For many of the events that I am brought in to launch, a key challenge is to create something that does not mimic others in that market segment. If you create a ‘me-too’ event – one that is not differentiated from everyone else in a substantive way – you are destined to fail.
But how can you become the top event in your marketplace? Here’s handy list of eight things that can help you kill your competitor:
1) Have a better relationship with your buyers than other events do.
Do you regularly call up your buyers to maintain an ongoing conversation about the challenges they are having? Do you engage with your on-site attendees? Does your staff telemarket attendees as part of their duties (there are multiple benefits for doing this)? Taking these actions will help gather data that improves your event, as well as demonstrating that you care about those constituencies who will determine your success. Events with a plan to do this regularly are the top events, whether they are big or small. And whether your attendees take your call is a test to how loyal your attendees are.
2) Make sure the decision makers of your top 10 exhibitors will take your call.
How? If they believe you have their best interests at heart, they will. Otherwise, you have some work to do. But if you happen to be someone who takes your clients out on the golf course, I’m betting your calls to them get answered.
3) Make sure you have a tighter P&L discipline than your competitors.
When starting an event, I ensure that an expert is quick to negotiate with the event venue (e.g. the hosting hotel) to eliminate any surprises and keep F&B on a short leash. Could your staff manage receivables as part of their responsibilities? At my first events job, I began by making collection calls to both attendees and exhibitors. I now have a good understanding of the value of cash flow and how it drives the event.
4) Consider this Litmus test: Does your staff enjoy what they do?
All events have an element of stress and grind, but, even with this consideration, does your staff enjoy ‘delighting the customer’? And not just in the customer-facing areas, but also with the ‘behind the scenes’ stuff that eventually makes its way into the event ‘product’?
I had a period early in my career during which the entire year seemed a grind. But I remember getting a wakeup call from a particular onsite incident, after which I learned to enjoy both the product of all my work, as well as the process. The work became much easier thereafter. And even if not always successful, at the very least, I have some great ‘disaster’ stories to tell!
5) Don’t copy your competitors on format, location, content – forge your own path.
The certain way to become a ‘me too’ event is to copy a competitor in terms of venue, content, location, speakers, etc. This is a sure way to kill your event at its inception, since it’s almost impossible to position yourself as better when you behave the same as everyone else. Take a chance and try something new!
6) Understand your market – have better market friends than your competitors.
Frequently, you find organizers who are already in a market (associations, media companies, etc.) and others who ‘serve’ the market, but are neither native to it nor understand it initially. The first type of company has the advantage, as they may inherently know what’s happening when things change. If you are in the latter category, what do you do? Get (or hire) the experts and make the friends necessary that will allow you to take advantage of opportunities before your competition can.
7) Develop useful content outside of your event.
Being a media company or association gives you an advantage here, since you can repurpose all kinds of content throughout the year, thus sustaining interest in your event. But I’m quite happy to report the death of the notion that you need to have year-round 24/7 content about your event and push it to your prospects though. If anyone is still contemplating such nonsense, just stop.
8) Understand the ROI that your attendees and exhibitors want – and deliver it.
This has been mentioned directly and indirectly in points 1) and 2). But do you know how many leads your exhibitors expect? Or what value your attendees expect to get? If you don’t know, how can you correctly market to these folks?
Here’s the ugly truth: Most events are lazy copies of the events they did the prior year. Don’t fall into that trap! It’s far better to be the hunter, not the hunted.
So, which are you?