Corporate Hosting: Ways To Wow Your Clients

Certainly the lavish dinner BMW put on to launch its new top of the range ‘7 Series’ recently set new pricing levels in this country with guests paying $795 each to schmooze with the ex-president. Tickets sold out in 10 days and the success of the occasion, which event manager Pip Richards says “took on life of its own”, surpassed even the organisers’ dreams. Linking the charismatic statesman with the luxury BMW was clever marketing ploy which has had more to do with future value than selling cars on the night.

“The aim of the event was to get the 7 Series out there and celebrate its arrival, and that worked well for us,” says BMW’s Matt Spencer.

“We were also able to forge and strengthen BMW’s relationship with our customers. But being able to associate BMW with someone of such high profile who shares so many of the qualities of the 7 Series brand – intelligence, innovative thinking and high profile statesmanship – has been very successful and that’s provided ongoing value.”

Value-added benefits are becoming an increasingly important element of functions and events and Ian Fraser, managing director of Corporate Host, says that while growth in the market is steady, corporate clients are now more discerning with their spend. “We’ve also noticed that they’re looking for more variety and choice so there’s need to provide different tiers and levels of hospitality, from boot parties to fine dining.”

Fraser says the Clinton dinner set new levels of pricing in this country but our market is immature compared with overseas.

A top tier rugby package here stands at $450, the same thing in Australia is $1200 and people will be paying $2500 per person for corporate hosting at the rugby world cup final. “Our market is value driven and it’s tight. People here demand good value and that’s fair,” says Fraser.

Be it lavish entertainment or an inexpensive thank-you gift there’s continual demand for new and effective ways to wow clients, reward staff and build relationships. The market has attracted many new players in the past 12 months – forthcoming events like the America’s Cup attracting major interest from event management and promotional products companies, keen to capitalise on the opportunity.

The reasons why it has become more important or necessary to offer treats brings variety of responses from companies. Competition plays role – not just in the market place where there are more companies pursuing the same customers, but also in the workplace where retention of good staff is essential.

Tim Lofts, strategy and business development director for Carlson Marketing, says face-to-face relationships aren’t built across desk or in presentation. “It’s about building personal level rapport which forms the basis for future dealing. For smaller company that might mean latching on to larger event, for others it might be creating an event of their own. It’s hooking back to the brand and how you want to be perceived,” he says.

Coming up with new ways to do that might not be necessary if you’ve already found formula that works. When Management magazine and global accounting consultancy Deloitte teamed up to host the Top 200 Awards it was seen as good opportunity for two parties with common objective.

Deloitte originally worked with the magazine to sponsor listing of its Top 200 Companies compilation. Management wanted to tap into Deloitte’s auditing expertise to verify the figures and Deloitte was looking for strong branding opportunity. What evolved was the Deloitte/Management magazine Top 200 Awards which 13 years later continues to thrive as high-profile event and well-managed relationship. Each year the two companies and an expanded group of linked sponsors host prestigious awards dinner for 700 of New Zealand’s leading business executives. The event acknowledges management excellence and winning performance and gives Deloitte an even stronger branding opportunity.

Linking to another party with common objective can be powerful marketing tool. The key is mutual reinforcement of needs and objectives. With common audience to satisfy and an agreement on standards of delivery, everyone in the loop is likely to benefit.

Staging an event and deciding how best to reach and captivate your target (whether that’s your own staff or existing and prospective clients) requires careful research and some inventive and innovative thinking. The job might not be best managed in-house. Taking staff away from their normal duties to arrange an event or function is often not cost effective and an increasing number of organisations are using event management companies for their expertise and access to good deals.

But the list of general rules stays the same whoever the manager and whatever the occasion, reward or incentive, and identifying some key elements can smooth the process.

The ‘wow’ factor
This is considered the most essential element of any function or event. Ensure what you are offering is unique to the recipient. fresh member of staff may be won over by food hamper, flowers or dinner voucher. But worldly director or manager may need to be wooed with more inventive package. Know the target and what will work. Secrecy can provide clever and inexpensive wow factor. Anticipation over venue or exact theme adds an element of surprise and excitement.

What are the key objectives?
Depending on what you want to achieve, it is sometimes better to employ an outsider to identify your objectives. An independent may be able to more clearly distinguish the aim, how best to execute the strategy and measure the outcome.

Successful events and hosting opportunities have been well researched and developed in close relationship between organiser and client.

Liz Holstead, of Events by Design, manages broad spectrum of events – from small conferences and office parties, to major incentive trips. She sees value in providing companies with specialist knowledge and experience.

“Often when these things are managed in-house by people who are also trying to continue with their normal duties, the outcome isn’t as successful as it should be and that can be damaging. There is nothing worse than badly managed incentive or event – you lose more than you gain,” she says.

Budget and theme
Size, venue and programme will all be obvious after the budget is set. How to channel the spend may not be as simple – will the destination or venue be enough to wow the guests, should the money be spent on top entertainer or speaker, or what could provide the unique element that will capture your target.

When Cathy Cunningham, director of Empire Events, took on the job of managing the launch of Cadbury World, the chocolate company’s interactive museum and factory tour in Dunedin, the invitation – block of Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate with special wrapper – set the tone for the whole event.

While sometimes the theme can be obvious, coming up with an original idea to treat standard event provides more of challenge. For Lisa Hopkins, events and travel director for Carlson Marketing, it comes back to the wow factor.

“It’s creating something unique that makes the person feel special and that they have had memorable experience. Travelling and having fun as group means we can create unique events in destinations they’d never dream of going to. Or even using places that the average traveller is familiar with, but creating exclusive and rare opportunities can really work. Like going to Singapore and taking over street in Chinatown, we theme the whole thing, provide entertainment and make the entire event exclusive to the group so those people going in feel the experience is all about them,” says Hopkins.

Each event or hosting should be seen as part of company’s marketing strategy and factored into the full marketing budget. Blowing the budget on one event isn’t uncommon and there are many stories of companies spending so much money during the

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