This educational post was provided by Rebecca Metzner from Trifecta Management Group.
We’ve all heard the saying “Good news travels fast, but bad news travels faster,” and that certainly rings true in the Group Sales world. We know that news of a poorly planned or executed event can spread like wildfire throughout the local community and can make it difficult to overcome objections. Avoiding 100% of negative reviews and comments is an unrealistic goal, as things out of our control do sometimes happen. However, we can certainly make a concerted effort to achieve perfection and, subsequently, promote all of the great reviews and praise that we DO receive. Harnessing your referrals and positive feedback is a great way to help build brand confidence in potential clients as well as loyalty in your existing ones!
Bottom line: The goal in Group Sales is to build business and the best promoters of your business are the people who have experienced your venue and had a wonderful experience. If there was a tool that you could use that would tell other prospective clients how great your venue was or how amazing the service was, or how much fun other guests had during an event, would you use it? How valuable would that be to you? The good news is that it exists, and it is free… but how to go about getting these referrals and positive reviews takes just a little bit of effort.
Make a Lasting Impression
First impressions are everything. From the way you answer the phone, to how you respond to an email, to how clean the venue looks, and even what is showing on the TVs and monitors when you do your walk-thru and during the event… it all matters! (And most of this is before the event even takes place!)
It is important that you “customize your event”—i.e., each party planner should feel like they are your most important client. Imagine you’re a client looking to book a 200-person corporate event for a new product launch. Upon entering the venue for your site tour, on the monitors you see your logo along with a welcome message. In the event room, your company colors are displayed in the linens and table décor. Although these may not seem like life-changing details, the client will notice, and this demonstrates the various customizations that are available to them for their event along with your attention to detail.
But don’t forget about the event itself. Clean, shiny banquet equipment and glassware, professionally attired event staff, and friendly, smiling faces can make a dramatic difference in the overall impression of the event for the event attendees but also the host. Of course, we know we must provide stellar guest service, exciting entertainment options, and out of this world food & beverage experiences as well!
Knowing that the venue itself (and everything inside) can and will be its own selling point is a major factor to keep in mind.
You’ve just completed a fantastic event. You made sure to be in contact with the host throughout the event to ensure that everything was going smoothly. You’ve heard rave reviews from guests about the food and service, and you’ve seen smiles from guests all night long. That’s great! Now what?
Add a step onto your final event close-out process to reach back out to the host in a formal (feedback form) or informal way. Not only will all the great details of the event be fresh in his or her mind to share with you, but it will also give the host an opportunity to discuss any potential issues that arose that you may not have been aware of and provide you an opportunity to remedy them immediately (in hopes of avoiding negative reviews). In that case, it is important to gather as much information as possible, relay the details to the operations team for feedback, and then get back to the client with a response as soon as possible.
Assuming you’ve received a glowing review, and the client was thrilled with the event, it’s time to take the next step. Even if the event is executed to perfection, we can always get better in our quest for perfection. After each event, conduct a post-mortem with the management team, identifying from your team’s perspective what went right and areas for improvement.
Ask for the Review/ Testimonial
It may seem awkward at first, but you never know unless you ask! Most clients are more than happy to leave a review on certain websites, or even just write a quick blurb about their experience in an email. If you are looking to increase your Yelp rating, for instance, you might want to include the link to your Yelp page in your email, or to Facebook or whatever platform you choose to use.
If anonymity is important to your client, ask if you could use their first name and last initial and perhaps just the type of event they held (Holiday Party, for example), as opposed to the company name.
Once you’ve established rapport with your client, and feel comfortable doing so, after the conclusion of a successful event, directly ask the client if he or she wouldn’t mind spreading the word about your venue and what a great time was had! As with most companies, various departments and locations host an assortment of events throughout the year, and this is an easy (and dependable) source for new leads. If the company is large enough, this could keep your sales funnel full for months to come, and that is just with intra-company referrals! Imagine how powerful this tool can be throughout your local community.
Share your Success
You did it! Great reviews and positive feedback should be shouted from the rooftops for all to see! Add a section to your website with testimonials, post a great review on your social media pages, and use these to your advantage when trying to secure a similar type of event. Clients like to know that ‘you’ve done this before’… so anything that you can have in your pocket that might help push them over the edge and to give them the confidence to book with you versus your competitor is a win!
We’re all in the business of selling fun, and nothing says ‘fun’ more than watching your event sales numbers grow through referrals that you’ve received from past (and current) clients. When you do receive a referral, let them know. Send a quick thank you note or even a small token of your appreciation (maybe it’s a gift card or a piece of logoed merchandise). A small gesture like this can go a long way and can help keep those referrals coming!
A final word
Reviews and referrals have the potential to make or break your Group Sales budgets. They can reiterate positive company and event experiences and contribute to additional revenues, or they can become burdensome obstacles when trying to overcome potential client objections. Again, it’s impossible to avoid all negative reviews and experiences, so how you leverage the positive ones to your advantage can really make a difference to the bottom line.
Creating a Great Event Experience is Your Best Marketing Tool
We know that a magnificent event consists of tasty food and drink, a fun, interactive activity, and friendly service. But what if you could turn your events into fully immersive experiences that engaged and delighted all five senses? One that leaves a lasting memory in your guests’ minds. When you can affect all senses, a magical experience can occur (think of your first trip to a Disney theme park). It’s possible, and it’s easier (and cheaper) than you think!
Your décor will be the first thing that introduces your guests to the theme of your event upon entry into the venue. While many venues are large, there are ways to strategically place and stage décor so that you don’t have to blow your budget out of the water while trying to decorate every nook and cranny.
Create décor vignettes throughout your venue to draw attention to specific areas. This can consist of large props or photo backdrops scattered around your facility. Spread out the décor to help create an all-encompassing environment from any angle. Bonus: Try to incorporate your logo and hashtags into photo ops/ backdrops for added brand exposure in client-posted content.
Small, inexpensive touches can also make an enormous impact. Adding lights, garlands, hanging décor (snowflakes, pumpkins, even event-appropriate colored streamers) or anything that will stand out from your usual environment will help to add to the overall ambiance. Don’t forget about your TVs and monitors- having seasonal or themed slides can really impact and help contribute to the décor without having to spend money on physical decorations.
Although the crashing of pins may be music to your ears, sometimes there’s just something to be said about hearing seasonally appropriate music throughout the venue, or even just in certain areas (perhaps only played near the photo ops) to set the tone.
Let’s say you’re planning a Halloween event, and don’t want to play (or hear) ‘Monster Mash’ all day long. That’s OK. Set-up a small lightning and thunder (and/or fog) machine near one of your photo ops and let the spooky sounds engulf just that area as opposed to the whole venue. Have a giant candy cane prop set-up for the holidays? Add a small sound machine positioned behind it that plays ‘Jingle Bells’, or better yet, have actual jingle bells out for guests to pose and play with!
Taste & Smell
Themed menus can really set your event apart! Put together a seasonal (or event-specific) menu of special items that continue your theme. For the Holidays, for instance, why not create a Winter Drink Menu consisting of a variety of hot and cold drinks that will appeal to both kids and adults alike? Items like Spiked Ciders, Boozy Hot Cocoa, and Peppermint Martinis for the adults and various flavors of Hot Cocoa for kids could really increase your incremental sales during the Holidays. What about creating a few fun add-on items to your existing dessert menu like Seasonal Holiday Cookies, Gingerbread Cookies, or Peppermint Milkshakes?
Smell is one of the most powerful senses when it comes to evoking memories. Cinnamon, for example, is one of those scents that has a very welcoming and calming effect on most people and can remind people of a fond memory of their past. Consider adding a bit of fragrance throughout the venue (being careful not to overpower) to continue to envelop your guests in the experience. If you bake cookies in-house, try to schedule those to be baked throughout the day so guests can smell them. Nothing says ‘welcome’ more than fresh baked cookies! It is also a terrific way to increase your cookie/ dessert sales! Who can resist that aroma?
Think about ways to get your guests to physically interact with your event or theme. Whether it’s a pumpkin carving contest during Halloween or a stocking decorating event during the Holidays, creating an interactive, engaging activity is a fantastic way to involve your guests in the event! These sorts of activities can be promoted on their own as stand-alone events or can be ‘included’ as a part of the overall experience. What about a build-your-own ice cream sundae bar for a birthday party? Or setting up an Easter-themed ‘jellybean’ bag toss game near your game room? Get creative! Anything that you can do to enhance your guests’ experience, and have them actively participate/contribute, will help to create lasting memories, and hopefully, bring them back again and again!
We are experience makers. We create experiences that our guests will remember and talk about for years to come. Through evoking the five senses, we’re able to instill lasting impressions with our guests and, in turn, create lifelong memories and return customers for multiple generations.