How To Win Meetings And Events Planner Business

Lexi Tucker
Posted on February 8, 2019

(L to R) Bill Faeth interviewed Angela Layton at his LAB Live event in Nashville, Tenn. in April 2018 about the best way for operators to capture the attention of meeting and event planners (Photo credit: Blake Russell).

(L to R) Bill Faeth interviewed Angela Layton at his LAB Live event in Nashville, Tenn. in April 2018 about the best way for operators to capture the attention of meeting and event planners (Photo credit: Blake Russell).

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — You provide luxury ground transportation services unparalleled to any of your competitors, but can’t seem to get your emails or calls answered by the right people as you struggle to pursue contracts in the meetings and events arena.

Angela Layton, senior meeting planner for the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), spoke at Limo University Founder Bill Faeth’s LAB Live event in April 2018 about what you can do to remedy this problem. [LCT will feature coverage of the January 2019 event in future issues].

Shake Hands, Not Business Cards

Layton says when she meets suppliers, she’s not just looking to come back with a stack of their information. “If that’s all I would have done, I don’t think I would be volunteering where I am today on the global level. It really is about getting involved. Not only with an organization, but gaining those relationships and meeting those people you can connect with for whatever business, but also referring people to great providers in the industry as well.”

Building and fostering relationships with the people you meet should always be your main focus. It’s not a competition to see who can give away the most cards or branded knickknacks. If you present yourself in a memorable way, there won’t be a need to give them something to remind them of who you are and what you do.”

Event planners already deal with enough stress. Don't add to it.

Event planners already deal with enough stress. Don't add to it.

Provide Peace Of Mind

Annually, Layton and one other person deal with 120 programs. It goes without saying they have a lot on their minds; the last thing they want to do is work with a transportation provider who doesn’t have it together.

“I’m thinking about logistics and how I’m going to partner with vendors, and knowing I’m in good hands is key,” she said. “If I can source you and know everything will be taken care of, that your chauffeurs know where we’re going, and the best place to drop off and pick up our group, that’s half the battle. There are hundreds of checkboxes for me to account for per event, so if I know I’m in great hands then that will ease the final decision for us.”

If an operator can outsell competitors based on providing a logistics program that removes worry and builds trust for event planners, then they can probably have a higher price point, Faeth said.

However, this all relies on how well you communicate the value your service will provide. Layton said one of the biggest struggles is not knowing where someone will be picked up or who the chauffeur will be along with their phone number in case of an issue.

“We had a group in Montana going to Yellowstone National Park and we had four different minibus type vehicles,” Layton said. “Our provider would not give me the phone numbers for the four drivers. They would only give me the phone number of the person in the office because they didn’t want their driver’s information to be given out. That was stressful for me because if something happens with my attendees, I need to be able to communicate immediately, not call an office and have someone call a driver and then call me back.”

The Struggle Is Real

Helping event planners understand your product can ease their struggles. If they ask for a bus, they want to know what it looks like, its model year, and condition. “A lot of the time you’ve got great stock photos on your website, but if that’s not what shows up, then we’re going to have a big problem,” she said. “I’ve experienced that in the past, where you have microphones with wires hanging out and they don’t even work. It’s not until we’re on the bus that we know, ‘Oh, you can’t make announcements because there is no microphone.’”

This gets down into the details, especially seat count. “I once ordered a 55-passenger bus and once we got most of the people loaded on, I had two of my people sitting in the aisle because it didn’t have 55 seats.”

Driver professionalism is also a big challenge, she said. “I was hosting a tour in Arizona with our board of directors and their spouses, and the next thing you know the person giving the tour said, ‘Hello, are you the driver?’ And I turned around and he was hanging out with us during the tour. Then later, some more quirky things happened where he ended up kind of being the sideshow to the tour. We all know that’s not what I need in a provider.”

Price Versus Cost

The difference between cost and price is cost has value, while price doesn’t. Layton said while her association is budget driven, they won’t sacrifice quality for price. “Our members have been appointed by their governors to serve on their boards, and those boards are our members. So there’s some prestige in the types of members we have, and we have to provide them great quality service. So quality is definitely more important, but we have to stay within our budget as well.”

One way to express your value is by creating a visual package to present to planners. Although emailing this won’t work as well if you don’t have a relationship with the person you’re trying to reach, PDFs with information about vehicles and processes, as well as a video of your meet and greet process will work wonders.

Your website can also say a lot about your company. “When we go to websites, the first thing we look for is proof of product. Pictures of your vehicles, an understanding of your processes, the services you offer, driver professionalism, and knowing people will be dressed sharp when they get there. It’s proof of process and product we’re looking for,” she said.

Don’t Get Passed By

So how do you capture the attention of an event planner you want to do business with if you can’t get a warm introduction? Layton said everyone is different.

“For me personally, I keep my Facebook completely separate from my work life. So for me, that’s not going to be where I’m looking. When it comes to emails, if I don’t know who it’s coming from, I delete them pretty quickly because I get tons. If I get a piece of mail that crosses my desk that’s handwritten, even if I don’t know who it’s from I open it because I don’t get a lot of it. If it’s just a postcard I usually trash it, but if it’s something I think someone is using to try to personally connect with me, I open it.”  

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Related Topics: Bill Faeth, customer contracts, customer service, LAB Live, special events

Lexi Tucker Senior Editor
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