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New vs. Returning Event Leads — Which Should You Prioritize?

By Caroline Cox | 3 min read

There’s no magic formula when it comes to sourcing event leads (though we wish there were!). But the fact remains that leads can make or break an events program. So, between new leads and returning ones, how do you know which ones to go after first?

At the end of the day, leveraging both new and past leads are important to your venue’s success. Strategy is key whether you’re reaching out to past prospects and clients or you’re in search of brand-new business. Below, we lay out some strategic methods for how — and when — to target new and returning event leads

Start with “low-hanging fruit”

When it comes to leads, seasoned pros know it’s best to start with those that are the warmest, then end with cold calling. You can reach back out to those who closed business with you around the same time last year — that’s the low-hanging fruit.

From there, you can move on to the canceled business from that same time period — people who reached out and connected with you, but didn’t end up booking for one reason or another. Next comes archived leads, and lastly, going after net-new business via cold calling (ideally with a strategy that includes promoting a new menu or event package that draws in new leads as well).

Connect with your community

To stand out from your competitors, sometimes you’ve got to take to the streets. Reach out to third-party planning groups or businesses like hotels. Let them know about your offerings, and sweeten the deal with a complimentary dish or gift cards as an incentive for them to send event leads your way.

This way, when event planners or booking agents at hotels are getting asked about rehearsal dinner recommendations or corporate meeting space, your venue is top of mind. And when you track this as a referral in Gather, it’s easy to follow up and thank your referrer with a kind note or bottle of wine to encourage them to keep the prospects coming.

Make other venues your allies

Speaking of competition — other venues aren’t necessarily your adversaries. Depending on your location, there may be local industry networking groups you can join. Not only are resources like this a great place to find camaraderie and support, but they can even help you source future business.

If you get an event inquiry for a date, time, or capacity you can’t accommodate (and the event isn’t flexible), you can reach out to your network and see if another venue is available and a good fit. Likewise, they might do the same for you when they find themselves in a similar situation. It’s like that saying goes: a rising tide lifts all boats. Sometimes, a business you saw as your competition can end up being your cohort. 

Consider a subscription model

Scoring repeat business adds stability to your events program. Plus, knowing you have repeat events on your calendar is much more predictable and time-saving for your events team. Because of this, it’s worthwhile to look into creating a subscription model, where you offer satisfied clients a deal or special discounts for repeatedly booking your venue.

Whether it’s a company holiday party or a monthly pharmaceutical meeting, you can approach the point person about having your space become their go-to venue for future events. Not only does this make the planner’s job easier, but you can offer them gift cards if their company spends a certain amount with you over a year, for example. This further incentivizes them to keep coming back.

Use tech tools to your advantage

The event clients that will be easiest to turn into repeat business are the ones who had a great time at your venue. If you use an event management software like Gather, not only can you use a follow-up message template to send out after each event to collect feedback, but you can segment out your database to see which clients spent the most money and left a great review.

While it’s not enough to rely solely on repeat business, it’s a great way to nurture those past clients while also sourcing new ones to add to the top of your funnel. As with most aspects of event management, it all comes down to the delicate balance of planning and execution.

By having an organized roster of past leads and clients, along with data that shows you top clients, event types and what brought in the most money in years past, you can be strategic about how you’re tackling event sales. Luckily, Gather’s platform makes it easy to stay organized and efficient while managing all of the above. Ready to learn more? Let’s chat. 


Caroline Cox
Content Marketing Manager

Caroline Cox is Gather's Content Marketing Manager. She spends her time crafting blogs, thought leadership pieces, case studies, social media content and more, helping empower restaurants and other event venues to streamline their planning process and grow their events programs with success.

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