Upsell accessories to boost profit and take events from good to glam.
By Amir Hussain
When the economy gains strength, celebrations gain momentum. Tent and event rental companies are once again finding that clients are able to spend more money to upgrade their events—but some add-ons move more easily than others. From more sophisticated lighting and linens to high-end chairs and tent options, choosing the right accessories to upsell and using the most effective strategies to do it can translate into dazzling events that satisfy customers and deliver healthier profits.
Bright and colorful
“People are looking to layer on accessories more now than in the past,” says Michelle Goffredo-Catino, sales manager at Special Events Tent & Party Rentals in Bangor, Pa. To brighten up tents, people are upgrading to LED lighting, Chinese globe lanterns, chandeliers, perimeter lights and cafe lighting.
Color and pattern are prevailing, according to Andrea Bach, senior event specialist at AprÃ¨s Party and Tent Rental in Edina, Minn. “Rather than solid white accessories, people are paying to get a colorful look,” she says.
Ian Menzies, chief events officer of RC Special Events in Fort Collins, Colo., agrees. “Draping and linens strung through the tent in vibrant colors are proving to be very popular,” he says.
Clear roofing on the tent is also in demand, helping to bring natural light into the tent and create a unique way for people to bring the outside in. And after the sun sets, if the weather cooperates, guests can enjoy nature’s twinkling light show while they celebrate.
In the past few years, websites and social media have made it easier for people to see what is available and get new ideas for their own events. Tent rental companies are discovering that clients are more aware of tent accessories than ever before. Perhaps because of this raised awareness and easy access to ideas, companies may expect a greater ratio of tent canvassing to tent accessories. And with fixed labor costs and incremental costs, upselling accessories can make a big difference for profit margins.
What’s more, the quality and the fit of tenting accessories have greatly improved. “Accessories in general have become much more sophisticated,” Menzies says. Window walls, panoramic walls, flooring throughout the tent, enhanced sound systems and air conditioning are hot items that were not as common a few years ago. People are willing to spend money to have the comfort and sophistication these items can offer.
“Chiavari chairs, which once used to be mainly for high-end weddings, have now almost become the norm for people to have at their events,” Bach says. Another upsell can be the style of tent. “Heavy-duty frames, for example, can withstand unpredictable weather better and offer more airtight construction,” she adds.
“We’ve upgraded tent styles from a high-peak pole tent to a Navi-Trac® or clearspan tent,” says Goffredo-Catino. “[They provide] freer and better use of interior space, and can [accommodate] doors and a sidewall on a track.”
Clients need to be educated about what they’ll need for their event—not only for the best circumstances, but also for the worst. While people have become more knowledgeable about what is available, sometimes they don’t know that there are certain upgrades they may end up needing. For example, if it rains at a wedding, everyone will need to fit comfortably into the tent and last-minute additions may be necessary. “You have to have a Plan A and a Plan B,” says Marlene Leonard, owner and operator of Big Top Tents and Party Rentals in Waukegan, Ill. Leonard did a summer wedding in Chicago where the client originally wanted a 40-by-40-foot tent. Two days before the event, Leonard had to install a 40-by-60-foot tent with a deck so all the guests could be accommodated in case of rain.
Clients can be unsure about the best options for upgrading square footage. Should they go with one large tent or two small ones? With either option, they’re covered, and profit increases for the tent renter. “Often people think it’s cheaper to have two separate tents—one for the main event and one for cocktail hour. But it is actually often cheaper for them to have one larger tent where they can put everything in, and possibly have a dividing wall of drapes to create multiple areas,” Bach says. “They can get a lot more bang for their buck that way.”
Another often-overlooked essential is generators. “Many people think they do not need generators, but then you explain to them that they need power for their DJs and for their lighting, and they understand why they need it,” Bach says. Upgrades to generators can bring in extra wattage for more powerful lighting and can run more quietly.
“I try to upsell any time that I can. But I don’t think of it as upselling. I think of it as helping to create the best event for the client’s budget,” Bach says. “You give them a vision of how it can look, with recommendations, and they trust you to get it there.”
“In essence, you are being their planner,” adds Leonard. “For example, if you are creating a ballroom wedding, you ask if the client has room in their budget to go from basic lighting to chandeliers. They want elegance, but they also want it to be affordable.”
Pictures of the overall tent setup along with close-ups of tent accessories can go a long way to impress and persuade clients. Visual images—whether on a website, social media or via hard copy—show clients exactly what they are getting. And when clients see a picture online, they often want to have it at their event. It is always helpful to have salespeople in the loop of the most current events, latest information and trending items.
RC Special Events uses a computer program that automatically prompts the sales person to ask the client about adding accessories. And companies like Special Events Tent & Party Rentals have monthly newsletters to inform clients of the latest trends.
Unique events can also bring added value. RC Special Events did a wedding on a Wyoming homestead with a lot of history. The daughter wanted to mark the occasion on her family’s land, which had no power and no water. Menzies made 10 visits to make the event perfect. In the end, the wedding was decked out with multiple tents, solid flooring, carpet, heating, chandeliers, staging, sound and restrooms.
Package deals can also make it easier for the client, who can work with one company instead of several companies. “We offer an entire package,” Leonard says. “By being a one-stop stop, we can offer a client everything they need—and all they have to do is enjoy the event.”
Amir Hussain is a freelance writer based in Minneapolis, Minn.