If you’ve tried to break into the corporate event planning market, then you know first hand that marketing yourself as a corporate planner and finding clients, is quite the challenge.
Aspiring event planners and peers in the wedding planning industry often ask how I got into corporate planning and for advice on how they can do the same.
I knew early on in my career that I wanted to do corporate planning because I had a mentor in the industry. My strategy was to find a job where I could meet as many people as possible and really take advantage of a large network. My first job was working for a Chamber of Commerce. The job was busy with a number of events and with a wide variety; my skill set grew significantly in this position. After I had some experience in the industry, I took a leap of faith and opened my own boutique corporate planning business, Event Boutique & Co.
Although it always sounds easier than it is, building a business from scratch is no easy feat. For me, persistence is key. Its hard, but getting out there and just letting everyone know what you do is the first step. I find that going back to basics has been the best strategy for me — connecting with people in the industry. I make cold calls, ask for meetings with key people in the industry, and repeat. I explain what I do and discuss how my services could benefit them. Having said that, I choose to meet with people that my services really make sense for. I don’t try to sell myself or push my services. I try to create win-win situations. I meet with people that truly benefit from my services.
For example, sometimes organizations have a full-time planner in-house, on an annual salary, when they only have three annual events in one peak period. Their in-house planner may have a peak down-season, yet still receive a full salary and benefits. Does that really make sense for the organization? In some cases, it might.
Those are the details I digest with my clients, and I try to focus on timing…timing is everything. The person I meet with sometimes doesn’t contact me for a year. But, when they need that help, they have my contact information and the introduction has already been created. This process is tough and you can easily be discouraged, but I encourage you to repeat, repeat, and repeat! Keep an open mind and stay positive. And if you need an occasional pep talk from your significant other, or a strong cocktail to keep up your encouragement, I’ll cheers to that!
So, what kind of events do corporate event planners, plan? I plan anything from award recognition galas, conferences, golf tournaments, learning seminars, product launches, and more. I love planning galas because I enjoy the opportunity to be creative, and often when it comes to conferences and other events, décor isn’t always a priority. When I plan a gala, décor is always a major component. It’s something a bit different, and it’s nice to change it up.
When I am not planning corporate events, I occasionally plan fundraisers for the few not-for-profit clients that I have. I plan a number of fundraisers which gives me more variety. I love a challenge and fundraisers force me to be really creative when it comes to stretching a budget. I also enjoy being resourceful to create ideas for revenue generation. It’s a very rewarding process when your work has a direct impact on people.
In terms of advertising, I haven’t purchased any paid advertising. I blog consistently on my site to become a resource for those planning corporate events. I also take every opportunity to guest blog or get my business and name out to the public by being featured in different places online.
One of my favorite resources online is Elle & Company. I follow them closely and they produce a number of blogs for growing any small business. I am also apart of a group, The Rising Tide Society. It’s a group of “creativepreneurs” who believe in community over competition. This group has helped me meet a number of amazing local entrepreneurs, and it has really helped my business grow. The group gets together once a month locally and discusses a different topic (whether that be SEO, blogging, accounting tips) and we all share what works best for us. “A rising tide makes all boats rise”.
If breaking into the corporate market is something that you’ve really been wanting to do, I encourage you to go for it! I hope that my story encourages you to keep going and staying positive. Good luck!