Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Group Sales Cost Cutting Best Practices – Some Specifics

This is a continuation of the article written with Janice Bays, President of Meeting Management Associates and provides some specific cost savings ideas. This is particularly applicable to smaller companies who do not have a large contingent of full time convention or meeting staff. Although those companies should feel free to keep reading as a refresher.

Exhibit Cost Cutters
1. Plan ahead. - If you make comprehensive plans long before your shows, you will avoid costly rush charges for graphic design, production, show services and freight.
2. Upgrade your existing booth. - If you think an exhibit facelift will provide you with a good-looking, effective result, it could be much less expensive than starting from scratch. Design and build in-house if you have a talented crew. You can do the work in-house and save some hefty design and construction fees. A caution here, if not done to specifications and codes, there could be substantial liability if someone gets hurt with your exhibit on show floor
3. Buy a modular exhibit. - The design costs are not necessarily lower, but the costs for shipping and installing/dismantling these exhibits are considerably less. One company reported saving $10,000 to $20,000 per show in installation fees. Also modular allows for ease in moving to different configurations or upgrading.
4. Buy and recondition a used exhibit. - Exhibit brokers, as well as some exhibit houses, offer a variety of used exhibits. The cost of buying used is typically 20 percent to 50 percent of the cost of building new. Remember to factor in the cost of any alterations the used structure will require to meet your specific needs.
5. Consider renting. - Renting an exhibit saves you the costs of building and warehousing. It may be the ideal choice for one-time or infrequent exhibitors.
6. Go portable. - Lightweight, modular booths can have the look and feel of custom exhibits, while reducing significant operating costs for freight, drayage and storage. In a 10-foot booth space, a portable exhibit is often the best choice. These exhibits are usually inexpensive to buy and ship and they can be set up by almost anyone on your staff, thus eliminating installation and dismantling charges.

Keynote Cost-Cutters
1. Hire local. - Look for a speaker based in the same city as the event. Not only will you avoid the speaker’s additional travel expenses, but many road-weary veterans will jump at the chance for a local gig and just may cut you a deal in the process.
2. Find out if the speaker has something to sell. - Speakers with books or videos to sell may be willing to accept lower fees if allowed to peddle their wares. A simple table and chair outside the meeting room (rather than a mid-speech plug) may suffice. Many motivational speakers make the bulk of their living from selling their products.
3. Share costs with another group. - Check with the hotel or local convention and visitor’s bureau for other meetings scheduled for the same day. You might be able to share a speaker’s cost and services.
4. Consider a politician. - Some speakers do not accept fees, such as public officeholders. If your event is in or around Washington, DC, a member of Congress might speak to your group.
5. Above all, - See the talent in action and check references. Don’t be surprised.

Multimedia Cost Cutters
1. Know the story you want to tell. - As with any other marketing medium, it saves time and money, if you can give producers clear directions from the start. Know the audience you want to reach, and the message(s) you want to deliver.
2. Incorporate as much existing material as possible. - Reuse video footage, photographs, slide presentations, brochures and any other visual elements that are already part of your marketing campaign. You can save thousands of dollars over the cost of creating new materials.
3. Don’t overspend on hardware. - The hardware should be a relatively inexpensive part of any interactive system. The presentation itself should be dazzling, but the workhorse equipment controlling your system doesn’t need to be. Work with a knowledgeable professional to choose only the necessary hardware components.
4. Make your message multipurpose as well as multimedia. - You can still have detail-intensive modules in your presentation, but the overall sales pitch should be broad enough to suit other trade show and marketing needs. For example, you could set up your interactive system in your corporate lobby or use it as a training vehicle for new employees. With this approach, you can amortize the cost over more than one venue.
5. Use the expertise of your professional companies. - Sit down with your AV company and work out the least expensive way to set up. Use LCD panels instead of video projectors. Use as few microphones as possible. This will eliminate labor and the need for sound-mixing equipment. When you expect to have extensive AV requirements, book a conference center, most of which include equipment in the cost.

Travel Cost Cutters
1. Airfare - Analyze the cost savings of airfare requiring a Saturday-night stay. It may not be cheaper than paying for the extra room night plus applicable per diem. Travel during off-peak hours (early morning or late evening). Ask for additional frequent-flyer points from your official air carrier.
2. Ground transportation Shuttle service - Ask hotels whether they provide a complimentary airport-shuttle service and book with those that do. Instead of meet-and-greet services, distribute vouchers for airport shuttles and/or fare for public transport. While negotiating for your hotel or resort, request complimentary limousine service for VIPs. Transport delegates within a four to eight-hour window to cut back on bus transfer costs.
3. Parking - Inquire about reserved and complimentary parking. Ask that your special guests and staff get reserved parking spaces close to the hotel entrance.
4. Meet and Greet - Use the carrier's VIP lounge for the group's meet and greet.
5. Around town - Ask the local taxi company for discount coupons for local shows, restaurants, and sightseeing attractions.

Hotel Cost Cutters
1. Know the value of your business. - Keep a detailed history of all your events. You could be far more important to the hotel or the chain than you realize. This can produce extra discounts. Of course, if you are effectively using a professional outsource management company like Meeting management Associates, they will be able to negotiate better rates, based on their combined larger business levels.
2. Locations - Use local destinations or smaller cities that can offer you more for your money. Most have exceptional attractions and don’t have the overpopulation that causes congestion and costs.
3. Room rates - Research the rack rates, as well as group rates. Call the toll-free line or reservations desk of the property or chain. This way you will know the "worst case" pricing. Always give conservative room blocks. If you block too many rooms, you will end up paying for them.
4. Managing the spending - Communicate your budget information to the convention services manager. His or her role is to work with you. Meet every day with your hotelier to review the master account. This will allow you to catch errors on-site. Always budget at least 10 percent of your expenses as "contingency." This will take care of unforeseen costs such as labor strikes, bad weather, overtime, extra postage and mailings, phone and computer hookups, cancellation insurance, speaker substitutions. Limit authorized signatures, and don't accept charges signed for by unauthorized people.

Food & Beverage Cost Cutters
1. Deal with the chef directly. - In addition to the F&B manager talk to the chef. Challenge him or her to work with your meeting's goals and concept. The chef will know what is in season and what is grown or produced locally, and can be very creative if given the opportunity.
2. Ordering - Order as much as possible "by consumption." Uneaten food and drink can be returned and not charged. This works well with soda and packaged foods, like potato chips. Buy your coffee, tea, and decaf in bulk or by the gallon, if at all possible.
3. Breakfast - Instead of hot breakfast, serve an extended continental breakfast by adding fresh fruit, yogurt, and cereal to the regular offerings. Cut down on portions. Cut danishes and doughnuts in half. Offer mini-muffins, mini-doughnuts, mini-danishes.
4. Lunch and Dinner - Use sit-down meals, which can cut food preparation labor costs as much as 20 percent. Skip the dessert, salad, or soup. Dessert can be served at breaks. Consider box lunches instead of holding a formal, sit-down lunch.
5. Other - Ask which other groups are using the hotel at the same time. You may be able to have the same menu, thereby gaining economies of scale that can be passed on in cost savings to you.

Sales is the engine that drives the revenue and companies are always looking for ways of making that engine more efficient. Group selling offers the huge advantage of being able to address multiple customers through one presentation and still be in a face to face situation to sell each one individually. During an economic downturn, reducing group selling costs helps your company's bottom line. These tips can reduce your costs and make your events more successful.

Please feel free to contact Janice Bays or me if you have questions.



John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

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