be very busy and when too much time passes, they may forget. If you do not receive the letter within a week or two after the event, follow up. Graciously ask them if they would not mind you writing the letter for them, and fax or email it to them. Tell them you use these letters in your promotional kits and their testimonial would be greatly appreciated. Busy people are happy to accommodate your requests when you make it easier to do business with you.

When you implement these strategies, you will receive the accolades, rewards and referrals that will lead to future successes!

Read two other articles on this topic: How to Increase Attendance at Your Events and The Best Time to Evaluate Your Event.

Heidi Richards Mooney is a Professional Motivational Speaker, Business Coach and the Author of seven books including "Rose Marketing on a Daisy Budget ~ How to Grow Your Business Without Spending a Fortune." She is also the Publisher of WE Magazine for Women. Stop by to get a FREE copy of Chapter 1 and 2 of "Quirky Marketing: 365 Ways to Promote Your Business Using Zany and Non-traditional Holidays" today! 

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