3 Ways Independent Planners Can Land Big Clients

independent planners

You may not be the Amazon of the meeting planning industry who can provide just about anything to anyone, but that doesn’t mean small, third-party management companies and independent planners need to think small when it comes to wooing potential clients.

Americans tend to be enamored with the whole “bigger is better” concept, especially when it comes to business. But in some industries, being the biggest isn’t always the best strategy, says Heather Mason, founder and CEO of the Caspian Agency. Remember how Nokia used to own the mobile phone market and IBM was dominating Apple in the computer market back in the ‘90s? Sometimes, as Malcolm Gladwell points out in his book David and Goliath, the big guys’ very strengths can be their downfall—and the things that small companies fear are their weaknesses can turn out to be their biggest strengths.

Explore the world of event science with Heather Mason and Carl Winston.

For example, large companies have economies of scale and can provide commodities at a cheaper cost than their smaller competition. Their very stature in the market can make them focus on retaining the status quo, which by definition is their sweet spot. But smaller companies have less infrastructure and bureaucracy to support, which means they have a lot less to lose and many more ability to be agile and innovate.

Here are three ways Mason says smaller agencies and third-party meeting managers can leverage their unique advantages to land those lucrative big clients they might think are out of their reach.

1. Know your value proposition.

No, you probably can’t provide every item on every potential client’s wish list, but your smaller, boutique organization has its own unique niche. If you don’t already have your specific value proposition nailed down, it’s time to do some soul searching. Once you find it, own it, says Mason. “You don’t want to fight on someone else’s battlefield—you want to fight on one of your own choosing,” she says. “Smaller agencies tend to take whatever comes, then go crazy trying to accommodate projects that may not be a great fit. Be very clear about what makes you stand apart—when someone asks you what you do, don’t say ‘All of it.’ Know your customer, and know that everyone is not your customer all the time! Specialize and determine what your brand will be.”

2. Overprice your way to success.

Large companies in almost every area are in a race to the bottom when it comes to price—it’s those economies of scale that make their businesses work, after all. But that’s likely not your strength. For example, compare Tiffany’s to a big box jewelry outlet. You can probably get a similar bracelet at either, but one look at that Tiffany-blue box will light up the recipient’s eyes in a way that no big box outlet product can. Even Tiffany’s packaging very tastefully screams exclusivity. What’s your special sauce, your equivalent of that Tiffany blue box? “You have to understand who you are in the world before you can set your price,” Mason says. “Pricing is really just psychological. It’s based on the story you tell. Do you want to be a 99 Cent Store or a Tiffany’s? Both have winning business models, but they may not be business models that will win for your agency,” Mason says.

Once you have chosen your unique value proposition (see #1), you have your superpower. No one can do that one (or two, or 10) things the way you can. That’s worth something—actually, a lot of something. Price accordingly.

3. Perfect your pitch.

You know what your secret sauce is, you have it priced appropriately—now you just have to convince that whale client to swallow your hook. Just as every agency has a unique angle to pitch, they will also have to come up with their own unique way to pitch it. While Mason says she’s a big fan of TEDTalk-style pitches, that may not work for everyone. The common denominator of a successful pitch, says Mason, is to tell your value story, your way. “Storytelling and value-based selling are the ways to both a consumer’s and a company’s heart,” she says.

Continue your education.

Mason will provide more tips on how small independent meeting management companies can “punch above their weight” during a session at the one-day virtual Event Agency Growth Summit, organized by Event Leadership Institute. The Summit, which is geared toward providing insights on how agencies and third-party and independent planners can grow their businesses, will take place Dec. 15 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST.

In addition to Mason’s session, participants will be able to get insider info from meeting business leaders about topics including the current state of the industry, how to hire and retain talent in today’s tight labor market, and how to drive new revenue streams with event tech reseller partnerships.

Learn more and register here.

You can see a whole roster of new classes available through Event Leadership Institute’s partnership with Smart U here.

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