Contact Us | 1-866-488-4474 |

Strategies for Doing Business in a Challenging Marketplace

MPI Convivium Round Table
Last Tuesday I had the pleasure of facilitating a workshop at Convivium 2010, the biennial conference of the Montréal-Québec Chapter of Meeting Professionals International (MPI).  The learning objectives of the sessions were to share market research, brainstorm and exchange field-tested advice and start participants on their own business growth action plan.

The session was attended by a total of 24 MPI members and guests.  The first order of business was a group discussion of the factors that have changed the meetings industry marketplace in the last two years.  The recession and the price/value consciousness of customers were of course at the top of everybody's list.  Other reported factors were not necessarily related to the economy.  These included:
  • Airport security concerns & passport requirements
  • Short-term group bookings
  • Smaller meetings: less revenue, same work
  • Doing the same/more with fewer resources
  • The impact of social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter)
  • Virtual meetings (Go to Meeting, etc.)
  • The "Expedia Effect": planners & attendees expecting same/lower rates than online, not understanding yield management
  • Access to information/customers being better informed
  • Planners' service expectations: there are no second chance
  • Planners' increased demands for concessions and contract flexibility
  • The need for relationship building with customers
  • Strategic Meeting Management (SMM)
We also discussed three main research papers of major consumer trends:
The discussion then turned to how changing trends and adverse market conditions should spur innovation.  Participants were challenged to brainstorm and come up with tactics that they could implement in their own business.  I shared 10 of the most effective tactics we have used at Greenfield to grow our business and our clients' business:
  1. Web presence not an option: with customers looking for more and better information online, businesses must invest in their online presence through Search Engine Optimization and client-focused content.
  2. Work your existing clients:  since tougher times make clients less inclined to try new suppliers, make sure you make the most of your existing customer base.  Ask for referrals and use client testimonials to build trust with new customers.
  3. Go out & network: rise to the challenge and go see customers in person!
  4. Build your social media profile: this tactic is especially important for sales reps within larger chains who do not have any say in their company's web content.  Build your professional exposure with a 100% complete LinkedIn profile!
  5. Offer value upfront: in this age of open source, rise above being "just a supplier" by providing customers with advice on how to do their job better.  They will love you for it!
  6. Know your numbers & get a coach: professional athletes and many entertainers have coaches and people to help them improve their performance.  My coach is Colleen Francis of Engage Selling.  She's held me accountable with my annual sales goal, breaking it down to "chewable chunks".  In my opinion, all salespeople should have a coach!
  7. Communicate every 30 days: another one of my coach's valuable advice.  If you don't communicate with your customers at least once ever month, you risk losing a minimum 10% of their awareness of your hotel/service.  The key is to vary the ways you touch customers each month.  A phone call, a personal note, a visit to their office, an email newsletter, an invitation to an event... Be creative!
  8. Create alliances:  participants at this session agreed readily that alliances should be forged not only with people who can refer you business, but even competitors.  One independent hotel sales rep mentioned how he has landed business by reaching out to his larger chain competitor around the corner.  And how else do you create alliances except by networking?  (see #2)
  9. Show gratitude: we can never do it enough.  Say thank you in a personal way.  Not by email.  Express yourself with a hand-written note, preferably on nice stationery or blank card.  You don't have to splurge for a gift, but if the matter was considerable, then by all means send flowers, chocolates or other choice item.  Just make sure the person is allowed to accept a gift, and that it is as personal as possible.
  10. Avoid the feast or famine cycle: prospect all the time!  I'm a living example of this practice.  Ensure you grow your business by keeping your funnel as full as possible.  This also helps when a client cancels unexpectedly or tries to negotiate a little too aggressively.
This was my first Convivium, and the first MPI Montreal event I had attended in quite some time.  I enjoyed myself so much that I need to reconnect with my new colleagues soon!