It’s lucrative – it’s oversupplied – it’s rarely understood. We go behind the scenes with Triggerfish’s Andrew White to understand what makes the event sector tick
Events can be a huge incremental revenue stream to an estate; but it’s imperative that everything is in place and some harsh questions are asked of yourself and your offering. Start with five or so compelling and unique reasons why your property would be good as an events venue then interrogate yourself again with ‘So what?’ – why should people choose you?
It’s a hugely crowded market place with a glut of venues available for public events, business conferences and personal milestone events. The ones that do it well and get the repeat business are realistic about their positioning, pricing and the type of guests they want to entertain. They focus on specific event types and the associated buyers rather than mass marketing and potentially attracting the wrong business mix.
The event market is often mistakenly perceived as a potential saviour to the costly business of running a private estate or heritage venue. The reality of helping a luxury brand launch an upscale product or put on weekly black tie dinners needs careful consideration; do you really want people traipsing through your house, do you have the infrastructure in place and are your suppliers a reflection of your standing? Knowing what you will sacrifice in terms of your own privacy to drive commerciality is key.
The market is buoyant – very, very buoyant. We need to thank social media for this; the immediacy of reaching people at virtually zero cost through online platforms is being echoed by bringing these tribes and groups together to experience the brand or product. Brands are creating events that will draw in their target audiences and these consumers are posting and boasting about their lives.
Immersive, experiential, brand activations may be the buzz words but drawing audiences together to interact is the age old premise of the event industry.
The market is broadly broken in to direct and intermediaries:
Corporate organisations – from FTSE 100 to SME’s holding company conferences, team-builds and Christmas parties
Publishers – with print media on the decline, publishers are looking for new ways to bring their publications to life
Professional conference organisers – events that target a market sector such as life sciences/technology
Associations – large scale congress or trade bodies or groups.
Venue finders and agencies – often a free service that is designed to make choosing a venue easier for the corporate client
Production companies – full service event organisers that will help design the event and its content as well as choosing the venue and the associated suppliers
Destinations management companies – targeting in-bound business and leisure guests for incentives and high yielding events
PR and brand activation – more often PR and marketing companies are creating events to augment the traditional print advert or editorial. Brand experiences are big business and the event sector is now part of the marketing mix.
Intermediaries are highly influential and an important source of enquiries as they are often mandated by a corporate client to manage and consolidate expenditure. All intermediaries are paid a commission for confirmed business, the minimum expectation is 8% + VAT commission on the contracted event.
When trying to get through to the decision maker, the intermediary market is much easier to navigate as these companies have built their business in organising events. Larger agencies may have a procurement department while with the smaller ones it may be a case of building relationships and being remembered. Consider there are thousands of venues to choose from and therefore these people have multiple calls every day. Be clear with your proposition, your ‘So what’ USPs, and be respectful of the agency’s time. Relationships count and people buy people.
The corporate market is more complex with events often being organised at various levels and across many different departments. The decision maker can range from a head of marketing, a member of the personnel department, the CEO or one of the PAs. The larger the organisation, the more likely it will be that a specific events or sponsorship manager is in situ to plan the events and face to face marketing strategy. Equally, the larger the organisation, the more likely an intermediary is in place to help consolidate and rationalise expenditure and ensure that the brand stays on track.
How to stand out
For anyone looking to compete in the event market it is key to have a strong brand identity and clear, defined USPs. The competition for venues and spaces looking to attract meetings, conferences, exhibitions, festivals and award ceremonies is increasing at an unprecedented rate; it’s no longer just hotels that can host a corporate powwow or a gala event. Sporting venues, museums, art galleries, municipal spaces and even shopping malls are looking to diversify their revenue streams. With a greater diversity of spaces on offer, it is imperative to have both a standout brand and differentiators that define you from your competitor set. Again, think ‘So what?’
With the imminent launch of Illuminate, a new multi-level exhibition space in the Science Museum, the venue focussed heavily on its brand identity and the unique offering to market – a game-changer for the industry. The addition of Illuminate to the venue’s portfolio of spaces enables clients to hold a daytime conference or exhibition before hosting guests in one of their immersive galleries in the evening – all under one roof.
This is a USP both logistically and in terms of event concepts, saving planners the hassle of organising multiple venues while delivering a one-of-a-kind experience for attendees in a unique environment. Illuminate ties into the spirit of innovation and invention that the museum embodies as a whole.
Your identity should scream across your website, your collateral and digital media to reinforce your messages and your people should live your brand values. If you want festivals, then don’t dress your team in suit and ties, equally if you want the corporate banking sector, replicate how the market does business.
How can I engage with the market?
Word of mouth and personal recommendation remain the biggest influencers in choosing a venue. Case studies are an ideal marketing tool to showcase your venue. However, ensure that you have client permission to use their event and also their name. Many corporates are still media shy and strive hard to keep their event spends out of the public domain.
There are also organisations that exist to drive best practices and act as marketing consortia. Unique Venues of London, EVCOM, Meetings Industry Association, Outmess and HBAA are good resources as they provide opportunities to network with buyers and also have websites to help amplify your messages.
Social media is today’s way to engage and the rise of Instagram gives a huge opportunity to show off your venue. We as an agency have noticed that Twitter is increasingly used as a complaint tool while LinkedIn engages with serious buyers. The one commonality is the use of #eventprofs – a hashtag that engages corporate and agency event planners.
Historic Royal Palaces’ recent launch of their highly anticipated Kensington Palace Pavilion heavily utilised social media to build anticipation and drip-feed information about the new venue. By including the event hashtag on their