If setting up a series of events as a relationship marketing exercise is new to your organisation, you should expect to face opposition from many fronts.

The Advertising Agency will tell you money is better spent in ads (could it be their commissions you are stepping on?), the finance people will talk darkly about ‘jollies’ and ‘freebies’ while those you would think should be your champions, the marketing and sales people, could all have unfunded pet projects.

There are three keys to internally ‘selling’ relationship marketing event programs:

1. Research
Get to know your customers’ likes and dislikes and provide an events program which is totally focused on the customer’s interests, rather than the interest or orientation of an internal executive or your company at large. Careful research will put the ‘science’ behind the argument and will articulate in a dispassionate manner the low risk of a bee not coming to honey.

2. Face-to-face interaction with key customers
The value of spending quality time face-to-face with customers in a convivial atmosphere needs no defence – there is no negative here.

3. Stealth
Stealth will come into play as you introduce the program. Put forward a few smaller trial events to start with. Three is a good number – one will not tell you much about the response to events in general, only about the one event. Three will give you a good indication of how clients react to the invitations and the experiences.

Avoid buying expensive inventory for the first few events, such as hospitality packages at major sporting events, which have a high fixed cost. Rather, stage events that have variable costs such as wine dinners where the cost is based on participation and can be scaled back if take-up is low.

Plan the events anticipating a low RSVP rate and some no shows.

Even the smallest trial events can be very successful so long as they have the appropriate level of quality, service and creativity. These events can be your champions for more adventurous events in the future – plus you will learn a lot which can be applied moving forward.

Without realising it, even the most hardened objector will be talking up the events program as an example of the kind of initiative that should be expanded. Great events lead to great discussions with key customers, and your staff (and Board members) will be talking about these interactions for a long time.