Guest Invitation Strategies for Major Hospitality Events
One of the most critical components for a successful event-based hospitality program are the guests of the host company—the key customers, agents, dealer representatives and consumers who are attending the event by invitation. These attendees are usually the lifeline to doing more business with the host company, or have earned the right to be at the event by performing at a very high level. It is a pretty logical tenet that your hospitality program will only be as successful as the guests you invite, yet it is amazing how many companies do not have a process for identifying and selecting which key customers to host at a major hospitality event.
In my previous “On Top of Your Game” column, I spoke to the practice of measuring hospitality programs, so that a company can effectively show how that critical sponsorship asset is working (or not working) to build the client’s brand and its business. Well, the key component of program measurement is none other than the guests of the event themselves. For example, for our clients’ upcoming Olympic Games programs, we will have our clients’ guests registered in distinct databases, so that we can monitor their attendance and needs during their stay. Not only do we have a thorough profile of who they are, we also know their role with the hosting company, their importance to the company, and their preferences for the event. So with all of the emphasis placed on invitations being distributed on time, guests properly enrolling in a registration website (custom developed by SportsMark), and overall guest communications and perceptions, there should be an equal amount of importance placed on how these people come to be invited guests in the first place.
In addition to selecting the “right” guest list, it is critical to establish benchmarks that you want to achieve with this critical VIP customer base in attendance. If our clients’ programs are focused on the right guests, it makes the prospect of measuring the success of the hospitality program more strategically relevant and projectable to future business initiatives for the client.
At SportsMark, we look at several pre-event screeners and recommendations to help clients think through this incredibly important process:
• How do we get the “best” customers to your event program—can we identify who they are by region? Why are they the “best”?
• Establish the right selection criteria for invitation
• Invitation allocation and rationale: what are the expectations from both the host company and the VIP customer?
• How can we help clients improve the “take rate” on acceptances to ensure that the key customer accepts their invitation and not a competitor’s invitation?
• Develop an on-line guest invitation and enrollment platform to simplify management. This also establishes a “tagging” system for all attending guests for future research, analysis and correspondence.
Whenever possible, we recommend that our client and SportsMark jointly develop an invitation management strategy that will ensure higher levels of on-site impact and long term business value for the client. This strategy would work to remove emotional bias from the selection process. Too many times the same people are invited year after year, or company salespeople will invite the customers that they like the most, instead of customers that are most important to their overall business. The key is to rely on pure analytics to “tier” and prioritize guests based on established goals. A well thought out guest selection plan will let you get closer to the right decision makers that are critical to success, allow for longer upfront planning timelines and better lead times for guest confirmations, and enable you to secure the guests you want most on your program. Ultimately, it will create a much tighter protocol for who gets invited to these major events, while eliminating “invitation waste”.
If you work with SportsMark to design and manage your corporate hospitality program, regardless of whether you are an official sponsor of an event or not, you can be assured that the program will not only reflect your objectives and strategies, there will also be a solid plan in place for guest selection and prioritization, based on what you want the event to achieve for your business.
Thanks for reading. Next stop—Beijing. In the meantime, send any topics of interest to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.