Emma Little, founder and CEO of ExecSpace, says venue finding takes effort and positive relationships, and agents can help.
Venue finding, it’s definitely not rocket science – it’s a simple business. In some ways it’d be easier if it was; we could create something unique/some cracking IP, but instead agents have the challenge of delivering something 100’s of other companies can deliver, whilst ensuring their service is better and different than the competition each and every day.
We’re only as good as our last event, hence why we’re heavily reliant on our teams performing exceptionally without fail, as there is always a competitor or a venue knocking on the clients door. Instilling a culture of constantly going the extra mile, applying practical human intelligence and doing the right thing over the easy thing consistently, is an absolute necessity. So, a simple business, but a complex one all the same…
And, that’s only part of the challenge – we’re assuming that the end client wants to use an agent. Because, let’s face it – there’s a few clients that have been burnt using agents in the past with expectations not met or managed, resulting in the client ultimately not understanding what value the agent can add. So, not only do we have to ensure our service is better and different from the competition, but we must – as agents – ensure our service is an easier, more efficient experience and more commercially beneficial for the client than dealing direct.
Now, I’m not saying we’ve not made mistakes. We’re good, but we’re not perfect. We’ve had members of the team take short cuts (i.e. emailing, instead of picking up the phone to negotiate) we’ve not performance managed staff that don’t genuinely ‘love customers and want to go the extra mile’ quickly enough and I’ve personally given team members the autonomy to resolve situations, when the appetite or full understanding of the situation hasn’t been there. What has been needed is me “Emma”, the CEO and Founder putting an arm round the client and situation. But we’ve never stopped trying, learning or listening to clients.
Many agents (us included) are too reliant at times, on relationship based clients – no contract, just doing business on the basis of how much the client personally values our service. This can be risky as we could be (although thankfully in our case, very rarely) be operating in parallel with another agent, dropped at anytime and there’s always the inherent risk that Procurement appoint another agent as part of a global programme and that revenue/income disappears overnight.
Operating under a contract where a competitive tender has taken place; is hugely advantageous to the client (event planner) and Procurement. Service level agreements will have been implemented to manage expectations at all levels – event planner to buyer. Delivering transparency to all parties involved – knowing who their people are, who is using the contract (and who is not), benchmarking realistic savings, achieving added value from the venues and most importantly introducing a best in class service line. This is without mentioning the consolidated payment solutions channeling all spend via one agency will bring to the table.
So how do we get to a place where the client has sufficient confidence in us that we are the agent they should be contracting with? From a competitor viewpoint, we must be delivering a service that event planners ‘rave’ about and genuinely enjoy and benefit from. We must be gathering data on previous rates, minimum numbers achieved, where contractual flexibility has been required so that we have the intelligence to drive best value, minimise contractual risk and return savings. We must also be taking the time to understand their businesses and become almost as passionate about their businesses as we are about our own (i.e. trusted partnerships). We must take the time to build positive day-to-day relationships with the event planners across the business – creating a team of ambassadorial key stakeholders, whilst building confidence with Procurement.
And, what if the client doesn’t like agents, instead preferring to deal direct? We must illustrate how our joined up buying power, trained venue experts and our robust relationships with the venues – means using an agent is a ‘no brainer’.
So maybe it is complex, but it’s a whole lot easier than rocket science. It just takes consistent effort, no shortcuts, forming positive relationships – based on trust and mutual respect, picking up the phone and a good old fashioned human expert service – delivering what we promise in the timeframe promised. Ask yourself, what are the reasons for not using an agent? None – everything to gain and absolutely nothing to lose!