So, it’s time to celebrate a little. Clearwater has just won an award for our C&IT Blog! The Blog Shop Best Blog Awards, awarded us second place in the Best Blog Content Category! As you can imagine, we are rather chuffed to have won this award so a little yippee is in order and of course a big thank you to C&IT.
Posts By: Stephen Morton-Prior
So, the sales itch has started. We are five months in and since we launched in September, time seems to have passed us with lightening speed and experiences with incredible highs and quite disheartening lows along the way. Our strategic marketing is strong, our brand powerful and now it’s time to focus on increase our sales.
I was lucky enough to have attended Conventa in Slovenia last month, which proved to be incredibly enlightening. The show was excellent and informative, but what enlightened me was the positive feedback and industry opinion on our brand and ideology! Our brand is generating good feedback so, how can we best harness this to generate more sales?
With this in mind, our focus is on bringing our brand, knowledge and product to market in a low cost yet effective way. For us we need a strong anti itch cream that will not only sooth the symptoms but, also get rid of the irritation once and for all.
It’s, time for a bit of sweat equity. Sweat equals effort and this costs nothing if you have the right energy and determination. I always say that a stick has more muscles than me, but until I go to the gym and pump the iron, I shall remain a stick man forever – so not point complaining. It’s the same with sales. Until we literally spend every waking hour in direct marketing campaigns, we simply wont grow fast enough!
So here lies my next question…. What is effective direct marketing? I wish there was a rulebook for this! Sure, there are books and courses one could go on, but do they offer unique, creative solutions? Are email campaigns the way forward? Is telephone researching an effective tool? Is ‘dreaded’ networking groups an ideal starting point? How much will all this cost? It seems like an investment gamble and I have never been good at the Las Vegas card games (UNO is about the only card game I can master).
In the spirit of our Clearwater Thinking, it seems to me that it’s a combination of all of these and more. The next big challenge for us is unquestionably sales and getting more confirmed events on the books. So, here starts the next challenge in the Clearwater story! With brand in tow, lets get sweating!
Now here’s one to ponder. Like almost everyone on Linkedin and other social networking groups, I am keen to make new contacts and build relationships. I appreciate and value the importance of networking as a selling tool and as such it should form part of anyone’s sales strategy. Before starting Clearwater Events, I was lucky to work for a multi national events agency where the name said it all but, on starting my own company, I have been thrown to the networking sharks! And in the last four months, it’s been a networking nightmare!!
I was perhaps a little naive when it came to the networking scene, accepting every invitation and believing there was such thing as a free networking lunch! After spending many £10.00’s in unnecessary fees for a rubbish coffee and a sausage on a stick, I feel I need to vent!
I have found it almost scary at times to be thrown in a room full of strangers with nothing more than a weak coffee and a mini quiche for protection. What do I say? Who shall I talk to? Oh, I love those shoes, where are they from? I have loved the speed networking and really enjoyed breakfast sessions even though it means a 5am start, which is just wrong.
However, it’s the professional networking and referral groups that get me! I really don’t need a round of applause for referring a contact to someone. I don’t need to be filling out pieces of paper and popping them through a referral letterbox to be appreciated! I don’t appreciate a comedy horn being blown when someone makes a sale – my ears are still ringing from that ridiculous moment. And as a new company, I certainly don’t need to be spending £600 a year for the privilege!
The power of referral is a natural thing – it really should never be a forced thing…… There must be a way that in 2012, us new business owners and entrepreneurs can get together over a glass of wine or a pint of beer and just talk……. Talk about what we need, talk about the economy and just exchange views. Yes, its in the same spirit of perhaps the more professional networking groups but, surely cheaper and more productive?
Well, we did it! First event is done and dusted and I have framed a copy of my first paid invoice on the wall for posterity. A proud moment and one that has cemented our belief that we have absolutely done the right thing! Seeing our company logo on the hospitality desk sent goose bumps up my back and for the first time in a long time, I was able to enjoy the fruits of our labour.
So today, I’m sitting here writing this blog having just returned from EIBTM. It seems somewhat strange to be talking about Clearwater’s aims and objectives, but within the unchartered sea that we navigating in, it was totally reassuring to see familiar faces and old friends. It sends a wave of confidence that we are doing the right thing.
However, right now I feel that we are following a similar journey to that of the old fable David and Goliath! Indeed, the Goliaths were out in force at EIBTM, strutting their stuff and holding court somewhat at the major hotel stands. But, it makes me chuckle and question our industry as it stands.
I was shocked, actually in fact appalled to hear a certain agency is now demanding 20% commission from all hotels they use! Have we as an industry gone entirely mad? I feel we are at a turning point with the Goliath’s of this world. Clients unknowingly in many cases are being channeled into hotels, not for their suitability of the brief, but rather the agencies own override and commission agreements. Surely the only person to suffer is the client? These demands in rate reduction and increased commission can only be met by own simple action…. Cutting quality.
At times it seem that events are no longer started with a blank canvas, rather a set of SLAs, SOPs and KPI where proposals are often molded from agencies own criteria.
Of course it doesn’t happen all the time and there are many, many creatives out there. But it does seem that the Goliaths are starting to lose touch with the very essence of why people meet. And it’s the Davids of this world that I truly believe will prevail at the end of the day. Small agencies can’t always compete with rates, but we can compete in overall value, quality and creativity. And, as small agencies have low operating costs, indeed we become more cost effective as reduced rates only form one part of the overall budget…
So, Clearwater Events is officially two months old today. Happy Birthday to us! What a strange two months it has been. Time has whizzed by with such lightening speed that days merge in weeks and weeks become a blur.
So here I am at the starting blocks of a new adventure, a new chapter if you will and a set of challenges that I have been waiting to embrace for many years. Being in the events industry for almost 15 years, I consider myself a bit of a veteran and have worked for the good, the brilliant and the inspirational. I’ve operated events all over the world, from Bognor to Bangalore and have worked for incredible clients.
Yet, there has been a nagging, a hunch, a feeling that I could do this alone. At first I thought it was indigestion. But soon realized that I could perhaps, possibly maybe bring all my experiences together and set up alone?
My nagging has been partly fueled by my frustration. Frustration of the process for process culture our industry has created. Process, which has taken my role from one of incredible creativity to one, which has more paperwork than a pilot’s manual. Agreed, we need structure, order and logic, but where has the blank canvas gone? Do we have to sacrifice the very heart of what we do so as to follow a work schedule?
There is a lot of encouragement for budding entrepreneurs right now. Government initiatives such as ‘Start up Britain’ are encouraging people like me to go it alone and there is a wealth of information, support and advice out there for new start-ups to get going. The recession has opened up opportunities and it seems at least in theory, this is the perfect time for a smaller, more cost effective agency to set up.
So after selling the family silver, I have been able to turn this nagging and frustration into a reality and start an agency my way – and Clearwater Events is born.
It’s going to be a rollercoaster journey with highs, lows and lots of in-betweens and it seems only fitting that I share this. Will government initiatives help Clearwater Events? Will clients be excited by our bold ambition? Will the industry embrace our thinking?
So, ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your seatbelts in preparation for take off. It’s going to be quite a ride!