How do event planners get clients?
When starting out in the field, gaining clients is of the utmost importance to establish a solid foundation for your new business. That aspect is also one of the most difficult challenges with an event planning business. Consider the following options to help build your client base:
The best way to start building a portfolio is to volunteer your services to family and friends. You will feel more confident in working with the general public, once you have organized several events for people you know. Be sure to take photos and put them in a binder to show potential clients in the future. You can also use your photos for a digital portfolio to place on your website. To learn more about volunteering as an event planner, read this article: How to Volunteer as an Event Planner.
Launch A Website
You don’t have to be a computer wiz to build a website. Something as simple as WordPress and your own domain name is a great way to build authority. You can buy a domain and launch a WordPress site with a free template for less than $100 at HostGator. List your contact information, along with the services you offer, so you have a place to direct your clients when you receive inquiries. Post photos of the events you have done so your work is visible. Be sure to use keywords in your site description, such as all of the locations you service, as well as the services you provide.
Add A Blog To Your Website
Your basic website will have a few pages. You can direct people you meet to your website, but to get traffic in the long-term you’ll need more content. A blog is a great way to add regular content to your site. For topics, focus on the questions your target clients have. Brainstorm 12 ideas and you’ll have enough for one blog post each month for a year.
Become An Expert In Your Niche
When it’s time for people to organize events they usually search around for articles and tips; and if you can position yourself as an expert in your specialty there will be a lot of eyeballs on you. For example, when a corporate event opportunity comes up and they need to hire an event planner – the decision maker will most likely go online and read information about their type of event. If your specialty is in this category and you have information online about your expertise with freely available advice potential clients are much more likely to reach out to you. You can become an expert in a niche by:
- Writing articles on your own site
- Writing articles on popular sites that take user submitted content like About.com, eHow, Huffington Post, etc
- Posting Youtube short videos of you or your employees giving advice
Create A Facebook Page
Facebook Pages are very simple to create. Invite all of your friends to “like” it and ask them to “share” with their friends. You can also create ads inexpensively to grow your audience and give exposure to your services. Post photos, links to your blog and website along with any specials you are running. We will post additional articles in the coming weeks with tips on building your Facebook following in much more detail.
For event planners, business cards are a must. Hand them out to anyone that inquires or leave them in places where potential clients may gather, such as coffee shops or banquet halls. Give some to your friends and family to pass out to others that may be interested. Be sure to list your website, blog and Facebook links along with the description of your services and other contact information on the card.
Get Private Testimonials Or Endorsements From Your Targets’ Peers.
Sometimes your dream clients are hard to reach. But if you’d like to bust through their secretary’s keen defense mechanisms, the best way to do it is by infiltrating their network through other professional means. Build your network while simultaneously closing the degree of separation between you and your targeted accounts.
Some of the best ways to do this are to attend industry related events at which one of your prospect’s peers will be presenting or giving a speech. Because they’ll be a featured attendee, they know they’ll be meeting new people and networking a lot throughout the day. Which means they’ll be more open and receptive to you when you approach them to introduce yourself. There are also plenty of industry meetups, seminars, and happy hours you can attend in your city that may get you closer to your goals.
You can even do this online. There are plenty of avid LinkedIn users, personal brand developers, and social media content creators in the corporate world who make a point to be very knowledge and well followed. If you see that your dream clients like, comment, and share their material, make sure you’re doing the same. Because you’ve demonstrated interest in someone they love, you’ll also be showing your prospects that you share their values too.
Event Planner Marketing Strategies
In a perfect world, your event planning services should be mentioned in the first stages of a client’s event dialogue. To make this happen you need to be an effective marketer. Follow the strategies below to position your service in the minds of potential clients at the very moment they discuss hosting an event.
Build Your Online Network
The internet provides the largest network for generating sales leads, so it should come as no surprise you’ll need an attractive website and active profiles on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Each one of these online assets has the capability to drive unique prospects, but none of them are passive outlets. To reap the benefits of each one you need to participate in discussions, share your expertise, and join groups where you can leverage the assets of others.
Engagement is the key, and this is where those who try to “do it alone” often fail.
Go Public, Target and Advertise
Even the most qualified planner will struggle to land new clients without live exposure. This includes public participation at industry events and media appearances.
You might think it is difficult to land a spot on a television or radio show but often times it is as easy as submitting a great story idea to the producers in the form of a press release. It is not an easy job to fill a show with content every single day, and if you can approach the right person with a unique angle then you will have no problem getting your foot in the door.
Design your messages specifically for the consumer audience you are targeting. If you manage to find media spots, see if you can get yourself included in the times that are best to reach your market.
Help Those in Need
Donating your time to a worthy cause can open several new opportunities to gain new clients. A lot of non-profit events would appreciate having the expertise of an event planner available.
Even if you can’t commit to running their event, there are plenty of other ways to participate. Perhaps you can be in charge of the floral arrangements or marketing materials? Little tasks like this can bring exposure and allow you to network with others.
Non-profit advisors and committees are typically staffed by local dignitaries and business leaders, all of whom have the connections to drive large quantities of leads to your business.
Refresh Existing Customers
Sometimes we get so focused on landing new customers that we forget about the existing assets sitting dormant in our contact lists. Go through your contact lists, email, LinkedIn and Facebook contacts and ask yourself: Does each person on this list know what I do for a living?
Obviously, you want to reach out to those who are unaware to update them on your career, but you should also reach out to everyone you haven’t talked to in over a year. Let them know what projects you have been working on and give them the necessary information to refer business your way.
Savvy Ways to Promote Your Event Planning Business
As you develop your event planning business, it’s important to market in order to grow your client base. Following are eight ideas for advertising and promoting your event planning business:
Networking. For most planners, networking is at the top of the list in terms of developing a strong client base. Networking can help your business in two ways. If people have met you and know what services you offer, they may refer business to you or use your service themselves. Furthermore, networking with hotels, caterers and so on will give you a chance to meet some of the people whose services you may need as you plan events.
Advertising. Print advertising covers a broad range, from a free—or inexpensive—Yellow Pages advertisement to an ad in a glossy national publication costing tens of thousands of dollars. Most planners agree that an ad in the Yellow Pages makes good business sense. A line advertisement, simply listing your business name, is often provided free of charge when you connect your phone (if you have a landline). You can also opt for a display advertisement — the bigger, bordered ads in the Yellow Pages — but there’s a charge for these.
Don’t underestimate the power of this small but mighty marketing tool. Even in the computer age, a succinct, professionally printed business card is still critical. Consider it a diminutive brochure, especially if you opt for a tri-fold business card. Many planners opt for this business-card format because more information can be included than on a traditional business card, while the card remains small enough to be tucked inside a wallet or purse.
Informative brochures. Like your business card, a well-designed, professional brochure can help cement your image as a professional planner. Prospective clients will make judgments about your company based on your brochure, so make sure it’s conceived and produced at the highest level possible.
The brochure should include all the information listed on your tri-fold business card and allow you to expand upon this information, in particular, by adding photographs. The photos should be of successful events you’ve designed. You may also want to include a photo of yourself.
Maximize your chances of success by making sure your company brochure matches the type of business you have. All materials should look professional, but if you are marketing to a budget-conscious group, a too-glamorous brochure can send the wrong message—and send potential budget-conscious clients running in the opposite direction.
As with your business cards, leave your brochure with caterers, florists, photographers, and other vendors with whom you’ve worked.
Direct mail. You may choose to distribute your brochure via direct mail. If you do, make sure your mailing list is well chosen. Event planner David Granger says that while word of mouth is his most effective advertising, he uses mailing lists of the organizations his company belongs to (International Special Events Society, Meeting Professionals International, National Association for Catering and Events, and the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau).