Contact Us | 1-866-488-4474 |

Reaching Planners in a Saturated Marketplace

Saturation in Communication
On Thursday, July 15, SPIN Planners ran a webinar titled, A Rare Look Inside the Buying Process of Senior-Level Planners. Participants included third-party meeting planners Kimberly Ruby, CMM, of Ruby Meetings, Blanca Diaz of BND Meetings.  Association planner Stefanie Simmons of IAAM.  Moderating the discussion was Shawna Suckow, CMP, the Founder of SPIN.

Here are their recommendations on how hotel, CVB and other meeting industry sales representatives should reach out to planners like them:
  • About cold calling:  while all planners universally hate pushy, “telemarketing”-like cold calls, they admit that the telephone is a necessary tool of business.  Do your homework, they advise – which means make sure you’ve checked out the types of meeting and destinations they have executed in the past.  They also warn to make sure you ask permission when starting the conversation.
  • A pet peeve: cute, but useless giveaways and leave-behind gifts, said Kimberly.
  • Because of their frequent business, all panellists report having close relationships with national sales office (NSO) reps.  In their opinion, CVB reps are not visible enough and don’t convey the often free services available through their bureau.
  • About industry events and supplier receptions: planners will attend your event if it is in an unusual or new venue, or features a new food or theme, asserted both Blanca and Stefanie.
  • About familiarization trips: “no more fams without an educational component!” they plead.  Optics are such that planners must justify fams to their bosses and clients.  Suppliers should include at least one educational opportunity in their program, and consider giving Continuing Education Units (CEUs) from a provider approved by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).
  • When asked by this author about regular, old-fashioned mail, panellists admit they open hand-addressed mail or other unusual, personalized email.  Shawna recalled a speaker at a past MPI event who asserted that “lumpy mail gets opened.”
  • Be careful about email: Mass eblasts seem too impersonal, panellists said.  But a direct, personalized message inquiring about interest or through a group on LinkedIn is OK.  One supplier suggested sending an Outlook appointment, requesting a phone appointment.  Even if it’s “at the planners convenience” planners judged this to be intrusive and even “creepy.” Says Kimberly, “being a planner, I’m a control freak.  I want to choose when I speak to a new supplier.”
  • How else should a supplier get known to planners?  Be visible at industry events, volunteer with industry associations such as MPI or PCMA.
Not quite earth-shattering advice, but the good news is that business is picking up.  And those suppliers who find ways to balance personal touches and a professional, consistent approach will be successful.