Front Line Feedback: Listen to your Delegate Sales team
Many event companies employ a siloed approach, with each department left to complete their own pieces of the puzzle, often without clear lines of communication between each. This can result in completely avoidable mistakes occurring, such as confirmed speakers and ‘grey area’ sponsors being approached as delegates, attendees who should be paying to attend being offered complimentary, VIP invites and so on. More importantly, early feedback signs from sales and marketing that the event needs some ‘fine-tuning’ shall we say, can be missed by the production and operation teams. What suffers the most due to this? Is it your event? Your reputation? Your ability to produce future successful events? The answer is all three, which is obviously not good for business.
Traditionally, other than marketing and sales getting into a bit of a melee over leads, the communication cross department can be minimal. Of course, many companies now have the sales and marketing branches working in unison to bring delegates on board. But is this enough coordination?
A delegate sales person is not a telemarketer; they are your front line, the lifeblood of your organisation. It is they who are employed to research and know enough about the subject matter to ensure bookings, so should be partaking in conversations with the target individuals your sponsors are paying to meet. Therefore, it is they who should be listened to as their feedback and information collected is vital, and can be used effectively if paid attention to. Ignore delegate sales feedback at your own peril. Whether its concerns regarding attendance price, dates or the program subject matter, this information (if taken on board early) can save an event. Constant cross department communication with delegate and sponsorship sales, marketing and agile, responsive production teams are key ingredients for a successful event.
Providing delegate sales for a number of diverse, cross industry events, for multiple event companies has put us in the unique position of being able to identify early on if an event is not going to be as successful as it could be, without necessary changes being made.
In one instance, we have had a number of potential delegates asking about a key topic of interest which seemed to have been completely overlooked in the agenda. The situation here could have gone one of two ways; the feedback could have been listened to and amendments could have been made to the agenda, new speakers could have been recruited and the potential delegates in question would feel empowered by making a difference, and most probably attend the event, along with others interested in the topic in question. Or, as what happens all too often, the feedback is dismissed as the production team have already carried out sufficient research and are experts, and besides, the agenda and speakers have been locked down for weeks - It would take a number of phone calls and emails to modify the program, as well as having to edit the website.
Luckily for us, our client trusted the feedback given and added a panel discussing the topic on to the agenda, and were even able to put on a sponsored workshop in an area they had not previously considered, opening up new lines of revenue that were actually appreciated by the delegate audience.
The same goes for competitor pricing. Gone are the days where event places were limited and you could charge large amounts for purely putting people in a room together. There are now hundreds, if not thousands of industry events taking place on a daily basis, in hotels and conference suites throughout the world. There are events launched every day by event companies and publishers looking to uncover a new market opportunity, attempting to find an area yet untouched by conferences with easy sponsorship opportunities. It is now increasingly difficult to charge delegates heavily for an event purely based on your reputation when there are others out there similar to yours; competition is everywhere. It is important to listen to what the market is telling you about event prices in this particular sector. But where do you find this information? It’s not as if you can open up the Financial Times and check the market forecast.
Fortunately, you already have the means to do this by listening to your sales teams. If they are getting repeatedly declined by prospects due to pricing issues, it’s not because the companies in question cannot afford it (and that is often the question considered, right before keeping the price fixed as it is), it is because there are other events in the ecosystem that, for whatever reason, offer more value. That is not (necessarily) to be taken as an insult to your particular event, only to inform you that there is a lot of competition and a different approach must be taken.
Be open to lowering your prices to a reasonable extent and you will still hit your targeted revenue by attracting more attendees at your new lower rate. Delegate retention is a sign of a successful event and growing your numbers will only lead to increased sponsorship revenue.
The delegate sales team is the department speaking to your audience on an everyday basis: Listen to them, be agile, and make reasonable changes to help them and your ratio of successful events will increase, as will sponsorship revenue, and your event content will be relevant, interesting and sought after.