Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio November
BY MIKE KABO
WHERE TO FIND NEW BUSINESS
An independent's most difficult job is lining up the next
Along with the perks of being your own boss comes the never-
ending challenge of finding new business. Those who have never
thought of themselves as salespeople have to face facts: A large
part of an independent planner's job lies in marketing and sales.
You have to continually dig for new clients, and connections need
to be followed up and nurtured. And, even when you do everything
possible, the majority of business leads will not bear fruit.
Finding new clients can be especially frustrating when you
calculate the time spent prospecting for new business. But it must
be done. The following methods work.
PASS IT ON
The best way of gaining solid leads is to have existing clients
recommend you to others. Referrals are worth their weight in gold.
Clearly, it's nice to know that someone who has experienced your
capabilities thinks enough of your work to pass your name along.
And for prospective clients, recommendations from colleagues can be
a critical factor in decision-making. When finishing a successful
job, let your contact know how important referrals are to your
business, and make sure he or she understands the scope of your
Do not hesitate to ask acquaintances if they know of anyone who
needs your expertise. And follow up on all suggestions
People generally like to do business with known entities. Meeting
potential clients face-to-face in a neutral business setting, such
as a gathering of Meeting Professionals International, can set the
stage for future collaboration.
Don't forget to reach out to other groups whose members may have
the need for an independent planner. This includes most, if not
all, professional associations. Volunteer to be a speaker or a
moderator. This is an excellent way for people to see your skills
at work, and it puts you in front of decision-makers.
Remember, each person you meet at these events can be a source
of new business, either directly or indirectly. Always have
business cards handy and your one-minute "who I am and what I do"
speech down cold.
Placing well-designed advertisements in professional publications
is another good way to call attention to you and your skills. At
many annual events, organizations publish some type of booklet or
journal that accepts supplier advertisements to offset the costs of
To hold the line on your own purse strings, target your pitch to
the types of groups you want to have as clients, and keep the ad
size reasonable. Before buying space, determine how many potential
clients will receive the publication, and get a copy of the mailing
list. This way you can calculate your potential return on
investment and purchase space only from those that offer the best
value and opportunity.
Having a good Web site serves two purposes: It is a place to refer
prospective clients who want to know more about your services, and,
if it is listed in a good search engine, it becomes part of a
global directory accessible to anyone who types in "meeting
No matter your method of searching out new business, you need to
articulate clearly who you are, what you do, what unique services
or qualities you offer and how clients can contact you. And again,
you must follow up. Making contact just once will not result in new
business. Do not be concerned about being a pest. New business only
comes with effort. The more effort you put into prospecting, the
better your chances of success.
Mike Kabo is president of Solutions Inc., a New York
City-based consulting firm specializing in travel and meeting
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