If your event business is new or struggling, the easiest and least expensive way to grow it is through referral marketing, but how do you get happy clients and attendees to talk about you? Try these tips.
It’s understandable that people would be willing to hire an event planner that a good friend referred them to. After all, our friends know us and know what we like. They wouldn’t steer us in the wrong direction. But it may surprise you to know that people will even make hiring and buying decisions based on reviews by people they don’t know. According to a 2014 study from Ogilvy, Google and TNS, 74% of consumers identify word-of-mouth as a key influence in their purchasing decision.
According to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, one offline word-of-mouth impression drives sales at least 5x more than a paid mention does. Paid advertising may not be in your budget anyway if you’re just starting out but it’s reassuring to know it’s not the most effective way to reach your audience anyway.
But how do you get your happy clients to talk about you when it seems people are loudest when they’re complaining?
While it makes sense that people should want to tell others of a good experience, that’s just not natural for everyone you work with. Because of this, they need a reminder or an ask. Like any goal you want to accomplish in your business, if you want more referrals, you’re going to need to chart a course for how you’re going to obtain them.
The Best Way to Increase Your Event Planning Referrals
The first thing you need to do, long before the ask, is to create happy clients and attendees. Without them, there won’t be any referrals even if you beg and plead – at least not the kind you want to be published. Find ways to delight and excite your attendees and clients as the basis for creating a referral plan. Once you have people who think you’re amazing, you can begin creating opportunities for them to share their love of your work.
You need two kinds of word-of-mouth marketing.
- You want reviews/testimonials of your professionalism from clients and praise about your events from attendees. The latter is easy to get from exit surveys. The former, most of the time, you’ll need to ask for it.
- You want referrals from happy clients. Yes, it’s nice if they talk you up to everyone they know, and post a review of your work on social media, but passing your name and number along to someone in need of an event planner is the thing business owners dream about.
First, we’ll address how to get reviews from your clients.
Decide on a Review “Home”
You want to make this as easy as possible for people who are going to review you so when you ask them to review your work, either refer them directly to the website that you’d like them to post the review on (such as LinkedIn) or tell them you plan on posting it to your website and then get it up there as soon as they give it to you. This will make them feel proud to see their review on a site and will also give them something to refer people to in order to learn more about what you do and how you do it.
Find the Right People
As mentioned earlier, event planners can benefit from reviews from clients and attendees. But you can also receive persuasive reviews from vendors and people in the industry you’ve worked with. Anyone who has worked with you and benefited from your level of professionalism is a good ask. If you volunteered your services on an event, you can use them too.
Ask for a Testimonial
There’s no easier way to get that review than to ask for it. Help them understand that you depend on word-of-mouth as a small business and it means alot to you. There are very few people who will say no to an impassioned, yet humble, request. Just make sure you don’t ask when you’re delivering the bill. No one is in the mood for that.
How to Get More Referrals
Getting reviews and testimonials is easy enough: provide extraordinary service and amazing events and then ask for them. But how do you get people to refer you to their network? There are several ways:
Ask for Introductions
Again, if you ask you’ll likely receive, but unless your clients and attendees are thrilled beyond belief, with everyone being so busy it will probably take more than just asking. Always ensure that you “pass it forward” yourself too. If you bring business to your clients they will be eager to return the goodwill.
Provide an Incentive
Incentives can be very effective in gaining referrals if you find one that your audience values. In the case of attendees and clients, it’s best to use different types of referrals. For instance, discounts on attendance are not something your clients are looking for, yet attendees love them. You can be very creative with these discounts by giving them a discount code to share with friends or by taking a dollar amount off of their registration fee for every person they sign up. If they sign up several, they could potentially cover the price of their ticket. This drives a lot of people and makes it worth their while to talk friends and peers into attending.
Your clients, on the other hand, may be swayed by gift cards or if they use you on a regular basis, a discount off your next service for them. A few years ago people were even giving away technology like an iPad for each new client to sign-up, however, in today’s world the demand has fizzled a little for this popular giveaway. Often there was a disconnect because the person making the event planner hiring decision rarely cared about the giveaway as much as the direct contact at the event usually did, so it didn’t drive action.
Set up a Special Landing Page
For attendee referrals, set up an event landing page just for them with their discounted registration fee and a welcome message. This will make attendees feel like they have a secret code to give out and that kind of exclusivity feels good to people.
Know a Referral Is an Introduction
Let’s be clear. You’re not looking for someone to type a list of names of people they know in an email and hand it over to you. Those are just leads and not even good ones at that. Ideally, you’re looking for an introduction and someone to vouch for your services or event. If you’re going to provide incentives, your customer or attendee must act like an agent in order to collect the “fee.”
Be yourself, unless that self is standoffish and shy. In that case, be the opposite. But seriously, let the clients get to know you and open up to them. Don’t be just an event planner. Be THEIR event planner by connecting with them and caring about their lives as well. Someone who does more than just the service you hire them for is someone you want to refer to others.
People want to be helpful and refer others, but they won’t do it for just a mediocre experience. They want to shine in front of their friends and peers. If they have a great experience with you, they’ll gladly share, knowing they’re doing a service for their friends as well by introducing you.