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Show You Appreciate Your Clients

Show Your Appreciation
Large or small… they ALL matter. That is the key message, and the one thing many people overlook.

Recently, I attended a Client Appreciation Event hosted by Cornwall Business Machines, which inspired me to write this post.

This event is held annually, and I have attended the last 3 years.  They go all out: limo pick up and drop-off, champagne & hors d’oeuvres, and a casino night.

It was a nice evening, and everyone seemed to have a great time.  But what really stood out for me was that they greeted you at the door, rememberedeveryone by name and came around several times during the night to ensure that you were having a good time and that you had everything you needed.

So…. What can you do?  While I am sure that events like these can be budget busters in some cases, there are things you can do to ensure your clients know they matter.

Send a thank you note at the end of the contract.  Handwritten notes are rare these days.  Thanking them for their business in this way will stand out.  Along with the note (and, if budgets allow), send a gift, based on your product/service.  We recently completed a Benchmarking Survey with meeting planners where we asked “what was a memorable way that suppliers reached out to them?” This came up a few times in responses, and I think it’s great!

Make a follow up call.  Sounds simple, but initiating the satisfaction conversation before they come looking for you shows you care.

Repeat clients are great to have, but don’t assume they will come back in 2011 just because they have for so many years previous.  Be proactive in delivering the most important message – they matter.
It goes a long way to ensuring that your relationships remain solid in the future.

Getting Around the Gatekeeper

Gatekeeper Doorman
One of the most frustrating things you can come across is the gatekeeper you can’t get past. You know there is potential there but you just can’t get through to the appropriate person.

First thing to remember is they are just doing their job. Ah, there’s the key phrase – their job. Now taking that into account, when do they do their job? If the office hours are 9 to 5, try calling at 8:45am or 5:02pm.

If you don’t know your contacts extension then you can use the name directory. I know we all think that we should wait until our prospective clients are in for the day and settled with their coffee and give them a chance to listen to their voicemail and check their emails.

That’s actually a great time to reach the contact. The early morning call when they aren’t overwhelmed with other calls or having someone dropping by their office or being pulled into a meeting. The after hours call, when they aren’t struggling to get everything done that they need to before that conference call at 3pm or meeting some other deadline.

Maybe they just found out about a sales meeting that’s coming up or haven’t had a chance to even think about the managers meeting and would appreciate someone calling them up and assisting them, taking some of the burden off their shoulders. Or try calling mid day when there’s someone else answering the phones, even receptionists need to take lunch I’ve connected with meeting planners who didn’t mind talking through their lunch, as it was the only chance they were going to get to drop a few details and let me take over the leg work for them.

What you naturally assume is the worst time to reach someone may just be the best time. I’ve picked up the phone and dialed out of time zone and reached Directors at 7:30 in the morning who had forwarded their office calls to their cells.

People who were actually glad to hear from me because there aren’t enough hours in their day to juggle everything they do. Especially when so many people are covering more positions. For more information regarding the best/worst time to reach someone you can refer back to some previous blogs such as; When Is the Best Time to Prospect? Everyday! And Only a Few “Good” Hours Per Week to Prospect.

Another tip is taking the email address of the person you want to reach and plugging it in to Google.

Often you will get a direct number for the person you are trying to reach and sometimes you will even be provided with the name and number of their assistant. If you don’t have their email address, try the basic formats such as first name dot last name at the name of the company dot com. It takes seconds and could be the difference between not getting passed the gatekeeper and making that connection.

Hosted Buyer Programs – Changing the Landscape in 2011

Busy director of sales & marketing doing his annual budget
This is the time of year that meeting industry suppliers sequester themselves for days to hammer out their annual budget and marketing plan.  With the changing landscape for meeting industry tradeshows in 2011, I wonder what hotel, CVB and convention center plans will include?

New U.S. Tradeshows

MPI will no longer have MeetDifferent in the winter, and its World Education Congress in July will not have a tradeshow component.  Instead, MPI has thrown its support behind IMEX, a hosted buyer program to be held Oct. 11-13, 2011 in Las Vegas.  ASAE and DMAI have endorsed this new show.

The Convention Industry Council and PCMA have lent their education support to the Reed Travel Group, organizers of EIBTM (Barcelona, Spain); GIBTM (Abu Dhabi, UAE), CIBTM (Beijing, China) and AIME (Melbourne, Australia) who are bringing their hosted buyer show format to North America; AIBTM will be June 21-23 in Baltimore.

But it’s not a clear-cut MPI vs. PCMA situation as PCMA is also listed as a “supporting partner” for IMEX.  SITE, ICCA and AIPC seem to be playing safe too by supporting both events.

Pricing for the new shows is not for the faint-hearted. At $92-$110 per square foot, IMEX is the most expensive.  AIBTM is listed as a mere $68 per sq. ft.  These prices of course are “plus-plus” with shipping, drayage, electrical, furniture rental, and all the other usual tradeshow costs.

But as fellow meeting industry blogger Jeff Hurt asked in a recent post, “Are hosted buyer programs just reinvented timeshare prize promises or are they the magical silver bullet for an ailing tradeshow industry?”

While I do believe something needs to be done to revitalize the way business is done in the meetings industry, the hosted buyer format is not a silver bullet.  (Is there ever such a thing?) The biggest change I think needs to take place with suppliers expecting that just showing up at a tradeshow should guarantee them business. The biggest improvement with these new shows I think will be that the appointment format will force suppliers to put more time into pre-show preparation, something they should have been doing in the first place...

Jeff also asked if hosted buyer programs are “ethical and worth attending.” I remember that a few years ago, with the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation hoopla, many corporations would not have even allowed their American buyers to attend a hosted show.  But I guess now the recession has made it OK for many to save money by being hosted…

But let’s not forget that the hosting is not a guarantee; planners must meet minimum business criteria.  So I wonder where this leaves smaller buyers or those who cannot plan meetings outside the U.S.? (IMEX says that hosted US buyers “should place business internationally as well as domestically”).

And what about the smaller suppliers?  Those who cannot afford these big shows?  Will we see a resurgence of smaller tradeshows or showcases?  Will local MPI chapters use this as an opportunity to organize regional tradeshows? Maybe CVBs will opt to organize sales missions or host events in planners’ own cities?
I see a lot of fragmentation ahead and my thoughts are with those poor DOSMs who must sift through it all!