Making a Trailer Will Lure Visitors to Your Venue

hollywoodLights, Camera, Action!  These are the 3 words synonymous with the film and screen industry. All the movies from the big blockbusters like StarWars to the small independent films use this same phrase at one point or another.  However, unlike the movie Field of Dreams when Kevin Costner says “if you build it they will come,” movies require a ton of marketing and pre-release promotion in order for them to be successful.  Well before the curtain goes up, tickets are printed, and the popcorn is covered in butter, the movie executives are heavily promoting their film to generate buzz and get people excited about the premiere.  One method that seems to work really well is the trailer.

The term “trailer” is defined as an advertisement or a commercial for a feature film that will be exhibited in the future at a cinema, the result of creative and technical work. The term “trailer” comes from their having originally been shown at the end of a feature film screening.  That practice did not last long, because patrons tended to leave the theater after the films ended, but the name has stuck. Trailers are now shown before the film begins.  Most trailers usually last 3 to 4 minutes and they have become a standard within the industry because although short in time they can have a big impact drawing people in by giving them a taste of what a movie has to offer.  You might be thinking, what does this have to do with my venue?  Well, probably more than you think, so keep reading.

Thanks to the advancement of technology this slick marketing tool is now accessible with anyone that has a smart phone or tablet and internet access.  As you look at ways to differentiate your venue from your competitors you must answer the question what makes us unique.  Is it the facilities you offer or maybe your location?  Is it your friendly staff or a master chef that prepares meals at your site?  Once you answer that question, take your phone or tablet and create a short 2 to 3 minute video making sure to incorporate the things that make your venue special.  Once you have a video completed, upload it to Youtube and make sure you share it through social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, or Linked In.  If a picture is worth a 1,000 words, a video is priceless.  You don’t need to be Steven Spielberg to create an interesting video, but here are a few tips you might want to consider before you start shooting:

  1. At the Google Play Store or App Store you can check out all kinds of video apps that will help create a professional looking video.  There are number of free apps that will do the job and the following link to Tech Insider does a really great job of listing some different video apps along with their pros and cons.
  2. Don’t wing it!  Make a plan of what you want the video to capture and the feeling or emotion you want the visitor to feel.  I like the idea of creating a storyboard to map out each scene.  This also helps with organizing your team if you decide to make one of your staff a star.
  3. Tell an interesting story that is specific to your venue.  Does your venue have a special history?  Is there a fun menu item that only your chef can offer?  Avoid showing boring, empty meeting rooms unless the meeting room has a neat story to tell.
  4. Get a customer testimonial since this provides a simple method to add credibility to your trailer and provides a real world example of what your venue can provide that others can’t.
  5. Keep it Short!  You are not making a sequel to Ben-Hur.  If your trailer runs over 5 minutes, it’s time to do some editing.
  6. Invite some colleagues to watch it before you upload it to Youtube or share with your social media channels.  An early release, screening can provide some good feedback and give you a chance to make changes prior to your premiere.

For little to no cost you have no excuses to not try to create a short trailer for your venue.  In this case, like the Field of Dreams movie if you shoot it, and share it, they will come.  Now dim the lights and let’s get this show on the road.  Quiet on the set!

Firing Your Customer: When Good Relationships Go Bad

customer-obsessedWithin the meetings and conference industry your customer retention percentage is a great barometer when it comes to measuring the strength of your business.  A high customer retention rate means the customers are satisfied with your venue and choose to come back again and again.  A low customer retention rate is usually a red flag indicating that customers are unhappy and are choosing to go elsewhere.  If you want to learn more about how to measure your customer retention you might want to check out this Inc.com article that gives you a formula you can use to find your customer retention rate.  I’ve seen retention rates as high as 90%, but the average tends to hover around 70% to 75% for conference and meetings venues.

However, what happens if you have a customer that books your facility on a regular basis, but requires way more resources and time for the trouble?Can you fire your customer? Absolutely, and you should before things get worse.  First, I think it’s important that we define what I like to call a toxic customer?  It is the individual or group who has become a total drain on your resources and tends to cause major headaches and stress for you and your team.  They are constantly making last minute changes to the menu or schedule that requires you to bend over backwards to fulfill their demands.  When the group leaves you realize for the amount of time and energy that you spent catering to this group, you’re actually losing money every time they show up at your front door.

Here are some ways to make sure you avoid these toxic relationships as well as ways to get out of them if you find your venue has a few customers that fit this description:

  1. Define your perfect customer by identifying the person or groups that are pleasant to work with while at the same time generate the most revenue and seek out more groups that fit this profile
  2. For a new customer, take the time and do some online research and contact some of the venues that have hosted their events in the past to know what to expect
  3. For existing customers, refer them to another venue that may be able to provide a better fit for their needs avoiding the uncomfortable meeting where you tell them they are no longer welcome
  4. Review your contract make sure the client is fully aware of your parameters, limitations and additional costs that could be assessed well in advance of them arriving at your venue ie over-time for staffing

The 80/20 rule, known as the Pareto principle and named for the economist who developed what’s formally called the law of maldistribution, recognizes that in any group, 80 percent of the results come from 20 percent of the participants. In business, that means 20 percent of customers account for 80 percent of sales, while another 20 percent account for 80 percent of problems.

Your job is to focus on the profitable 20 percent while not getting consumed by the demands of the costly few. To accomplish this balancing act, listen to the discontented so you can right wrongs wherever possible.  But for every minute you spend putting out fires, spend four minutes nurturing your most content and profitable customers. Otherwise, you’ll tilt your business toward those who may never be entirely happy with your business.  As the 50’s crooner Neal Sedaka put it so eloquently in his hit song “Breaking Up is Hard To Do.”  At least now you have some ways to make breaking up with your customer a little easier.

Using Disconnected Systems Will Impact Your Bottom Line Period

connection-portNo if, ands, or buts about it your business is suffering if you are using multiple systems to manage its day-to-day operations.  The time it requires to jump between different software to find information or run a report is time wasted.  Think of it as those elements of your business that fall through the cracks never to be seen or heard from again.  The fact is that we are human and humans make mistakes especially when we are left to fend for ourselves out in the wild business jungle.  The problem is that when these “user errors” occur on a frequent basis it will take a toll on your business from customer satisfaction to missing revenue that you will never be able to recoup.

There is a spectrum within the conference and events industry that most venues fall onto.  At one end you have a venue that is doing everything by hand.  This venue usually has a large, physical calendar somewhere that is managed by the Director that no one else can touch.  The piles and piles of paperwork make filing and information tracking a full time job.  Some venues fall in the middle where they are using a home-built system, but still have their manual back ups pieced together like a new age Frankenstein.  MMM Fire bad!!!  Finally, other venues are using a variety of commercial systems but they are totally disconnected and require a lot of time to manage.  In every case, the information you need to efficiently run your business is scattered and inaccessible to the people that need it the most ie your team and other support staff that need to make important decisions right now.  What is the best way to fix this issue and turn your venue into a well oiled machine?

The solution is to secure an all-in-one software system that can pull these elements together in a central place.  By securing a system that connects the vital parts of your business together such as scheduling, contracting, billing, and reporting, you can eliminate these inefficiencies and finally streamline your operations.  The less time you spend chasing information the more time you can spend on other higher priorities such as your customers or generating revenue.  Here are a few areas where a centralized solution will help your venue:

  1. Increases staff productivity since your team can quickly locate information when they need it the most.
  2. Improves customer satisfaction now that you have the ability to identify their likes and dislikes before they show up at your front door.
  3. Support services such as security, catering or housekeeping will have access to the upcoming schedule helping them prepare well in advance and avoid any last-minute surprises.
  4. By having the billing in the same system as scheduling, you will never miss any charges and avoid costly invoicing errors.
  5. You can start to make more informed business decisions now that you can see the big picture from one system.
  6. Monitoring your staff’s comings and goings will help you hold employees accountable for their actions while on the clock.

You don’t need to be a technological genius to get things moving in the right direction.  The team at Event Guru Software has the expertise and technology to get your venue back on track.  It’s time to get connected and improve your venue operations once and for all.  Contact an Event Guru Software team member at info@eventgurusoftware.com and we can discuss the options that work best for your future plans.

Time is Money: One Method to Measure a Software System’s Return on Investment

8805012-Time-is-money-business-concept-background-Stock-Photo-clockWhen you start looking into investing in any new product or service the question of whether or not you will see a return on investment or ROI will come up in conversation usually with the finance person or your boss.  It can be a difficult question to answer if you are not prepared.  Before we get into any formulas to figure out the ROI it might be good to define the term.  Wikipedia defines Return on Investment (ROI) is the benefit to an investor resulting from an investment of some resource. A high ROI means the investment gains compare favorably to investment cost. As a performance measure, ROI is used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment or to compare the efficiency of a number of different investments.  In purely economic terms, it is one way of considering profits in relation to capital invested.  Obviously, you want a positive ROI which means your decision to buy that product or service has paid off. Ideally as you continue to use the product you would like to see the return come back over and over again building up your revenue stream.

Well, now that we know what an ROI is how the heck do you project whether your investment will bring a high, low or no ROI?  As the saying goes, “time is money.”  For software, the basic premise is that the time connected to the administrative workload should decrease significantly since the processes will be managed by software thereby freeing you up to focus on other priorities.  How do you go about tracking time spent on your work activities?  You could make a guesstimate, but it might not be as accurate.  One idea is to create an old fashioned spreadsheet listing out a full work week (Monday – Friday).  Add column titles like activity, start time, end time and total time.  Before starting any tasks or activities go to your handy dandy spreadsheet and mark it down including the time it was started.  For example, maybe you create contracts for your customers by hand.  Include the activity name as “contract” and add the start time and end time in the corresponding columns.  The last column should show the total time spent on this one particular task ie start time 2PM, end time 3pm, and total time 1 hour.

After filling in your spreadsheet for an entire week you will start to see patterns on the spreadsheet and sections of your work day where you spend most of your time.  For any tasks that can be automated or streamlined by a software system such as contracting, scheduling, invoicing and reporting (which is usually the one activity that can take up the most time and brainpower) make a note of it or highlight it with a different color.  Finally, add up all the sections that you have identified or highlighted that could be automated and take that amount times your hourly wage.  This will give you a total amount of time and money it takes to complete those pesky manual administrative tasks.  I would take the total for the week and multiply it by 4 weeks to get a monthly figure and multiply that by 12 months to see an entire year.  I bet you will discover that anywhere from 20% to 35% or more of your time is spent doing busy, administrative work.  Time that could be easily recouped if you had a system that is able to automate these activities.  Time better spent on chasing new business opportunities or tending to your customers’ needs.

What is the point of doing this exercise?  Well here are a few reasons why this is worthwhile:

  1. The information collected can be used as justification that investing in a new product or service is fiscally responsible and not doing anything is fiscally irresponsible
  2. It enables the finance department to ensure the organization is getting value for their money
  3. You can accurately measure the success of failure of a project with this information

We have proven the theory that time is money and now that you know how to measure it you can leverage this information to secure a new software system that will not only make your working life simpler, but also help you achieve your business goals to increase revenue this year.   The rock band Pink Floyd seems to have encapsulated the idea in their song Time. Imagine you are sitting at your desk, their song comes on and right at the top the song starts:

  • Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
  • Fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
  • Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
  • Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.

Well consider this blog posting your sign that shows you the way to a better use of your time and spaces.

Nine New Year’s Resolutions For The Motivated Conference Professional

Times SquareAs we look at closing the books on 2016 and starting a fresh new chapter in 2017, have you given any thought to making some resolutions for your conference and event business?  It’s fun to reminisce about your past successes, but it can be a bit more challenging to identify what needs tweaked or revamped to continue to build onto your success into the future.  Here are a few ideas that you might consider adding to your list of business resolutions:

1) Share the Workload by Delegating

There are so many things to do when you’re running a conference office, it’s easy to delude ourselves that we need to do all of them. Then we wonder why we’re so tired and frazzled and have no time to do anything else! Let someone else do some of the tasks for a change. Delegation is the key to a healthy work-life balance.  Need some tips on the best way to delegate?  Check out this story and learn some simple steps that will help ensure you can delegate successfully.

2) Promote, Promote, Promote

Too often the task of promoting a business slips to the bottom of the to do list in the press of urgent tasks. If you want to attract new customers, you have to make promotion a priority. Make a New Year resolution to hire a marketing expert, or take the time to create a marketing plan on your own and follow through.  Check out our friends at Unique Venues for some expert advice and guidance on this topic.

3) Make business planning a weekly event.

Planning is vital if you want a healthy, growing business. Business Planning lets you take stock of what worked and what didn’t work, and helps you set new directions or adjust old goals. So why do it just once a year or once a quarter? Set aside time each week to review, adjust, and look forward – or even better, make business planning a part of each day. Not only will this help you avoid costly mistakes and stay on track, but you’ll feel more focused and relaxed.

4) Join a new business organization or networking group.

There’s nothing like talking to other business people for sparking new ideas, refining old ones, and making contacts. Whether it’s a group specifically designed for networking or an organization dedicated to a particular type of business, in person or over the internet, making the effort to be a part of a group will revitalize you and your business.  We recommend the Association of Collegiate and Conference Events Directors International or ACCED-I as a resource to expand your professional circle within the collegiate conference community.

5) Give something back to the community.

There are all kinds of worthy organizations that make a difference in your community. Make a New Year’s resolution to find a cause that matters to you, and give what you can. Make this the year that you serve on a committee, be a mentor, volunteer, or make regular donations to the groups in your community that try to make the place you live a better place. And those that give get.

6) Put time for you on your calendar.

It’s so important to take the time to recharge and refresh yourself; a healthy work-life balance and your business’s success demands time out. All work and no play is a recipe for mental and physical disaster. So if you have trouble freeing up time to do the things you enjoy, write time regularly into your schedule to “meet with yourself” and stick to that commitment. If you won’t invest in yourself, who will?

7) Set realistic goals.

Goal setting is a valuable habit – if the goals lead to success rather than distress. Resolve that the goals you set will be goals that are achievable, rather than unrealistic pipe dreams that are so far out of reach they only lead to frustration.

8) Don’t make do; get a new one.

Is there a piece of equipment or software in your office that’s interfering with your success or something that you lack that’s making your working life harder? Whether it’s an old fax machine that’s a pain to use, or the need for a new software to automate your work load, stop putting off getting what you need. The irritation of making do just isn’t worth it. Event Guru Software can help you keep this resolution, so check out their website to learn about their cloud based solution.

9) Stop Beating a Dead Horse…

All marketing campaigns aren’t going to be perfect, all sales methods aren’t going to work for everyone, and all suppliers aren’t going to be ideally suited to your business. If a technique or a product or a business relationship isn’t working for you, stop using it. Don’t invest a lot of energy into trying to make the unworkable workable. Move on. Something better will turn up.

A Simple Way to Attract New Conference Business By Bundling

bundle_0With another year almost under our belts this is a good time to reflect on the good things and not so good things that have occurred over the last 12 months.  This is also the perfect time to consider looking at different ways to attract new customers to your venue.  One method is to look at your business and see where you have the ability to make some minor tweaks that could turn into major gains.  One solid idea is to consider adding a complete meeting package to your pricing options.  What is a complete meeting package or as the industry insiders call a CMP?  Basically, it is a per person rate that combines the meeting, eating, AV, and/or sleeping costs together into one convenient package for your customer.  It is similar to the tactic used by those large satellite TV companies such as Dish and Direct TV where they give you 800 channels with the premium channels thrown into the deal.  Another example is Subway’s meal deal where a customer can grab a six inch sub, soda and chips for one low price.  Regardless if your are a sub shop or a conference center the secret to introducing a successful meeting packaging strategy involves bundling your resources/services together in a way that clearly offers your customers a special incentive such as a price break they wouldn’t get by purchasing the items separately.  Here are some reasons why the CMP is worth considering:

  1. Most professional meeting planners prefer this option since it makes the billing simpler and all around is more convenient when planning an event
  2. The perceived value is higher since you are packaging multiple services together into one
  3. Many organizations that plan conferences will only look at venues that offer this type of package pricing which could open your venue up to new customers and market segments you’ve not been able to break into previously
  4. It virtually eliminates the nickle-and-diming perception some customers tend to gripe about because everything is included in the per person price
  5. You will experience a jump in revenue because more items are getting purchased all in one go
  6. This is a business strategy that doesn’t cost you anything to introduce, so what do you have to lose?

Now just because you start offering a CMP don’t think your phone will start ringing off the hook.  You need to make sure you promote this offering through social media outlets, B2B functions, website, and your blog of course.  Also, for those existing customers that are unfamiliar with the package option it’s worth educating them on some of the benefits this new option offers that the more traditional A la Carte pricing doesn’t.  You may find that your existing customers might also prefer this option which indirectly increases your customer satisfaction levels.  Finally, if you are a venue that only offers day meetings you may opt for a DMP or a Day Meeting Package which simply removes housing from the pricing equation. For more information about the CMP check out this article posted on the Meetings and Conventions website.

Playing the Procurement Game: Using Sole Source Contracting To Get The Software You Need

Check Mate!
Check Mate!

When looking at making any sort of purchase at your venue, especially software, it can be a daunting endeavor no doubt.  The purchasing process is like the game of Chess, strategy is key to winning and knowing the rules are critical to your success.  The hoops you need to jump through or committees that need to be convened in order to secure a software system can dissuade even the most seasoned professional.  A typical request for proposal or RFP can take months or years to organize providing you with little time to implement a system once, or should I say if, a decision is ever made.  Are there any other options that exist when it comes to avoiding a painful requisition process at your institution?

You might consider investigating a sole source as an alternative for a few reasons.  First things first what the heck is a sole source anyways?  A sole source is usually defined as any contract entered into without a competitive process, based on a justification that only one known supplier can fulfill the requirements. For example, only one particular vendor can meet the business needs of the organization.  When it comes to information technology in particular, it is one of the most common sole source procurement contracts awarded due to the unique nature and business compatibility of the solution.

I realize a sole source may not work in every single situation.  For example, if the product/service you desire exceeds a certain threshold established by the organization or institution, you may not have any choice.  However, if you have done your due diligence and know there is really only one solution that meets your needs and falls under a cap this is a solid option.  Besides getting what you want, the other benefit is that a sole source can significantly reduce the time to secure the product or service.  As they say time is money and if your business is struggling to manage its growth the months and months that it takes to go through a formal RFP could have some serious consequences.  It also requires less work for the procurement manager making this a win-win for everyone.

Now that we covered the basics, what is the next step?  Contact your procurement department and ask about sole sourcing.  You will want to find out what, if any, threshold may exist as this will be important to know before you get to far down the road.  The procurement manager may have some sample sole source contracts on file to help get things moving.  Finally, make sure you do some homework as you will likely need to provide justification for the sole source.  The vendor you want to work with is a great resource, so get them involved as they can provide a good amount of information that will improve your chances of getting the contract approved.  If you follow these few simple steps the procurement game is one you will master and walk away a winner.

Debunking The Top 4 Excuses To Not Make A Switch To A New Software Solution

redtape
How Can I Get Anything Accomplished With All This Red Tape?

In your ongoing effort to improve your business and customer experience it is inevitable that you will come across naysayers when you start to look into adding a new software system.  As we indicated in our last post having a cross-functional team is an important early step in the process because it takes into account a variety of viewpoints and operational needs.  We also find it helps with building up support for this type of project.  However, trying to appease a formal or informal committee can be very challenging since humans are preprogrammed to find comfort and security with a familiar working structure.  Any “threat” or proposed change to their current work environment can create push back, delay your progress, or, even worse, sabotage your plans. Knowing this we’ve collected the most common road block excuses you will encounter as you move to build a coalition of change at your venue.  We have also provided the best ways to handle each excuse so you have a response you can use in the event you come across these situations.

  1. “This is how we’ve always done it” – Just because your office hasn’t made any changes in a long time doesn’t mean you should continue to keep things status quo.  The old adage you don’t know what you don’t know seems appropriate and may be a good one to use when you get this excuse. We can appreciate the successes of the past, but don’t let them keep you from reaching your future potential.
  2. “There is too much red tape”–  I find larger organizations or institutions can be very bureaucratic and tends to require following certain established rules.  However, by doing some legwork and getting buy in from key players at your venue you can avoid any delays that maybe caused by red, green, purple, yellow or blue tape for that matter.
  3. “We are doing fine with what we are currently using” – I will admit that this statement does have some merit, but it doesn’t take into account how much better things could be by implementing a new software system. Change is scary and many people will sacrifice progress for complacency. As your competitors continue to steal your business and clients, it’s no time to become complacent.  Consider doing an internal assessment and see where you could be managing things more efficiently.  Once you nail down specific things in your business that need some attention you will have a much better sense of what needs to be changed.
  4. “We don’t have the resources to make the switch” – With cut backs and what upper-management like to call lean working strategies these days, the resources of yesterday have either dried up or moved onto greener pastures.  You may no longer have a team of IT experts at your beck and call to assist with implementing a new system.  Fortunately, thanks to technological advancements and the cloud this is no longer a prerequisite.  Most SAAS systems are set up for rapid deployment and since they are stored off site the resources that used to be needed to back up the system or provide support are no longer necessary.  You may not have the resources you once did, but that is no longer an issue as companies like Event Guru Software have been able to adapt to the changing working landscape by providing a cloud based product that is budget friendly.

The Secret To Finding the Right Software System Is Not So Secret

secret
Guess What I Heard?

Psst did you know that all software systems are not created equal and that is what makes finding the right software system a challenge especially for conference and event professionals.  However, if you follow some simple rules the experience of searching for a system should be more productive and, even better, you will eventually get a system that is going to fit your specific business needs.  Here are some important things to consider as you set off on the journey to find a software system:

  • Create a cross-functional team and do an internal assessment of what systems you are currently using and list the good, the bad and the ugly about a particular system
  • Survey your staff to find out what things related to their jobs they feel could be improved or streamlined and identify what content and processes you want to manage more efficiently
  • Create a wish list of features and functionality and categorize them as requirements, desirable, or nice to haves
  • Investigate whether or not there is a special requisition process when it comes to making an investment in software ie need to go through a bid or RFP
  • Meet with in-house IT resources (if you are lucky to have this type of resource) and identify any potential limitations that might exist with the current infrastructure
  • Call up a few colleagues within your professional circle and find out what system they use and what they like about it
  • After researching via a vendor website narrow a target list of no more than 3 possible vendors to be considered
  • Schedule a time that works for your team to participate in a product demo – Be sure to provide the vendor with a few specific scenarios to follow making it more relevant to your day to day operations
  • Choose a solution that has the most potential for your short and long term business goals
  • Finally, work together with the vendor to create a realistic schedule for the implementation making sure it does not conflict with other previously scheduled projects as you will need resources to dedicate to this phase of the project

If you follow these few basic steps it will help to make for a positive experience for you and maybe get you some brownie points with your boss.

 

 

What can a Mime Teach us about Software Scalability?

mimeLike a mime that goes to the trusty trapped in an invisible box skit, the feeling like the walls are closing in on you is common especially for many users of server based commercial and home-grown software systems.  The key to avoiding your business from being trapped in a software’s confined area is scalability.  Wikipedia defines scalability as the capability of a system, network, or process to handle a growing amount of work, or its potential to be enlarged in order to accommodate that growth.[1] For example, it can refer to the capability of a system to increase its total output under an increased load when resources are added.  The fact is that your venue will likely change over the next few months.  You will add new inventory or resources to your facility.   The catering manager will add a dish to your menu guide or you will acquire more audio visual equipment.  Change is going to occur so having a system that can easily adapt will ensure you can efficiently manage this growth.  Without a system that can scale you will quickly find that your venue may start to feel the pressure of creating work-arounds that could impact the integrity of your data.  The most important thing to ask when looking at software is will this system be able to  accommodate my growing business.  Don’t become the mime that gets trapped in an invisible box and free your business from the constraints of a software system that will not keep up with your evolving operational needs.