Creativity, storytelling and having the nous to challenge the brief were listed as among the top three attributes which can enhance the buyer/supplier relationship.

How suppliers can engage buyers was the topic of a panel discussion at micebook’s Soak up the Summer event. Corporate and agency buyers, Helen Boakes, events and brand partnerships manager at MINI; Tom Harrington, account director at Quintessentially Travel; Ollie Launn, proposal manager at Black Tomato Agency and Nimi Cooper, head of client services at CI Group discussed ‘dos and don’ts’ of the buyer/supplier relationship before an audience of more than 100 event professionals. 

The panel covered common sense basics of timekeeping and doing your homework to focusing on delegate experience and brand or agency familiarisation.

The buyers discussed navigating information overload by adopting a creative approach. Nimi Cooper said: “Buyers are creative people, so get creative with how you approach us. Something memorable which caught my attention and has led to a long-standing partnership for us was a supplier who sent me a remote-controlled car without the remote control to operate it.”

“The way to get the remote control was to invite them in for a meeting. Me being the child that I am, I invited them in. Luckily is wasn’t style over substance and they did deliver for us as an agency. It’s all about thinking outside of the box.”

Guest experience was rated higher than suppliers who reeled off facts and figures about venue amenities. Ollie Launn explained: “Instead of putting together statistics, focus on the delegate story. What is the delegate journey when they arrive at your hotel or destination? Focus on what our guests are going to experience rather than ‘this gym has a really good treadmill’.”

Helen Boakes gave the example of an agency which had sent a representative on a factory tour of the MINI plant in Oxford to understand the brand. Details, such as cocktails named after one of MINI’s original designers, were then woven into the pitch and the event. 

Although familiarity with the agency, brand and the brief were important, both Tom Harrington and Nimi Cooper said they were happy for suppliers to challenge the brief if they could demonstrate elements which could wow a client. She gave the example of an incentive which included very specific strategies, objectives and destinations, which was sent out to three DMCs. While two delivered the specifics requested, the third, which was new to the market, challenged the brief.  

“They included a dual destination which absolutely blew us away,” she said. “They had not only given us exactly what we had asked for, but had also thrown a wildcard in, which made us look great with our client. It has made us up our game and showed that we were getting slightly complacent with that client and should be challenging more. We delivered it back to the client and, sure enough, they went for the dual destination. It has cemented that supplier in our pocket of reliables.”

micebook also partnered with curated luxury travel forum for senior level events professionals, inVOYAGE, to host an invitation-only C-Suite gathering for CEOs and agency leaders. The session shared executive insights into current trends, topics and challenges including managing growth, sustainability, talent, diversity, procurement and workplace wellness. The session was chaired by Top Banana founder and CEO Richard Bridge. 

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Molly joined the editorial team in March 2019. She has several years’ experience working in broadcast and journalism, as well as marketing and PR. Past experience includes working for the BBC and independent publishing houses. If you have a story you think Molly might be interested in, please email: molly@eventindustrynews.com