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Advice for Meetings Industry Marketers: Top 12 Blogs of 2012

As we look back upon the last year, I thought I would share what our clients, colleagues and other followers in the Twitterverse saw as our most helpful blog articles (based on the number of hits, re-tweets and other social media shares):

The Difference Between Meeting Planners and Suppliers  – this post discusses the differences we’ve observed between meeting planners, who ask questions and contribute advice on social media, versus director-level meetings industry suppliers, who seem barely visible on LinkedIn or Twitter.  How can these Directors of Sales & Marketing possibly devise successful marketing campaigns if they don't know what planners want?

Six Tips to Effective Email Marketing for #Eventprofs – Jeff Chabot, Greenfield’s Web & E-Marketing Programmer reviews best practices for email marketing for your hotel, CVB or special event facility.

Generation Next: Are Demographic Shifts Having an Impact on Meetings?  – this post originally was published in Corporate Meetings & Events Magazine.  It discusses how retiring boomers and the growing proportion of GenX and GenY cohorts are changing how meetings are planned.

Six Tips to Successful Content Creation for #EventProfs – generating content is a key component of a successful inbound marketing program.  This post offers advice on how to produce a steady stream of blog posts, nurturing emails and other articles.

Lead Spam and the Commoditization of the Meetings Industry – Some Answers – this article features an interview with Kristi Casey Sanders, VP Creative/Chief Storyteller for Atlanta Metropolitan Publishing, publisher of Plan Your Meetings.  Part 1 offers background on the issue of Lead Spam.

Hospitality and Meetings: Finding Ourselves in the Social Media Picture – a review of research that compares the social media activity across industries, and how hospitality, tourism and meetings organizations are woefully slow adopters.  It’ll be interesting to see if things change in 2013!

Why Every Hotel and CVB Should Consider Pinterest – This content-sharing network became the new social media darling in 2012, and this post discusses why hoteliers and destination marketing organizations should be jumping on the bandwagon.

Advice from a Meeting Planner to Suppliers  – our most popular guest post by meeting planner Cara Tracy, CMP, CMM, who is Director of Professional Development at National Speakers Association.

Meetings: The Red-Headed Stepchild of CVB Budgets? – Meetings, Conventions and Incentive Travel business rarely gets its fair share of marketing funds at most destination marketing organizations.  This post discusses the merits of shifting to an inbound marketing approach to leverage these precious funds.

Stop Polluting LinkedIN – my rant against people who think I should connect with them on LinkedIN even though I have never met or even spoken with them!

Think Magnets, Not Darts – our explanation of what is causing the shift from pushy, outbound marketing tactics to more engaging inbound marketing practices.

Too Many Hospitality Industry Marketers Are Like Politicians – fed up with election rhetoric, I was inspired to write this post.  But it’s not just a rant!  I also describe two successful meetings industry suppliers who have chosen to break from the pack and implement inbound marketing practices.

As 2012 draws to an end, we are so grateful to all of our followers, readers, colleagues and clients.  Greenfield’s conversion to an inbound marketing model has been a terrific journey, and we look forward to sharing more news, tips and trends with more hospitality and meetings industry marketers in 2013.

The World Didn’t End and Six Ways to Do Better

So the world didn’t end yesterday.  But apocalypse or not, it's important to remember each new day, month or year is an opportunity to do better.

Yup, that's me holding up the front page of the
Ottawa Sun's Dec. 21 issue.
Doing better is top of mind for me because not only was December 21, 2012 the day the world was supposed to end, it was also my 49th birthday. That’s right, the start of my fiftieth year!  And there’s something about milestones that makes me want to improve the way I live and do business.

I’ll spare you my personal intentions but as this year draws to an end, here are the six ways I resolve to do better professionally:

  1. Be clear on who we do and don’t do business with:  last week I wrote about a few examples of when it's best to refuse business.  In a follow-up conversation with my sales coach, Colleen Francis, she urged me to go as step further and describe the types of clients we no longer wish to do business with.  While that may sound arrogant, the purpose is to make sure we waste nobody's time, ours or the prospect’s, so that we may in fact be better able to deliver excellent service to the types of clients we do want to do more business with.
  2. Have more meaningful conversations:  the wider the audience, the more difficult it is to have significant dialogue.   Clarity about who you want to do business with allows you to reduce the number of prospects in your database that may otherwise dilute your time and effort.  For instance, it is easier to personalize your e-mail newsletter and have more in-depth content if your audience is highly defined.  (Read more advice on data management with our 7 Tips to Taming Your Database).
  3. Improve the user experience:  Recently we had the pleasure of helping a long-time supplier with their website re-design and Search Engine Optimization.  We’d learned a lot in the last year about how to make a website generate more inbound marketing leads and it was great to put this knowledge to work for a valued partner.  This also made us realize we had to renovate our own site to improve on our own user experience.  Stay tuned for the changes.
  4. Be more engaging with social media:  in a recent post, brand marketing agency CEO Bryan Kramer urged his readers to be more authentic in their marketing practices.  He had great advice.  While I had already started being choosier about my connections on LinkedIn (see Stop Polluting LinkedIn), now I also want to reduce the number of groups I follow so I can read posts more regularly and contribute more often.  (Next on my to-do will be Twitter, but that’s a whole other matter…!)   
  5. Reach out more and in unexpected ways:  For the first time in many years I didn't send Christmas cards this year.   They were too many things on the go and I ran out of time.  I felt guilty for a while but then realized:  even if I was sending personalized cards, when everyone is doing the same thing, how does it matter to the recipient?  What if I could reach out at other times of the year, in a more meaningful way?  And with a smaller audience, it should be easier to communicate more regularly...
  6. Try something new:  I may be turning 50 in 2013, but I never want that old dog who refuses to learn new tricks.  So I will be looking to my GenY and GenX staffers to help me implement new ways of bringing thought leadership and relevancy to our clients and community.  We're not sure what that may look like yet, whether it will be infographics, videos, or podcasts but I look forward to the journey!
Enjoy this holiday season and we look forward to the conversation in 2013!

Why You Should Sometimes Turn Down Business

Thumbs up and Thumbs down
For hospitality salespeople who are here to serve and trained to please, this blog post may be a tough sell.

But it’s time to get clear on an inconvenient truth: the customer isn’t always right, and we do them and ourselves a disservice when we pretend otherwise. As I keep hearing from my friend Mitchell Beer, newly-minted social media strategist, “just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should.”

I know, I know—as a former hotel director of sales & marketing, I had the same training, and come out of the same tradition. And of course we all want satisfied customers. So it took me several years as a business owner to realize that over-pleasing can be harmful, diluting your staff resources, and ruining your business reputation when you still fail to meet expectations. And it may not even help the client, if the whole exercise ends up delaying their search for the vendor that can really meet their specific need.

A couple of recent experiences brought home the importance of either turning down business, or telling the client they aren't right, and convincing them to change their minds:
  • A referral from outside the hospitality and association space needed lead generation, but as our conversation progressed, I realized this new prospect wanted to buy professional services like one buys widgets: he was intensely interested in our cost per contact, connect rate, and average time between calls, not so much in the human connections that build client relationships over the phone. After five months, and three quotes, the client said he had gone into “cost-cutting mode”. I’m just as happy to see him save his money, because this wasn’t a fit for either of us.
  • We reached a much happier conclusion with a Canadian convention and visitors bureau that needed last-minute help with an out-of-province sales mission. They had no contact list to speak of, and not enough time to develop one, so we would have been reduced to cold calling meeting planners to see if had time to meet—exactly the buckshot approach we advise against. Instead, we organized an education session that earned rave reviews from the 18 planners who participated, building deeper business relationships that will continue to grow.
Here are four things you can do to keep your business mix where you need it to be:
  1. Know your strengths. Be clear on what you’ll do for a client, and don’t offer services that you can’t or would prefer not to deliver. We all have times when we have to fill a gap in the calendar by taking a less-than-optimal piece of business, but you can solve or minimize that problem if you…
  2. Make sure you have enough opportunities in your funnel, so that you’re never forced to grab the only one in sight.
  3. Beware of tire-kickers. We use our Perfect Customer Questionnaire to help our new clients and prospects sort out their own targeting. But by filling it out themselves, they also connect with our process and begin to think of our relationship as a two-way street.
  4. Follow your gut. If the project doesn’t feel right, don’t take it. (And if you feel you don’t have a choice…go back to #1 and start this list over!)

Stop Polluting LinkedIN

It started as an occasional annoyance. Then it became a mild distraction. Lately, the volume of fake LinkedIn connections has grown into a flood that threatens to overwhelm one of my favourite business networking tools.

I’m sure you see them, too: the LinkedIn request from someone you’ve never heard of, or who works for the organization you left five years ago. It’s an individual invitation that took at least a moment of thought before the originator hit ‘send’. But it crosses an important line and reflects a misunderstanding of LinkedIn’s purpose…and its strength.

The antidote comes in three words (two of which have only been defined in the last decade): LinkedIn isn’t Twitter.

The difference matters. On Twitter, the more followers you have, the better off you are. The 140-character connections are small, their duration is fleeting, and the best use of the platform is to pull casual connections into a longer conversation.

But LinkedIn is one of the places where those conversations are supposed to take place. That’s why the platform itself puts so much emphasis on real-world connections—the system confirms whether you know each contact before you reach out, and makes it a bit more difficult (though, sadly, not impossible) to send contact requests to strangers.

Malcolm Gladwell’s definition of connectors may stretch the point a bit: In his first book, The Tipping Point, he talks about the power of “loose connections” and the amazing networks that surround those people we all know who seem to know everyone. LinkedIn is a place where those connections can thrive, but it defeats the purpose to try to turn a big, extended, virtual water cooler into an anonymous street corner.

That distinction is easily lost on inexperienced account managers who see any social platform as an opportunity to build their pipeline and nab some short-term sales. Bad habits are reinforced by Directors of Sales & Marketing who talk a good line about building business relationships, but still put all their emphasis on quarterly reporting. Sales reps assure prospects that they’re really interested in understanding their business needs and building a long-term conversation…until planners realize that that’s just their latest line to try and close a quick deal.

LinkedIn may have crossed its own line when it introduced its endorsements feature this fall. In his excellent It’s All Virtual blog, Dennis Shiao argued that endorsements make it too easy to send out a public recommendation for someone you don’t really know all that well. And by the time I saw his post, I had already come to a perverse conclusion: endorsements made me realize that it’s time to scale back my LinkedIn list to people who really are a part of my network.

Miss Manners might have a few choice words about the best way to “dump” someone from your network, but that misses the point. It isn’t (or shouldn’t be) a rejection—I just want my LinkedIn list to be an accurate reflection of my real-world networks. For casual conversations, I can still find those looser connections on Twitter (and I'm happy if we connect there; my handle is @dashtonwagner). But LinkedIn is a different kind of network…and that means if you ask me to connect and we really don't know each other, I will ignore you.

What are your thoughts on this issue?

Ten Steps to Make Your Meeting Proposal Stand Out From Your Competition

This post is by guest contributor Cara Tracy, CMP, CMM.  Cara is a meetings industry professional who has been on the supply side of the industry, as well as the planning side.  This post offers great advice to hotels, CVBs and anyone else who provides proposals to meeting planners!

Lego men
Don’t you love getting requests for proposals? It’s like someone handing you a piece of business … almost. Follow these ten simple steps and you will make a positive first-impression which will help you stand out from your competitors.
1. Follow all instructions
The planner has told you what they want and what is important to them. Pay attention to this. If the RFP says not to call, do not call. If the RFP asks for average menu prices, distance from the airport, whatever—provide the information that is requested.

2. Do your homework
Check to see if the planner and/or organization has used your property before and acknowledge it. I don’t feel like a valued customer when I’m treated like a new piece of business. I appreciated a proposal I received recently from a property that I’ve used in the past. In addition to thanking me for my loyalty, the sales manager also left out the “fluff,” since I am familiar with her property, and just gave me the information I requested.

3. Address my concessions
If you can’t offer all of the concessions requested, contact the client to find out what’s most important to them, what they can live without, etc. If I ask for a certain number of upgrades, it’s for a reason (in my case it is for my board of directors—I can’t give some upgrades and not others.)

4. Don’t waste my time
If I am looking for a rate under $150 in February, don’t offer me a $300 rate in January.

5. Don’t use acronyms
In one proposal, a hotel offered my group “comp HSIA in guestrooms.” I assume that means high-speed internet access but since that term is not widely used, it’s best to spell it out.

6. Don’t call something a concession that isn’t
Oooh, thank you Mr. Hotel Sales Manager for offering my group a complimentary registration desk and conference office. Do you charge other groups for this?

7. Know your client
Planners who work directly for a corporation, association or government agency typically do not have clients, so don’t refer to their “client’s attendees” in your proposal. Just say “your attendees.” Also, don’t invite the planner over for lunch next week if they live across the country.
8. Watch your wording
If you aren’t sure about the definition of a word, look it up. A hotel sales manager promised “You will have a successful meeting at the XYZ hotel with every detail being overlooked by your dedicated event manager.” Um, I don’t want ANY detail of my meeting to be overlooked.

9. Be reasonable
Don’t mention in your proposal “I will call you in a few days to see if we can move forward with a contract.” Really? Does anyone make a decision that quickly? Instead, look at the due date on the RFP and say something like “I will contact you after (due date) to see if you have any questions or if I can provide you with more information about ABC hotel.”

10. Review your proposal before you send Check for missing information, spelling and other errors. Make sure you didn’t leave someone else’s name and/or company name in the template. Look for inconsistencies. Did you offer complimentary parking under “concessions” but list parking charges in another part of the proposal?

Your potential client took the time to create an RFP specifically for their meeting and their organization's needs. Honor and respect them by taking the time to respond in an equally—if not more—thoughtful manner. If you crank out a standard “form” proposal, you are not showing your genuine interest in their business and will sound and look like everyone else, even if your property and service are superior.

What are other best practices you can use when responding to RFPs?

Image by Flicker user gary_foulger CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Hospitality Exhibitors – Stop Wasting Your Time!

Business Woman Gets Frustrated with Lack of Research
It surprises me that in 2012, with all of the technology out there to help , too many hospitality sales and marketing managers still do not take the time to research contacts before they start marketing to them.

I recently participated in an association industry conference, by attending both as a delegate and exhibiting at the tradeshow.  A few days after the conference ended, I received the post-show delegate list, including both suppliers and professionals who attended.  This was at 3:00 PM in the afternoon.

By 11:00 PM that night, I had received an email from a fellow exhibitor.  The email thanked me for stopping by the booth.  Here is what is wrong with the scenario:
  1. The email I received was generic.  Knowing about various technologies, it was clear to me that this particular supplier simply uploaded the spreadsheet into their email software, sent the message to themselves, and blind copied everyone on the list.  There was NO personalization (i.e. Dear Meagan).  It was “Thanks for stopping by the booth”, and “Here are seven reasons to book a meeting with us”.
  2. I did not stop by their booth.  Although it was clear to me how and why I got this email, I have no idea who this person is.  While they did not personalize the message, and the tone of the message was general in nature, it was not unpleasant.  This person was definitely trying to be friendly, but it didn’t appeal to me because we  had never met.  And I am positive that there are more people on the list just like me.
  3. I am a supplier.  Not only did I not stop by their booth, I did not go to any booth, other than to wave at fellow colleagues who were at the show as well.  I have no business for this person!!!
I shudder to even think that this same person probably has uploaded this same spreadsheet into their CRM and now I’m going to start getting more useless information from them…

Can you imagine what the messaging could have looked like if it had been delivered to the right contacts, by doing some research first?  Here is, in my opinion, what should happen:
  1. This sales manager should have started by sorting by company name, and removed the obvious suppliers.  This will eliminate your competition right away so that they do not see what you are up to for post-show marketing!
  2. Next, I would have removed the companies who you are not sure whether they are suppliers or not.  Set them aside.  EVERYONE has a website these days, look them up.
  3. Take a look at what is left, and filter out some of the prospects even further.  If you are located in Ontario, and the prospect is a provincial association in BC, there is very little chance (at best) that they can bring a meeting to your property.  They don’t want your emails, unless they actually stopped by your booth and said they have potential for you.
  4. Every industry show I have attended, exhibitors collected business cards from booth visitors.  Take them out of the general email equation, and send them a personal message, thanking them for their time at the show, and following up on the conversation you had with them.  Provide them with the specific information they were looking for, and put them in your lead generation funnel.
  5. Yes, you can send a general email to everyone left on the list, but use some sort of personalization.  There are hundreds of variations of online software out there that can insert a first name into your email, so that at least it looks like you were thinking specifically of them.
I followed these steps myself; it took me about 30 minutes, not including the research that I need to do on those I am not sure about.  Sounds easy?  That’s because it is.  And you will not upset people who don’t need your information in the meantime.

Greenfield Presents Meeting Planner Lunch & Learn Nov. 22 in Montreal

We are thrilled to announce our upcoming Planner Education Session, on Nov. 22 in Montreal.  Sponsored by Niagara Falls Tourism, this “Lunch & Learn” session will exploreThe Impact of Demographic Shifts on the Meeting & Event Industry.

Changing demographics are affecting the way planners engage audiences, as we've discussed in an earlier blog, Generation Next.  At this live session, Doreen Ashton Wagner, Chief Strategist at Greenfield Services will be presenting research culled from various industry sources, including findings from the landmark study by the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), this past spring.  This session is designed specifically for meeting and event planners like you who are looking to create a better experience for all attendees, from Boomers to GenX and GenY to Millennials.

Attendance is complimentary for qualified planners. For more information please consult the event registration page.

Too Many Hospitality Industry Marketers Are Like Politicians

Now that the Ontario elections are over we can all heave a sigh of relief. Finally we get our airwaves back!  No more ads about how this or proposition that. No more hearing what the incumbent did or didn't do…

Meetings industry marketers can be so much like politicians we love to detest... These are the marketers who shamelessly pander for business, like politicians pander for votes.  Giving what they think the audience wants to hear, regardless of vision or ideology.

Witness the following slogans taken from one recent meetings publications.  These are all from a hotel, a venue or a CVB:
  • Inspiration Meets Here
  • Ideas are Only as Good as Their Inspiration
  • Share Ideas, Stay Connected Be Inspired
  • Blue Sky Thinking at its Finest
  • Our Corporate Training Facility Will Inspire You
A whole lot of blah blah blah, all about inspiration, but really nothing that differentiates each venue, or city...  Is it any wonder many meeting planners, both full-time and occasional, treat meetings industry suppliers like commodities?  So many sound the same! (for more reading on the Commoditization of the Meetings Industry check out the following blogs on Lead Spam 1 & 2).

But what would vision in marketing a facility or destination look like? Good question.  I don't purport to have all the answers, but here are a couple examples of at least more visionary marketing than what we've been subjected to in the past:

Pebble Beach Resorts, Pebble Beach, CA:  Recently I received an email from this Resort (where I had stayed a few years back) and they were offering me a complimentary download of their first White Paper titled "Why Savvy Business Leaders Use Golf to Grow Their Business".

All I had to do was confirm my information and give them permission to stay connected.  It promised to provide me with timely information so I could become a "Pebble Beach Insider".  It made me feel special and the White Paper offered great tips to planners and corporate executives on “selling” a golf-based event at a high-end resort like Pebble Beach. 

According to their VP of Sales, Tim Ryan, the promotion did extremely well, and brought them several RFPs just with one email deployment.  I thought their approach was very innovative, and completely aligned with the principles of inbound marketing that we’ve been preaching about (see also the following blog posts: The Difference Between Meeting Planners and Suppliers, Think Magnets,Not Darts, Six Tips toSuccessful Content Creation for #EventProfs).

National Conference Center (NCC), Leesburg, VA:  I have been following this IACC-certified facility for quite some time now.  They have a great blog that blends insights about the meetings industry, with profiles of clients and event posts on line staff.  Recently when Sarah Vining, their Marketing Manager, left to accept a position at the 4-H Council, they blogged about her departure, giving her a nice farewell tribute, and reporting on one of her last projects. 

But they don’t just blog about stuff, they also create useful resources for planners, with white papers about diverse topics such as Enhancing Meetings Through Food, Understanding Generational Differences, and Technology's Secret Potential to Empower Participants.  Check them out at:

Both of the above organizations seem to have clearly understood what Simon Sinek author of Start with Why has called the Golden Circle. If you're not familiar with Sinek's work, you ought to check out his TED Conference video. But essentially Sinek argues the following: people don’t buy WHAT you do (hotel rooms, conference center facilities), they buy WHY you do it.  He says that all the top-performing, most inspirational leaders and brands think, act and communicate completely differently from the rest of the pack. They tell WHY they are in business, then how, then what, not the other way around. 

In the work that both Pebble Beach Resorts and the National Conference Center have done, I believe they have clearly articulated their why to their audience and consequently have risen to a level above their peers in their marketing efforts.  With its white paper Pebble Beach told me their WHY is to help business generate more business.  It’s not about their ultra-luxurious rooms or meeting space, it’s not even about golf.  Their WHY is about creating an environment where people make better connections, strike partnerships and close deals.

Similarly the NCC’s WHY is about creating better relationships but their execution is so different and personal that a planner would never confuse the two entities.  I can’t say quite as much about many of the organizations in the North American meetings industry…

The moral of this story is this: Business-to-business buyers and consumers alike are tired of the noise in the marketplace. They seek alignment with organizations and brands that stand for something beyond just what they deliver and how they deliver it. How will your hotel, convention center, or destination rise to this challenge?

The Difference Between Meeting Planners and Suppliers

For quite some time now I've been monitoring discussions in various LinkedIn groups. About half are planner-driven groups such as Meeting Professionals International (MPI), Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and other event planning groups. The other half are supply-side groups: Hotel Sales & Marketing, Luxury Hoteliers, Canadian Hospitality Professionals, etc.

I've noticed striking differences in the level of discussions between the two types of groups. Planner forums are definitely more collaborative in nature. Planners will post helpful articles, questions they need help with, and other educational material. Other planners willingly contribute answers and comments. And suppliers, savvy in social media etiquette, also contribute insightful comments or resources.

In comparison the supplier groups, which are made up of senior hotel industry executives in sales and marketing positions, are woefully absent with any postings.  Most of those groups are dominated by misguided suppliers trying to flog their wares and services – anything from hotel televisions to Internet search engine optimization services.

Where are the hotel directors of sales and marketing who post questions or requests for help? Not in these groups!  Is that because they know all the answers? I doubt it. Is it because they have no idea what they could gain from participation in a quality for? Possibly. Or maybe they just don't have time to go "play" in such social media forums.

Whatever the reason this unfortunately means that for the most part they don't understand that sales has shifted to an inbound marketing model. Planners are drawn to destinations, hotels and venues by the quality of content that is available online, including through social media. If directors of sales and marketing don't know how it works how can they possibly devise the right strategies to attract new meetings and events business? There is a serious disconnect.

Caught in between are the sales people who know that traditional, push marketing is no longer effective.  They are getting frustrated by the lack of success in new business development and are pining for new means to forge a relationship with the ever elusive planner.

Their boss is pushing them to make more cold calls and they know this is not the answer.  But what can they do?

It's not that sales people are lazy. Some of them are, but certainly not all. It's that the market has changed. And sales and marketing leaders need to change their practices along with the times.

Meetings: The Red-Headed Stepchild of CVB Budgets?

Recently I was speaking with a favourite client who is the senior business development person for a major Canadian Convention & Visitor Bureau (CVB)*. He shared with me his frustration with the budget process, especially the fact his Bureau has been allocating 94% of its marketing budget to leisure business and only 6% for meetings, conferences and incentive travel (MC&IT).  Yet the Bureau's own analysis showed that the measly 6% produced 70% of the business generated by the CVB's programs!

In conversations with many other Bureau sales executives, both in Canada and the USA, I've heard that MC&IT business rarely gets its fair share of marketing funds.

One might argue that spending on leisure advertising and other promotional programs is an essential part of creating awareness for a destination. The allure of the destination from tourists' point of view is a big reason why an event planner will decide in favour of one destination over another.

That kind of spending pattern might have worked fine a few years ago, when tradeshows were well attended, planners actually showed up for events or fam trips, and meetings were booked through fewer channels.

But now business is more fragmented and B2B buyers are not as easily swayed by routine advertising in meetings publications.  CVB sales teams need more support from their marketing departments because buyer behaviour has changed.  (We've described the reasons behind these changes in a Discussion Paper published earlier this year.  You will be required to enter basic contact information to download).

Buyers now want to have more information accessible from the web and from mobile devices. They want MORE than pretty pictures of nature sites or tourist attractions.  They want to know about how that destinations facilities and services will make their meeting a success.

They also expect to see destination reps active on social media, sharing useful content and engaging them in productive business conversations. They don't want to be "sold to"; they want to be drawn to a destination because of the suppliers' level of expertise in hosting a small meeting, a high-level conference, a major convention, or a once-in-a-lifetime incentive trip.

This requires CVB's marketing and sales departments to be more aligned.  Key elements include: 
  • An MC&IT-dedicated website or section of a website, designed and optimized with the meeting planner in mind
  • Educational content, with case studies and other thought-leadership pieces that showcase the destination, but also provide advice on how to maximize attendance, save money, plan more productive events, etc.
  • A social media strategy that appeals to B2B buyers, not consumers looking for the next vacation spot
  • And marketing automation integration geared to support proactive lead nurturing, fueled by the above-mentioned content!

What I've just described is an inbound marketing approach, one that attracts more inquiries and feeds sales teams more business opportunities.

Inbound marketing for MC&IT business requires increased investment.  With shrinking budgets and increased fiscal pressures, it's one more demand that CVB marketing executives probably didn't need. The good news is that ROI on MC&IT business is much easier to measure than with leisure. Let's hope more CVBs prepare to meet the shifting demands of the market.

* Note: In this article I have used the description "Convention & Visitor Bureau" or CVB, though I could have also used "Destination Marketing Organization" or DMO.  I hope my friends at DMAI will forgive me...

Happy Thanksgiving to all Canadian #Eventprofs

Turkey Singing
This weekend Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving.  It's a tradition we share with our American friends.  We always like to point out that we are first to do it (but only because in November turkeys are frozen solid here in Canada).

A BIG thank you to all our clients, employees and partners.  We appreciate your support and friendship.  Since we can all use more humour (or humor as you prefer), enjoy this funny video, courtesy of Business Week! (Sorry, Apple users, this is a Flash file...).

Lead Spam and the Commoditization of the Meetings Industry – Some Answers

Last week we discussed a disturbing trend observed in both the U.S. and Canada: the increasing number of multiple leads sent to hotels and CVBs, for the same piece of business, from competing third-party planners and site selection companies, often using multiple electronic channels.

This is what we’ve come to refer to lead spam.

It’s a situation that creates confusion amongst different sales contacts (for instance at a brand’s group desk and at property level), wastes time and often generates unnecessary work.  I see it as one more unfortunate move towards the commoditization of hotels, CVBs and even other meetings industry suppliers.  Soon, if suppliers don't wake up, organization will do away with sales managers and just replace them with people who can process electronic leads.  GONE will be the relationships so many meeting professionals love this industry for.

Scary scenario, isn't it?  But what can be done about the situation?

I questioned Kristi Casey Sanders, VP Creative/Chief Storyteller for Atlanta Metropolitan Publishing, publisher of Plan Your Meetings, billed as “a free educational and social resource for meeting and event planners.”  Kristi’s tweets were the ones that originally alerted me to this trend.

Is it ethical for third-party planners or site selection firms to field RFPs if they have not been given the mandate by the end user?
I'm not quite sure how this happens, but I don't see any gray area on this point. If you were not hired by the planner to source their meeting, intercepting the business and acting as a representative is confusing at best. I realize that the proliferation of non-professional planners in this industry may make some of them easy prey for this kind of poaching, but third-parties and site selection firms need to be direct about their intentions. And if they are going to send out RFPs on a planner's behalf, the planner should be contracted to them so they understand they shouldn't be asking other people to do the same thing.
Do end users – corporate, association and government groups – realize what burden this issue is placing on suppliers, potentially increasing the cost of doing business?
I don't think they do, unless they've been in an educational session that addresses it. They are outsourcing the work or using online systems where they can send as many RFPs to as many properties as they want. Or they're sitting by their email inboxes cursing hotels for not getting back to them, completely oblivious to the reason why so many RFPs go unanswered.
What are industry associations, MPI, PCMA, and others, doing to open up the dialogue and bring attention to the issue?
I know Mike Mason, the ZEO of Zentila is a tireless advocate for the end of lead spam. He's been leading sessions that address this and how to craft better RFPs for our 2012 PYM LIVE Events. He also is a prolific writer, who has written columns about this for different publications. But I don't know that this is on the association radar yet. The focus on education there tends to be mostly towards strategic meeting management, new trends in meeting design, technology and budgeting tips.
Lastly should the recipients of lead spam willing to DO to counteract this trend?  
I know that on the hotel side, a lot of properties are signing up with Zentila, an online sourcing engine that specializes in booking short-term meetings. The planners using the system are restricted to contacting only a handful of properties. Those properties see who they're bidding against and are notified when the business goes elsewhere, so it closes the loop and incentivizes hotel sales teams to reply to the RFPs within a 3-hour window. It was basically designed to solve the pain of lead spam and the circumstances that were creating it. 
I think on the planning side, meeting and event planners need to be more concise with their RFPs and stay involved in the sourcing process. Narrow your focus to what could work for your group instead of sending out a scattershot call for bids. 
If planners do outsource their site selection process, they need to ask their vendor how the RFP process is conducted.  Some large independent third party franchises teach their people to send massive amounts of RFPs out rather than targeting their requests with the philosophy that more options will increase the chance of securing lower rates. I think that all it does is perpetuate the lead spam problem and shows a disregard for what makes a group unique. That's why I (and many independent planners) draw a big distinction between these big-box third parties and boutique planning firms. 
Hoteliers often carp about how bad and incomplete the RFPs they get from planners are. But I hear the same thing from planners: that what they receive from the hotels aren't filled out or filled out wrong. The CIC tried years ago to standardize RFPs with APEX software to streamline the process, but the only really attractive user-friendly version I've seen is what Zentila launched this year.  
That's key: You've got to make things simple, easy and fun to use, otherwise the people planning meetings are going to continue to abandon this part of the process. When they do, it falls to the third parties and independents who are just trying to get business and make a commission, which creates the vicious lead-spam cycle.

We thank Kristi for bringing us these insightful comments.

Lead Spam and the Increasing Commoditization of the Meetings Industry

It started with a stream of tweets earlier this summer by PYMLive, the live event Twitter account of Plan Your Meetings (PYM), a “free educational and social resource for people who plan corporate meetings and events”:
What's going on with hotels: 2 yrs ago they were sucking wind. Today, RFP volume has increased by 300% from 2006-2007
Despite having 300% [increase] in demand, hotels only close 1/5 of what they had closed- less than 3% of RFPs [because] of lead spam! 
Lead spam is crushing hotel sales teams!
Hoteliers get the same lead from multiple sources because of third parties. It wastes time to answer all those leads
When I questioned what, exactly, was meant by “lead spam” @PYMLive explained:  “eRFPs [are] sent out to 18-20 properties [instead of] 4-8. One hotelier said that they'll sometimes get the same RFP from 3 [different third-parties].  The author was reporting from one of the Plan Your Meeting (PYM) Live 2012 event at the Westin in Charlotte, NC.

This got me thinking… was this yet one more sign of the increasing commoditization of the meetings industry?  So I posted a poll on LinkedIn asking, “On average, how often does your hotel, meeting venue or CVB receive the SAME lead from multiple channels or sources?”

With only 17 respondents, this poll won’t give us more than a tiny glimpse into the state of the industry.  But I thought it was revealing that none of the respondents said that lead spam was NOT a factor.  Two-thirds (11 of 17) said they encountered lead spam on average once to three times per month.  Three people said they faced this issue one to four times per week, and another three said five or more times per week.

Admittedly a few responses to a poll or posts on a social media platform do not make a trend.  But where there’s smoke, there is fire…

One-on-one conversations with colleagues and clients put a different spin on the story.  One corporate director of sales & marketing of a major hotel brand said her central reservation group desk is plagued with multiple leads for what is obviously the same piece of business.  She complained that it wastes countless hours of her staff’s time, and demoralizes them because they see responding to these leads as an almost total waste of time.  Processing these leads also erodes the group desk’s credibility with their hotels because very few ever convert to definite business.

At property level, one Midwest hotel director of sales confided that he had instructed his sales managers to ignore leads from certain third-party site selection companies.  “Especially when the group history doesn’t indicate a pattern of travel to the Midwest, why would we waste our time responding when we know they’ll likely go to Vegas or Orlando?”

The issue seems to be affecting hotels much more than Convention and Visitor Bureaus (CVBs).  This could be because some CVBs are measured on the volume of leads they produce, versus the number of room-nights they close.  Lead spam in some cases could be favouring some CVBs’ position.

I see this as an ethical issue that sooner or later should push the industry to action:
  • Is it ethical for third-party planners or site selection firms to field RFPs if they have not been given the mandate by the end user?  I realize this is how some firms position themselves to get the business (“Let me get this out to our partner suppliers, and then you make the decision to hire us”), but is it right?
  • Do end users – corporate, association and government groups – realize what burden this issue is placing on suppliers, potentially increasing the cost of doing business?
  • What are industry associations, MPI, PCMA, and others, doing to open up the dialogue and bring attention to the issue?
  • Lastly, but more importantly, what are the recipients of lead spam willing to DO to counteract this trend?  Will hoteliers finally stand up and say, “No more” or will they continue to bow down and hope to scrape by?  What should assertive meetings industry suppliers, those that don’t want to play these games, do to attract business that is genuinely qualified?
Stay tuned for next week’s post for some answers!

Generation Next: Are Demographic Shifts Having an Impact on Meetings?

Since 2011, when the oldest baby boomers turned 65, an average of 1,000 Canadians are reaching retirement age every day.  In the U.S. Pew Research reports 10,000 Americans are retiring each day -- a figure that makes sense since the U.S. has roughly 10 times Canada's population.  In both countries the recession may be delaying some leaving the workforce, but by 2014, the retirement wave is expected to hit.

While younger generations, commonly referred to as Generation X and Y, together outnumber boomers, they do not have the experience or aren’t necessarily interested in replacing boomers in certain sectors.  Industry groups from tourism to petroleum are warning of labour shortages starting as early as 2013.

So what does this have to do with meetings? If bringing people face-to-face is meant to facilitate learning and change, motivating and engaging employees, demographic shifts may represent important challenges to the way meetings and events are planned.    

In both her books, Rock Stars Incorporated (2007) and The End of Membership as We Know It (2011), American generational expert Sarah Sladek of XYZ University offers colourful descriptions of the factors that distinguish each generation at work.

Resistant to Change

She describes boomers as growing up in a time of affluence, “reared to pursue the American Dream.”  They show a preference for face-to-face communication and an appreciation for meetings. Boomers, Sladek says, generally assume “no news is good news,” managing their work accordingly. Because they’ve held a dominant position in society for so long, they may be somewhat resistant to change.

Canadian author Cheryl Cran echoes many of Sladek’s observations in her book 101 Ways to Make Generations X, Y and Zoomers Happy at Work. By comparison she says Generation X grew up with political and economic uncertainty, with Watergate, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 1990s recession. As children of divorce, they grew up self-sufficient and most hate to be micro-managed at work. Many saw their hard-working parents dismissed by employers, so GenXers insist on balancing work and family, looking at meetings that infringe upon their private time with a jaded eye.

Tech Savvy

Both authors similarly describe Generation Y: They grew up with a full schedule of activities, being rewarded “just for showing up.” Preferring frequent interaction with peers and supervisors, they are easily hurt by negative feedback. They are used to group problem-solving, expect to have a voice at meetings and to use the technology they are so familiar with. Just as with GenX, GenY workers “work to live” and not the other way around.

So what are younger generations looking for in meetings?

Last May a study funded by the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) Educational Foundation weighed in with results about what the “millennial generation” (GenY) prefers in their meetings, conventions and events. This research was based on a survey of over 2,000 GenY respondents, making it the largest study dedicated to what the younger workforce prefers in events.

It found that younger meeting participants favour a content-delivery style described as “edutainment”; engaging speakers who deliver shorter, quick-paced audio-visual presentations, peppered with opportunities for audience members to use mobile technology and games to interact with presenters and other attendees. The study found this “is consistent with research that indicates that [younger participants] often have short attention spans, hence the desire for concise, entertaining meetings.”

Seek  Benefits

The study also identified the need by younger meeting attendees to understand the purpose of an event. Asking “what’s in it for me?” they want to know what the meeting will bring them financially (scholarships or rewards), professionally (networking, advancement or job opportunities) or socially (community service projects or destinations with many activities and fun social events).

Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be much research documenting what employers are doing to engage younger generations in meetings, to improve knowledge transfer and relations between generations. In our inquiries with meeting professionals, few could point strictly to generational differences for specific changes to their meetings.

Some believe value-based generational differences are over-blown. In a LinkedIn discussion on The Future of Meetings, corporate team building executive Kenny Zail insisted that “where people are in their life cycle is more important than what ‘Gen letter’ they are.” We turned to the field and asked Canadian meeting and event planners how their meetings may be evolving.

Some saw no impact. Jessica Ward, CMP, Manager, Events and Groups at MKI Travel & Conference Management in Ottawa says: “My clients have never asked me to tailor to Gen Y.  My medical events have very few Gen Y in the audience (if any). Government events, these days, are simply more focused on keeping costs down.”

Les Selby, CMP, CMM, of Planning for Success in Toronto, thinks younger generations are having some impact. “When I was at Aimia (formerly Carlson Marketing), I saw corporate client meetings getting shorter, not just to save money, but also because people are not willing to give up their personal time.”

Expect Perks

Technology seems to trump demographic shifts for some changes in meetings. “The biggest change that I see is in the demand for complimentary, fast, and dependable wireless internet,” says Ottawa-based Claire Fitzpatrick, CMP, CMM of CF Conference & Event Management Services. Many planners agreed with the PCMA study findings and felt that younger workers disengage if not allowed to use their mobile device at a meeting. “And they are shocked to be asked to pay extra for WiFi,” added a hotel manager on the promise of anonymity. “They see it as a right, not as an amenity. It’s tough when we try to get them to settle their bill upon check-out.”

Shawna McKinley, Director of Sustainability at Vancouver’s MeetGreen adds: “[WiFi] applies to the venue, and guest rooms. Mobile applications are also becoming an expectation. No one wants to pack an event program, or have to collect cards and collateral anymore. They are learning to rely on the app, and expecting it to be integrated with social media.”

Only a few planners felt that social media is being used effectively to promote meeting attendance.  More are using networks such as LinkedIn groups to encourage information sharing, said Les Selby. “I think GenY drives a lot of this change; they don’t want to be sitting in a dark room and having someone speak AT them. They expect to be contributing, want to give their opinion.”

More Interaction

Selby added that he has seen bigger budgets being invested in communication, some for more social media, some for content capture. This is to give participants the opportunity to interact. He observed attendees posting to discussion groups – “I did this and it didn’t work. Any advice?” This helped increase learning and the return on investment from information sharing at meetings.

Adrian Segar is a Vermont-based organizational consultant and author of Conferences That Work. He says he’s organized more participative events, for all ages, for the last 20 years. Unwilling to say these are driven for or by GenY, Segar sees the need for spaces that are more conducive to interactive and networked events, offering a variety of session formats versus auditorium-style.

The use of social media and more participative meeting styles may be more a function of the corporate culture, says Helen Van Dongen, CMP, CMM, National Director, Event Management at KPMG in Toronto.  In a conservative environment such as a professional services firm, there are still many meetings that deliver content in a lecture-style format and that eschew sharing information on Twitter or anywhere else.  “If I worked with a media company, we’d probably be having a completely different conversation,” she adds.

Changes Coming

Still, Van Dongen admits to some changes on the horizon. For an upcoming senior management meeting, they will be moving to a TED Conference delivery style where speakers have only 18 minutes to present, pushing presenters to be more dynamic. “It will either be a spectacular failure, or something that moves us forward on a new path.”

Most planners agree that they are more conscious of healthy and sustainable food and beverage choices. Fitzpatrick has found that, “in the past this was due in most part to cultural requirements but now it tends to be driven by young health and socially conscious attendees.”McKinley adds: “There’s an emerging focus on healthier options and food that is better for learning, stamina and wellness. I think in future as prices rise we may be forced to seriously look at new and different options, and evaluate portion size.”

While the verdict about who exactly or how younger generations are driving different meetings, one conclusion is certain: planners are best to execute events that suit the culture of the organization and its meeting objectives, with an eye to engaging all participants as much as possible.

This article was originally written for Corporate Meetings & Events Magazine, and was published in their Fall 2012 issue.  I have modified it for this blog by adding the U.S. references and links to each planner's public LinkedIN profile.

Six Tips to Effective Email Marketing for #Eventprofs

Our Camping Trip
In a recent article, Matt Wesson of Pardot offers a compelling case for email marketing as one of the most effective investments in B2B marketing. Not only is email marketing one of the oldest methods, it is also one of the best forms of digital marketing available.

Meetings industry marketers often shy away from it, however, because many of their Customer Relationship Management systems (CRMs) don’t interface with email software or they may not have the technical and creative support. Email marketing is not quite as cut and dry as sending an e-mail.

Yet there are enough third-party, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) systems to overcome the “I-don’t-have-a-system” excuse: Constant Contact and MailChimp at the low end, and more sophisticated, full-service marketing automation software, like Pardot, Eloqua and Marketo, at the high end.

Email marketing works as long as you use it wisely. Wesson presented six points in this infographic, which in our opinion really hit the mark. Here they are below, along with examples of how a hotel, CVB or other meetings industry marketer should use email marketing:
  1. Create Compelling Content: It’s tempting to focus your e-mail marketing on rate or promotion-driven campaigns. But do these packages offer value to your customers? If it’s just about you, your hotel or destination, you’ll be quickly tuned out. Make sure your content is informational and helpful for the recipient. (See our Sept. 4 blog, Six Tips to Successful Content Creation). One of our clients sends two types of e-mails on a monthly basis: a promotional offer and an enewsletter with tips to help “occasional planners” plan better meetings. Although promotional offers bring in leads, the tips and best practices build trust and strengthen  relationships, as shown by the fact that these almost always generate a higher open rate. 
  2. Use the Right Tools: If you don’t have a programmer like we’re fortunate enough to have here at Greenfield, look for software that offers you a WYSIWIG Editor (a user interface that lets you change the layout in a word editor versus actually hard-coding). But you will want to find a tool that offers you utility as well. Things like the ability to view WHO opened their email, who clicked through on links and who opted-out. This functionality will allow you to determine the success of your campaigns globally and with which prospect. You may even tie your email marketing deployment to a follow-up phone blitz to call people whose emails bounced, for instance. That way you’ll keep your database clean and you’ll get to forge relationships with new contacts right away.
  3. Test Your Deliverability: As Wesson explains, “Even the best email in the world won’t be effective if it never reaches your audience.” If your message isn’t landing in your prospect’s inbox, they could easily forget about you and book their business elsewhere. So how do you test deliverability? “In three simple ways, Young Padawan,” replies Jeff, our programmer (yes, he’s a big Star Wars fan):
    • Compatibility: Your email tool should enable you to test your message in every browser and mobile platform. While it’s difficult to make it look great in ALL systems, you should aim to get it right in the main ones.
    • Format: All e-mails should be also have a text version, so if a client has disabled HTML he/she will still get your message. Jeff mentioned this in last month’s blog in point #2.
    • Spam Analysis: Your e-mail marketing software should alert you to potential spam triggers. This includes using exclamation marks, ALL-CAPS, the word free and other practices that may inadvertently flag your message as spam. For more tips on this, see Hubspot’s Ultimate List of Email SPAM Trigger Words.
  4. Segment Your Audience:  Consider splitting your audience depending on their needs, geography and, in some cases, purchasing power. Hotel chains often are at a disadvantage here. For instance they may be running a promotion for a particular area, such as a rate offer for their properties in Arizona. But because they can’t readily access their clients’ destination preferences in their CRM, they blast out to everyone in the database, upsetting recipients who think they "should know better," causing them to unsubscribe. In this case it may be better to make promotions less specific, or to  include at least one educational or valuable reference, regardless of destination preference. Also, set up a preference centre landing page so your prospects can tell you what they want and when.
  5. Get Your Timing Right: Stay informed about open rates and email traffic through research from organizations like Marketing Sherpa or Mashable. If the lowest open rate is reported to be at 4pm on a Friday afternoon, would you really want to be e-mailing then? Look at different sources and establish a baseline for yourself by splitting your list and send at different times. See if it makes a difference. Make sure to check the dates of major events in your industry. You don’t want to get caught sending an e-mail during a big trade show when everyone is out of the office!
  6. Track, Analyze & Adjust: Tracking is a very important step in the process, but it doesn’t stop at just looking at what your email message is doing. It’s being accountable to make changes and try new things. Think through ahead of time that, “If we have not achieved X by Y we will do Z”. This will help you ensure you don’t fall into the trap of doing things by rote.
One final tip: don’t give up. It’s easy to get discouraged when you don’t get the desired result on a particular campaign but it’s all part of the learning process. And in the world of e-mail marketing the learning process is as important as what you actually know!

This post is by Jeff Chabot, Web & E-Marketing Programmer and Doreen Ashton Wagner, Chief Strategist, at Greenfield Services Inc.

Six Tips to Successful Content Creation for #EventProfs

A key element of a successful inbound marketing program for a hotel, CVB or other meetings-industry supplier is content generation. This entails the creation of educational material that your target market will find relevant and valuable.

Far from being a one-off or occasional activity, content generation is a process that best happens on an ongoing basis. Producing content that can be used on a blog, in an electronic newsletter or on your website as downloadable content will help you showcase your expertise in social media, and increase your inbound leads.

The two essential elements of successful content generation include solid content and regularity.
While we certainly cannot claim to have found the absolute secret to successful content generation, at Greenfield we have enjoyed increased exposure, and the notice of our target market with regular content publishing. Often we are asked, "how do we do it"?

Here is our list of tips:
  1. Establish a Regular Schedule: it is far easier to maintain a regular schedule if you set deadlines. In the case of the two blogs we maintain at Greenfield, the Membership Engagement blog and this one, we initially set out with a twice a month schedule. Gradually this has increased to almost once a week for each blog.
  2. Establish an Editorial Calendar or Topic List: My colleague Meagan Rockett is a master at this.  She picks a topic for a particular month and produces 3-4 posts around that theme.  Her "New Sheriff in town" series on Canada's Anti-Spam legislation earlier this year garnered her accolades and lots of re-tweets! 
  3. Look Out for Current Events or Happenings in Your Industry: you can comment on current events or use it as an analogy in your content creation. Current affairs and related titles will help your click through rates when you post new content and social media. For instance, some of this blog's most widely read posts included a commentary as a first-time attendee to the Green Meetings Industry Council annual conference and a tribute The Sutton Place Hotel Toronto, a place which I called my professional home for five years.  The plus to both these posts were that they were relatively easy for me to write!
  4. Have a Back-Up Plan: Content generation is not easy.  For times when you have to deal with overloaded to-do lists, travel schedules and personal agenda, I recommend having guest blog posts. That's how earlier this summer I was able to take a bit of a break from contributing to this blog.  The boon was that some of our guests are more widely read authors than I am so we had a spike in traffic with articles such as Art Sobczak’s What Losing Weight and Sales Have in Common and  Cara Tracy’s Advice from a Meeting Planner to Suppliers.
  5. Know the Best Circumstances for YOUR Content Creation: You have to write when the inspiration hits you.  I have been fortunate to experience success with a dictation tool. Often I will get an idea for a post so I grab my iPhone and blurt recite my thoughts into it. I then email the text to myself and look at the post when I'm back at the office. Alternatively I have sent my spontaneous creations to an editor for review and editing (see next point below).
  6. This brings me to the last key point: not everyone is a writer, but with help you CAN look like one. I enjoy writing and I've been told I get my point across relatively well in the written form, but I am not a professional writer.  So I work with a team of professionals to see my through those busy periods when I either cannot find time to write myself.  I work with a writer who will produce an article based on just a phone conversation/interview we have on a topic.  My editor is just as wonderful: I can send her my rough, dictated text and she will edit my ramblings to publishing quality!
Content creation is one of the surest ways your hotel, CVB or meeting services organization will ever have to showcase its expertise to meeting and event planners, thus generating more inbound leads.

So remember to make sure your material is focused on the specific needs of meeting and event planners. While it is acceptable to create some content that covers leisure or consumer-related topics, you will be more successful if you make your material related to your B2B prospects.

Greenfield Co-Sponsors MPI Ottawa Golf Tournament

Greenfield Services was a proud co-sponsor at yesterday's Annual Golf Tournament for Meeting Professionals International (MPI) Ottawa Chapter.  Our co-sponsor was ZOË Alliance, a provider of high-quality, fair trade promotional products.

Meagan Rockett & Angie Draskovic
The tie-in between Greenfield and its co-sponsor was a natural.  Making a bigger commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility principles, Greenfield has purchased executive gifts from ZOË Alliance for the last two years.  And ZOË Alliance recently became a client of Greenfield's, benefiting from an email and phone lead generation program to help them connect with new clients.

Ryan Watson and Mark Nisbett
of The Brookstreet Hotel
Though the skies were gray, smiles were bright and laughter was heard throughout as golfers stepped up to the 14th tee to meet Meagan Rockett, Director of Client Solutions for Greenfield, and Angie Draskovic, ZOË Alliance Founder & CEO.

Participants were asked to test their skills at Ladder Golf (a.k.a. bolla-ball, though we hear some golfers came up with their own colourful description for the game... click here to read more alternatives names).

Karen Norris, Association of Faculties of Medicine of
Canada; Sarah Pettenuzzo, Canadian Public Heath
Association & Brent Beatty, Edmonton Tourism
 Winners from each foursome walked away with a hand-crafted ZOË Alliance lunchbox.  All participants were entered into a grand prize draw for a gift basket with $350 worth of fair trade executive items, including a leather portfolio and business cardholder, a hand-embroidered silk and cotton throw, and ZOË's signature Haitian board game carved out of Bois de Lance.

The grand prize winner was announced at the dinner; congratulations Peggi Birch, of Peggi Birch Plans.  She told us, "I am pleased to say that I am the "Lucky Winner" of the beautiful basket from Greenfield Services at the MPI golf tournament.  It is truly inspirational - not just a bunch of 'stuff'.  I do love it and applaud you for your support in this initiative.  I particularly love the wooden carved game board.  It is beautiful!"  Glad you like it, peggi!