Solutions to 4 common business challenges for small event agencies

Updated: Apr 20, 2020

1. ROI/Commercials

What small event agencies offer - in flexibility, creative freedom and speed - big agencies can try to make up for in financial reserves. So small agencies must be commercially confident. There are many ways of achieving ROI for your clients while still making a profit, and it’s not all about mark-ups. It’s essential to be up front about your costs from the start.

Build a well-sharpened menu pricing guide, or a fully costed pitch. Either way, cover your costs, make a profit, and don’t be afraid to show your worth and that of your team. It can be tempting to ‘go in low’ to entice business away from a big competitor. But do you really want to build a reputation for being the ‘cheap alternative’? Once you’ve pitched your business with a low ROI, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to claw back from that for future business with the same client.

2. Data policy and GDPR

Data is more complex than it was a few years ago. The launch of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in May 2018 meant big changes to the way event agencies collect, process and protect the personal information of delegates.

The regulation effects everything, from the way you decide which data to collect from attendees and clients, the use of delegate registration tools, excel lists, relationships with third-party organisations (think venues, hotels, sponsors, AV companies etc) and how data is moved between them, to personally identifiable data used in marketing events and services.

It’s scary how many businesses still aren’t up to speed (or are unsure whether they are or not). So, if you feel uneasy when someone mentions GDPR, don’t worry. But do act. And act now. Non-compliance can result in serious reputation and financial consequences, which could be enough to put a small agency or freelancer out of business.

3. TOMS (Tour Operators Margin Scheme)

If you buy and resell accommodation or travel as a ‘principle’ (i.e. you act in your own name, rather than as an agent), then TOMS applies to you. It means you need to account for the VAT, so it’s vital that you know whether it applies, and what steps your small business needs to take to avoid any sticky situations down the line.

As a member of the Agency Committee of the HBAA (trade association for the hotel booking agency, serviced apartment and venue sector), I’m pleased that TOMS is on the agenda of our next Agency Engagement Meeting on 31st October at Aubrey Park Hotel. The event will provide an overview for member agencies on the more recent position of HMRC, and the implications of Brexit on TOMS.

4. Keeping up with expectations

We live in a hectic world where new generations demand that their changing expectations are met with immediacy. And that is something which applies in the events industry like no other. Event agencies have clients with delegates who span wide demographic gaps, with countless different needs and wishes. And we must meet the desires of every single one of them for our clients' events to be successful. Keeping up with the latest trends and changing world views is one of the ways to stay on top of our success.

We live in a hectic world where new generations demand that their changing expectations are met with immediacy. And that is something which applies in the events industry like no other.

Here’s a perfect example: I’m passionate about reducing waste. In a world which is finally waking up to the environmental damage caused by single-use plastic, people are demanding action. In our industry, this translates as delegates demanding less waste at events. And it’s time for some honesty eventprofs! How much rubbish from your events goes to landfill? Do you even know? You should! Keep your eye out for my free guide on how you can do your bit to help… coming soon!

Take action

For those of you who aren’t HBAA members or are unsure what action you need to take on TOMS, or how to equip your businesses with the knowledge to support your decisions and future strategy, let me know. I can review your booking activity to check if TOMS applies, and help you understand the implications and next steps.

I can also help you reduce the environmental impact of your events and remove single-use plastics. And on data, there are countless online training courses available, but they aren’t specific to our industry and data challenges. I can help review your current status and provide recommendations – I can even implement the project for you, create documents, and train your team so nobody in your business falls foul of the GDPR compliance nightmare.

So, send me your challenge - - and I'll help to stop it from risking your business and a good night's sleep!

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