Consider this: One of our clients hosts a corporate event each year in Sonoma, California. It’s an all-inclusive affair where every detail is conspicuously planned and executed. The daily itineraries include activities such as private wine tastings and tours of the region’s most iconic vineyards, member-like privileges at top private golf clubs and world-renown chefs preparing gourmet meals. It is the type of event that guests circle on their calendars in the hopes of being invited back year after year.
The individuals attending the Sonoma event represent approximately $100 million of our client’s annual revenue. In the months and years following our client’s inaugural wine country event, their annual revenue number has continued to grow—significantly. Do you think this event is worth our client’s investment? The answer is obvious, but not so obvious are the strategies our team utilizes to ensure the right guests show up to the right events.
As a marketing and events planning firm, we get asked almost daily, “How do I get the ‘right’ guests to attend my event?” This isn’t an unusual question or one in which the answer is obvious. Organizations often invest hundreds of thousands of dollars on corporate events and outings. And it is an investment, one in which it’s essential to have the right guests attend. At 54, we guide our clients through our “5 Prerequisites to Securing the ‘Right’ Guests” guide in order to ensure each event will meet its intended objectives and provide a real return on their investments.
- Think Bucket List
You really can’t go wrong when offering a guest an opportunity to enjoy a bucket list experience like the Masters or even the Super Bowl. The once-in-a-lifetime events which are most popular for corporate outings include:
- The Masters
- The Super Bowl
- Kentucky Derby
- US Open Tennis
- College Football National Championship
- Follow What’s Hot Now in Travel Trends
Your organization can also elect to build an event around activities/occasions in which your clients have expressed interest—golf, hunting, fishing and wine tasting are all very current and popular experiences. Some of the top trending destinations for these types of activities include:
- Private clubs and resorts such as Sutton Bay, Cabin Bluff, Pebble Beach, Pinehurst and the Boulders
- Trendy, exotic locations like Deep Water Cay, Meritage Resort and Spa, and the Dominican Republic
- Place Emphasis on the Guest Experience
Make certain each invited guest realizes that they are not simply attending an event, but also that you are inviting them to an experience. Consider including wow factors such as:
- The Hollywood Factor
Bring in a celebrity type such as an athlete, author or musician and make certain that your celebrity has a connection to your event (in our Masters outings, we typically secure a current or former PGA TOUR professional to spend time with our groups). It is also vitally important that the talent selected is aligned with your goals and your clients’ interests. For example, you wouldn’t want to invite a celebrity to a three-day Napa Valley wine tour who doesn’t like or have an interest in wine.
- The Exclusive Factor
Limit the outing size to increase the exclusivity factor. With a smaller group, the event is typically easier to control and will increase the amount of time spent directly with each guest. This will also enhance the sense of exclusivity. Some of 54’s most successful events have been limited to only eight guests and have included behind the scenes access.
- Pay Attention to the Invitee, the Inviter and the Invite
Developing the right guest list is critical. Another important consideration during the invitation planning phase is how the invite is delivered. The event needs to present a positive ROI. Other considerations and questions should include:
- How much business is the client currently doing with your company? Is there a significant opportunity for incremental growth? When considering a prospective invitee, is there a meaningful revenue potential? Are you negotiating a new deal with an existing client or prospect that your event could help in closing the deal?
- Who is the best person within your organization to make the invite? We advise our clients to have the invite come directly from the CEO or another C-Level executive for the most high-end VIP type events where key decision-makers are involved.
- Can an executive within your C-Level suite follow-up with a call after the invites have been mailed? This extra effort will add a personal touch and will assist in securing RSVPs. You may also want to let invitees know who else is on the guest list or has accepted the invite.
- Plan and Execute a Post-Event Follow-up
- The event host, preferable the CEO, should place phone calls or send handwritten thank-you notes to each guest.
- Prepare a follow-up survey that is emailed and personalized to each guest. In our case, we prepare and execute the survey on behalf of our clients.
- Over the following weeks and months, the sales team should leverage the event by scheduling sales calls with event guests, when and where possible.
- Special tracking mechanisms should be developed in order to track incremental sales growth which can be attributed back to the event guests. The RSVP list becomes a sales target sheet of sorts to identify sales activity by guest. This type of tracking can be developed using a CRM platform or other sales tracking methods.
The Wrap Up
Getting the right guest to your event has everything to do with creating and executing the right event. Effective corporate experiences and events, whether for clients, prospects, vendors or internal employees, can be an investment of time and resources. Each event should be created in such a way that your guests can’t afford to miss your outing for any reason. When an event meets all of the criteria of what your guests deems to be the right stuff, their attendance is almost guaranteed.