Even in today’s economy, the oldest and newest forms of marketing are the most effective methods in gaining new clientele and creating happy employees. What is the oldest? It is having an event! The newest method to increase clientele obviously involves the internet. So why would events still be hanging on after so many centuries? If we think back to what has helped define cultures, often it would be events. We know that coliseums are nothing new because history quickly reminds us of that. People have a need to be brought together in a group situation.
Why would a business have an employee or client appreciation event in rough economic times? We know that marketing is something that should continue in any economy and likewise, employee satisfaction should be pursued as well. The first response people in business often have is that they would feel guilty about having a celebration after you have just laid off employees. More than likely when you have just made those heart-wrenching decisions, you do feel badly. I would ask that you examine how your employees who were retained really feel. They probably feel overwhelmed by the additional tasks and wondering if the axe is going to fall on them next. If it has been a tradition to have an event for employees or clients in the past, you risk having people doubt the viability of your company or planting thoughts that things must be in really bad shape. Mark Twain wrote, “The best way to cheer yourself up is to cheer up someone else!” I would recommend a “Things Will Get Better Party” or a “We Appreciate You More Than Ever” party. If you are afraid that having an event will make it look like you are spending money unnecessarily, you can always tie an event to a charitable organization that looks like a sincere partnership. Events mean business!
This year I heard about a department of a large corporation that had cancelled their annual event. A realtor heard of this and invited them to her annual client appreciation party. These guests were very surprised and happy, and who do you think that they will likely remember when they need a realtor? She let them know it was more important than ever to have an appreciation party.
Don’t fall victim to the “AIG effect” because that is exactly what you will be, a victim. You are probably aware that soon after some of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) money was released, there was a lot of press coverage about an event AIG sent employees to. What was not reported, was the fact that only four or five people attended and they were not among the higher ranking people of the company. They were agents! AIG was not even putting on the event, and this was an event to honor outstanding agents who had performed very well. I’m not defending AIG, but there is always a story behind a story. This press resulted in a knee-jerk reaction that devastated a very large industry not only in our country but around the world. Almost immediately, 60% of all meetings that were booked as corporate events at various venues, were cancelled because of the fear of it creating a bad image. The hospitality industry had been hit hard enough by the 9/11 attacks, then soaring gas prices and this was one more punch that they did not need or deserve.
So what is happening now? Are companies going to opt again for tele-seminars in 2010? Are these companies who cancelled travel and used technology to take the place of an event (thinking it would save face and money) going to go the same route again? You might assume so, but the answer is, “No!” They, perhaps for the first time, realized that without an event, the impact of their message and the employee and client morale were diminished. Their goal was simply not met. So the meeting industry, as a result of some hard-fought battles, is coming back. This also includes trade shows which are great at keeping a businesses current with the latest and greatest. Think of the expression, “I guess you just had to be there!”
I have my own theory as to why events are so effective in helping retain employees or clients versus other methods that have come and gone. It is helpful to think of the many ways that children, and adults for that matter, learn and use new information. Some people are dependent on visual methods to help them learn something quickly, while others have to hear something to easily remember new material. Some people learn best by diving right into something through a hands-on experience. An event can appeal to each of the five senses, sight, hearing, touch, smell and of course taste which is usually everyone’s favorite! An event provides a unique opportunity to make an impression on future or current clients and employees on multiple levels just as people learn in different ways.
Years ago, when majoring in elementary education, we were taught to employ severaI methods to reach each student in a way that they had the best opportunity to retain information. Let’s think back to the five senses again. I would add a sixth “sense” for events. I guess I would name it “Quiet”. I like to recommend that my clients include a space that becomes a quiet area for those who don’t like the commotion, whether they are hosting a company picnic, a seminar, symposium or even an important meeting. The same goes for personal celebrations such as weddings, anniversaries and many more. This space can be an extra area such as a hallway or breakout room and can increase the presence of your educational materials about your business, community or see another side of whomever is being celebrated. The benefit is that you will have someone’s undivided attention in an environment in which they are comfortable. Humor is also a great teacher as well as being a great equalizer. Employees benefit from getting to know each other in a different role away from the daily hierarchy. When a person becomes “human” intimidation can be eased, and employees might feel that they are respected on a different level.
Events are experiences. In our industry, we care equally about ROI (Return on Investment) and ROX (Return on Experience) and we must have accomplished both to feel that we have been successful in doing our job. This makes me think of themes and decorations. A lot of people think that this is all unnecessary. However, when people recall an event, they are going to immediately get a visual image in their mind. Why not make it a message that continues long after the event?
Here is a puzzling fact. A good Event Planner will save you money, yes, save you money! Your employees will be able to do what they do best and not build up resentment from planning an event. If it is not in their job description, watch out! We have access to vendors (that you will more than likely need anyway) but we are given some very generous discounts that we can pass along to an individual, business or community.
We know of venues that no one else is aware of and some of those venues are eager to give wonderful discounts to get you through their doors! An Event Planner will lead you to the type of venue best suited for your event along with other vendor services that most people don’t even know exist. A caterer is a caterer is a caterer is simply untrue and the list goes on!
Where do you start to plan an event and what should you include? Events are not a piece of paper in an envelope to just be tossed out, nor are they an email that can be easily deleted. I don’t know of many people who toss out an invitation without looking at it. Instead, they are more likely to immediately create a mental picture of the event. The invitation is really the welcome mat to any event. In the event industry, we know that if there is music at an event, people will stay longer. We know that people are more likely to show up if there is food. I’m sure that we have all heard the response, “If there’s food, I’ll be there!” If you add in a fun or unusual activity or even something as simple as a raffle, people are going to take an interest in staying longer which equates to many more good memories that will be created. Good memories can be translated to retaining employees or getting clients to feel like your business is a place where they feel at home and appreciated. That really is the bottom line!