The event planner-supplier relationship: When our clients stopped listening and our relationships became a commodity

The reality is that climate change, drought, the rising cost of fuel, labour and transportation are not the concern of the client. It is however a tremendous burden to assume year-after-year for the supply chain, which has taken us to a precipice and inevitably a tipping point in our industry.

It can be said that since pre-9/11, the cost of delivering the ultimate client experience has gradually become a working exercise to achieve. Suppliers are faced with providing the same level of product and service or in some cases more, but at vastly higher costs in the face of a more demanding, educated and competitive marketplace.
The event planner-supplier relationship
Where we once counted on our years-long relationships with tenured and loyal clients, suppliers have been thrust more into the “what have you done for me lately” position. And do we blame our customers? Are they not facing the same amount of pressure and scrutiny? Seemingly so much that in recent years, we are now at a point where we even view our working relationships as an “up and down” commodity on the trading market – a fluctuating market that forces suppliers to relook their business relationships and see if what they have left is even worthy of keeping.

Is it true that a suppliers’ struggle to balance client expectations and bottom line has thrust a strain on relationships with customers? In some cases perhaps, but while we as personal consumers have adjusted to the fluctuating landscape, have we abandoned our ability to adapt on business levels also?

Think of it this way: how many consumers actually shuddered when our beloved big branded coffee chains (the likes of Tim Hortons and Starbucks) raised coffee and food prices on more than one occasion the past few years? Did that stop anyone’s regular routine? Maybe, but I’d bet that number was negligible. And how about our weekly trips to the grocery store and restaurants? Have we stopped eating chicken, beef, bread, rice and fruit, or did we just alter our buying patterns and personal practices?

Are suppliers in the meetings industry held to a higher degree than B2C consumer brands, or have buyers driven expectations on years of relationships with their suppliers? One thing is true: if suppliers had the choice, they’d avoid the price increase discussions with customers just as they wouldn’t disappoint their long-standing customers who count on them to “get it done.” We owe it to ourselves to share the burden of shifts in our industry as well as finding innovation to solve the plight of obvious inflation. When the recent Canadian Economic Impact Study (CEIS 3.0) was released, it shined a spotlight on the value of business events, with an estimated $27.5 billion* going directly to Canada’s GDP, a significant contributor to our country’s overall economy.

Shouldn’t we work to preserve the directive spending in our industry so we can all thrive in a globally competitive market? We already do it at home, so altering our business buying patterns should be second nature, and so should the educational messaging the supply chain sends to its loyal client base. If commodity pricing can sever company partnerships and lead countries to war, how would we ever think that the event planner-supplier relationship could ever be impervious? It isn’t, but it just needs some trust and work to make it happen. We are after all, in this together.

Join me as I tackle this topic head on at IMEX America as one of the Hot Topic discussions.

About the author:

The big city kid from Toronto has always been surrounded by food and events for as long as he can remember. His mission? Take his nearly 20 years of experience and change the way people think before they plan to meet, eat and socialize. At every opportunity, Trevor relishes and tries to learn the trade from every possible angle. Now, his focus is to reciprocate all the knowledge and import funky, stylish and cutting edge methods to implement sustainability into every aspect of business. Social or corporate, Trevor relies on his passion and personality to broker effective relationships. Lessons learned in his times at the largest event venues, hotel chains and entertainment complexes producing and strategizing for his clients. Today, if not directing operations at the iconic International Centre in Toronto, Trevor can be found wired to social media, speaking at events or classrooms, penning an article or at a boardroom stategizing sustainable ideas that challenge the status quo. Trevor’s passion is relentless, genuine and much like his vision and sense of style, both different and memorable. He believes in the thought process as much as the risk within the action even when it comes down to accessorizing his socks and pocket squares to his signature bowties.

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