Opportunity Knocks

How coronavirus provides an opportunity for local, low footfall venues to get on the corporate event bookers’ short-lists.

Hedges leading up to a front door
Photo: Getty Images

This column was set up to help venues capitalise on the high-yielding business of corporate events, advice on appealing to agencies, where to market and so forth; in essence understanding the needs of the corporate event booker.

The market, however, has been decimated due to coronavirus and the outlook isn’t good despite the 1 October reboot for business meetings and conferences. Corporates are struggling to get their people back to the office, they are looking at major reductions and restructures and are nervous about their duty of care towards their employees and partners. It doesn’t bode well for the corporate event market and, brave face or not, those big bucks from business bashes will be few and far between from now until spring 2021.

But regardless of this imminent diminished demand, venues across the UK are gearing their marketing to attract events back. ‘Don’t Zoom – get a room’ – ‘Event Ready’ – ‘Covid-Confident’ – ‘Heightened sanitisation’; the corporate and agent is about to be blitzed with sales messages, however, is the demand there? (and just how dirty were venues before?).

Yes, the entire event industry needs to encourage the corporate market back, but we are operating under new and emerging rules now. Natural daylight, all day tea and coffee and a buffet lunch no longer cut it – corporates want reassurances that standards and protocols are in place and their people will be safe. But what heritage venues also need to recognise is using a historic landmark or high-profile museum also means there will be a large footfall of other day visitors. The more people through the site, the bigger the risk.

Numbers through the door

So, if we are striving to encourage corporates back and help them with their fears around duty of care, we should in fact highlight how few people are going through the doors.

Whereas the quick turnaround of the high footfall landmark gallery or museum was the big ticket at the start of the year, it’s now all about marketing how few people pass through the place. The large national museums and even sporting stadia are sure to feel the impact first. After all, who is going to want to use a venue that’s had at least a thousand socially distanced people through its doors just hours before? For sure, big named stadia, iconic museums and unique venues could win business on their reputation a few months ago but the goal posts have literally changed.

Our habits and behaviours have shifted dramatically as exemplified by the supermarkets. We want local, low touch and we want to support small businesses. It’s a perfect time for venues who in the past have struggled to get a voice or a place on the corporates’ short-lists. Small footfall and the venues that perhaps haven’t had the biggest of voices are the ones that can genuinely capitalise on a market that will slowly but surely return.

Cleanliness and sanitisation are requisites to being able to open the doors for business but your differentiators are being local, using a local supply chain and above all not having the throughput of a big city site. Now more than ever it’s time to embrace your scarcity and, if very few people have heard of you or used you, capitalise upon it.


Andrew White is MD of Triggerfish Communications, a specialist in helping heritage venues and leisure attractions build awareness and market share in the business of events. www.triggerfish.co.uk



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