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March 20, 2007
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WHAT HOSPITALITY: A night at the opera or a day at the races?




Over the last month we’ve written quite a bit about corporate hospitality.

We’ve questioned whether it is worth doing (CORPORATE HOSPITALITY: Does it work?) and cast aspersions over the sentiment behind it (THE SWEETENER: The other side of corporate hospitality).

Yet we’ve also found out that parties on the Thames are on the increase (Growth in hospitality on the Thames) and that you don’t necessarily have to go for the obvious (Great value Bafta night).

But the BIG question is, what kind of hospitality event should you choose and why?

“The key thing that corporate hospitality is good for is opening up and nurturing relationships with people,” says Robin Carlisle, managing director of event management and marketing company Mobile Promotions, which has its own corporate hospitality arm. “Each of us has interests, work and lifestyle choices that can be tuned into to develop hospitality experiences that inspire us. By applying this knowledge to your prospects and customers, you can earn the relationships or work you are looking for.”

Make an effort
You can be as cynical as you like about corporate hospitality, but at the basic level it’s all about putting in thought, time and effort with people in the hope of getting something back – we’re talking simple social skills here. And for your hospitality event to work, that’s exactly what you have to do.

“Location, budget, brand values and the work and lifestyles of prospects and customers all need to be taken into account,” Carlisle stresses. “One client might be looking for a celebrity encounter at a sporting event, while others might be turned on by the best seats at a football match.”

Meanwhile, Chris Zachar, senior operations manager at events company Grass Roots, emphasises the benefits of choosing something new and current. “Find out what is coming up in the next 12 months,” he says. “If it’s a big or popular event, then media coverage is going to increase its profile and, therefore, make it more appealing.”

Meet your aims
It’s also important to keep the purpose of the event in mind. Is it to create awareness, build your brand, secure sales, or just work on nurturing a strong business relationship? If you can develop a corporate hospitality experience that suits both your objectives and your target market then you’re on to a winner.

And don’t be afraid to look beyond the obvious sporting event. As Zachar is keen to point out, this is not the only kind of hospitality available. “Perhaps you can be a bit more creative, such as attending the filming of a reality TV show,” he says. “It’s also worth considering events that don't have a high profile. Not only are they more likely to be better value for money, they may also help to ensure that the atmosphere is a little more relaxed.”

Ultimately, the main deciding factor is your audience. “Just like some sports suit some people, or certain foods are enjoyed by some of us, we don’t all have the same interests or taste, and if you misinterpret your audience, your message and relationship building techniques will fall on deaf ears,” says Carlisle.

Has it worked?
Of course, hospitality events tend to be far from cheap, so it’s vital to find a way of assessing how effective they have been. This is where external help can prove invaluable.

“We have a formula we work to with clients which plots the progress from initial enquiry through planning, budgeting, the event and evaluation,” explains Carlisle. “We also have simple but helpful records of our client’s individual hosts’ details matched to their prospects/customers’ details and their respective likes/dislikes and lifestyles choices. We pre-plan each year’s programme for each individual host/staff member, together with their budget. We regularly update this information and review our processes and their budget allocation, and together with our client’s senior management, we evaluate events, spend and results measured in feedback and sales performance.”

A great example of successful audience targeting is Mobile Promotions’ Ladies' Spa Visit & Relax events. “We know from feedback from our clients and from their guests/customers (some directly to us) that these events have made massive improvements in client relationships and have opened up presentation and sales opportunities that would have taken weeks of sales effort to achieve without the event,” says Carlisle.

Done properly, corporate hospitality really can be the ultimate in customer care.


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