I know that it isn’t even September yet but holiday party planning is happening now.
I repeat, the people you want to rent from you in December are making their plans today.
So, how are you going to get them to hire you? It is unlikely that putting a vinyl banner on your warehouse with the words “Now Booking for Holiday Events” will create a flood of inquiries. The same is probably the case for an Instagram post in August about cozy snow-covered festivities. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try those things but what will cause your phone to ring off the hook?
Many event rental businesses start by servicing weddings and other social events. It is a natural and fantastic place to build your business but it also has some downsides. Most of the work is on weekends and, depending on your region, can be highly seasonal. Adding corporate events, from sales meetings, to nonprofit galas, to product launches and festivals can help even out your cash flow, increase your revenue, and create more stability in your boutique event rental business.
Most corporate event rental businesses will not come from you knocking on the door of the end client themselves but through referrals. They hire based on recommendations from other vendors who get hired before you (venues, caterers, florists, photographers, deejays, etc.). This is where your network becomes so important.
While you’ve built up great relationships with other wedding vendors, now’s the time to beef up your connections with corporate event pros as well. There may even be some cross-over with your existing network but don’t assume that vendors you work with on weddings will automatically refer you for corporate gigs as well.
Try these tactics for becoming top-of-mind as the holidays approach.
- Attend event association events in your area. NACE, MPI, ILEA, PRSA, and others have monthly or quarterly education and networking events in many regions. Find your local chapter and get plugged in. This isn’t an instant fix— people like to see that you’re showing up for a while before they risk working with you. But meeting someone at one of these networking meetings (or a few in a row) is a great way to develop a warm lead. Be sure to follow up after the meeting with an email to stay top-of-mind.
- If you have any holiday content from past years send it (or stage something new) in an email to your network. You can use a newsletter format or personally email potential referral sources like caterers and planners to ask what resources they need this year as they plan holiday shindigs.
- Build those online relationships! While it can be easy to get sucked into the social media vortex, focus on connecting with actual people in your neck of the woods. Like, comment, and follow people who get hired before you in the planning process (venues, planners, caterers, and florists).
- Host an event in your space. You don’t have to go all out with a crazy party to invite fellow industry pros to your warehouse or showroom (although you can). Consider hosting a coffee meet-up one morning or casual happy hour one afternoon to help other event rental pros you know connect with one another.
- Speaking of connecting others, remember to send emails connecting like-minded pros you know. For instance, if you work with a talented florist who is obsessed with sustainability, be sure to introduce her (in person or via email) to the zero-waste caterer you just met. People remember when you help them build their businesses.
- Get to know the venues in the area. If you’ve worked there, put together a quick phonebook with some images of your pieces in their space so they can show it to customers and potential customers. When you go to drop it off, bring up holiday parties and how you can help. Many venues want to offer add-ons or upgrades for their holiday events. Having a standard lounge set-up, photo booth, or upscale table setting from you could be just the thing that they’re looking for. Win-win.
- Send a card or even an old-fashioned letter to planners or caterers you want to work with this holiday season. Sometimes snail mail can help you stand out.
As you reach out to these referral sources, be sure they know what you offer. While your collection certainly sets you apart, you’ll also want to highlight your other differentiation. If your top-notch crew is always on time, now’s the time to tell them. If you’ve got a convenient booking process, let them know. Help them remember why they should use you this holiday season by standing out.