Forging Alliances with Event Planners in Other Countries

International alliancesLast week, we explored strategies for spotting and protecting yourself from clearly unethical e-mail scams targeting event and meeting planners. Other practices within our industry are borderline at best.

Sometimes it is necessary to forge international alliances when:

  • your client requires service at a foreign destination with which you are unfamiliar.
  • your team is busy and you need assistance to handle a request for an overseas event.
  • the client has requested a specialized service that you don't offer.

Based on some of the scenarios that have unfolded, I think it's time to have a frank discussion about best practices and ethics for forging alliances.

Scenario: A Canadian event planner contacted an event planning firm in Arizona on the weekend with an urgent request. He indicated that a regular customer wanted to do an incentive in Arizona but incentives were not his specialty. Also, a staff member was on sick leave and all resources were committed. During the course of conducting the requested site search, the Arizona planner learned that one of the hotels that she had discussed as an "out of the box" solution had already been contacted. A conversation with the Canadian planner revealed that he had, in fact, asked three other planners to conduct the same search. He was vague when asked if he had shared the Arizona planner's suggestions. The Arizona planner bowed out.

Scenario: A European travel agent asked an event planning firm that specialized in the Dubai market to provide assistance on behalf of a major international corporation. The planner discovered that resorts were being bombarded with requests for the same corporate retreat. The client had sent the RFP to three local travel agents. In turn, each of them had farmed their time-consuming legwork out to three event planning firms.

The bottom line is that it not fair or reasonable for event industry professionals to ask colleagues to do time-consuming research for them without compensation. Passing on intellectual property is a particularly insidious practice. It educates the competition and reduces a firm's source of competitive advantage in an already tough market.

The reason that clients and third-party planners give for using this process is that they want to ensure that they are getting the best deal. With few exceptions, hotels usually give the same group rate to the client or any event planners who contact them. Getting event planners to conduct site searches is not the secret sauce for selecting the best alliance partner.

Best Practices for Forging Alliances

You will be much further ahead by asking the following questions:

  • What types of events do you typically handle?
    (e.g. group size, target audience, incentives vs corporate events vs team building vs business meetings)
  • How much experience do you have with this destination?
    Do you already have an extensive network of hotel and event industry suppliers at this destination? Can you provide some examples of events that you have offered at this destination?
  • Our client is in the _________ industry. How much experience do you have with clients in that industry?
    Can you provide some examples of events that you have offered for your own clients in that industry.
  • What are your fees and what do they include?
  • What level of commission do you get from the hotels? Are you willing to split the commission?
  • Do you add a mark-up on top of the commission? If so, what is the percentage?

Compare responses to identify the firm that would be an optimal fit. After an agreement is in place, the selected planner can use their knowledge of the local market to complete the hotel and supplier selection process.

Next week we will discuss best practices for event planners who are contacted by third parties on behalf of clients.

For more information about improving RFPs and the process of selecting suppliers, please also read:

Photo Credit: Spot Reporting

If clients require quotes from hotels in order to determine available options and set a realistic budget, use the Cvent Destination Guide and RFP tools to collect initial information. Search the Cvent Supplier Network to identify potential alliance partners.

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