Marketing First or Service First? The Essence of Quality Events

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Marketing First or Service First? The Essence of Quality Events

By Robbert Weddepohl | Feb 16, 2020

Services and products are getting more next-level every day, but on the downside, they seem to become each other’s twin sibling as well.

My good friend Stijn (Playground for Venues) always says: “marketing first." My personal opinion, however, is that it is actually service that should come first when it comes to our industry. To draw attention, really stick out, and gain surplus whilst doing so, there are two main switches to play with: one of them is marketing, the other one is service. In an ideal world, a two-track strategy, combining the two of them and pushing them forward simultaneously, would seemingly be the best strategy. Yet, this would only work for companies that have their service level at status quo "top-notch." When that is not the case, the only thing you will create with this strategy is a humongous gap between the expectations you’re creating and the actual experience your customer will have.  Leaving us with the question: Do we stick with service first after all? 

Things Have Changed

Marketing departments of enterprises in the meeting and event industry are not (at all) the same as 10 years ago. The classic marketeer without any specialization has become a rare type of dinosaur in the new decennium. Today’s marketeer is a customer journey master; an expert on how to use service delivery as one of several touchpoints that one customer can have on his or her personal journey. Knowing the whole trip and its touchpoints along the way is a grand combination. But what might be necessary to ask ourselves is: What is the effect on the industry of meetings and events, and how do we get to the bottom of what is ultimately possible? What is the impact of the use of new communication methods and channels on the quality of our meetings, as well as on the quality of the service that venues provide?

Right now is the perfect time to manage the level of service you deliver and to work on, and together with your service team. By making all members aware of each and everyone’s influence on the success of the company, you will benefit from their intrinsic motivation that will make them want to make a difference with their personal service from their inner desire.

Discovering the Gaps

To return to the essence of service management, we can use the almost antique-but- functional model of Zeithaml and Parasuraman (1988), which works wonders to discover the gaps that might exist in the service quality of a business. The model gives any business in hospitality the tools to make a concrete and sturdy plan to better their service quality, meanwhile, creating awareness amongst the team and the separate team member’s influence. 

Read on to see why the model also shows that marketing and service fit together like a pair of gloves!

5 Possible Gaps 

  • The first possible gap describes the company’s understanding of customer needs, versus the actual customer expectation.
  • The second gap could reveal itself, if the customer needs are not correctly understood, and neither are translated accordingly in the service delivery policies to ensure that those needs will actually be met. 
  • Then, if those policies are indeed not in line with the customer needs, this forms the next, third and almost inevitable gap. 
  • The following and fourth gap has to do with marketing and external communications: if we do not even understand the customer’s needs and expectations, than how (on earth) are we going to market them to the rest of the world? The opposite effect of what is desired can be a realistic risk here, if focusing on the wrong goals, bringing the wrong message, or making the wrong promise  to the wrong target group. Or all of the above. 
  • Gap 5 is where you will see the magic appear… it becomes clear that service management and marketing go hand in hand. Or at least, they should! (Continue reading to find out why!)

Gaps 1 to 4 can be directed and managed from within your company. Gap 5 is the main gap between customer expectation and customer perception. In all of the gaps, marketing is involved. But when marketing and services are being put together into the same blender, you can make a huge difference surpassing the primary expectation. The ‘customer journey master’, or the ideal marketeer of today, starts from an emotion. A feeling, a sensation: that is the base. The customer expectation is also infused by word of mouth remarks, previous experiences, and personal needs. If you do not manage the above mentioned gaps well, this last, but definitely not to be overlooked or underestimated 5th gap might arise. And you might lose a lot of potential, and even existing, business. 

In order to manage the gaps, you will need to investigate the following variables within your business:


What guarantees do you give, and how do you perform in your ability to accurately deliver and keep your promises?


Are your employees knowledgeable, and are they trustworthy to give confidence to your customer to book (at) your venue?


What is your hardware like? Think of the physical appearance of your property and staff, but also facilities. 


How do you really care about the objective of the event held in your venue? Pay personal attention to your corporate client and his or her guests and customers.


How prompt can you respond to questions and (sudden or even changing) needs of your customer? Can you even foresee them, and act on it?

So…can we make the chandelier shine more? Well, if we add authenticity and intrinsic motivation, there is definitely a one-up option, but without really getting your people engaged, and making them feel seriously enthusiastic about (delivering) service, it will be difficult (just say impossible) to really stand out.

Attention Is the New Delicacy

Nowadays, attention is the new delicacy everyone is desiring. The venue experience is all about the balance between the bricks that the building is made out of, plus the humans working there. Don’t mistakenly focus mainly, or worse, only on the event or the location itself, but strive to reach for the stars with a complete 360-degree experience. Bring your team together, make them aware and co-create with them the highlight route of this journey. Hardware does not work without the proper software!

And for all planners with the aspiration to fly higher; why not ask your (possible future) venues about their vision on service management and how they close these gaps? 

The Answer? Marketing AND Service First

This is the final verdict in my eyes. Get your act together, close the gaps and deliver on your quality of service. People will proactively give great references about your venue, and there still is no better marketing mechanism than word of mouth!

When we meet, when we really meet, is when we change the world. 



Robbert Weddepohl
Robbert Weddepohl

Robbert Weddepohl is the commercial & operational director at Van der Valk International Hotels & Restaurants, past president of MPI Netherlands 2017-2019, president of EMEC19, The Hague and a member of MPI's European Advisory Council.