Contact Us | 1-866-488-4474 |

Eventprofs: Looking for a Supplier or a Partner?

The other day I received an email from a hotel director of sales & marketing requesting a “price list” for our group lead generation services.  I responded that, while we have project investment guidelines, fees may vary widely, depending on the nature of the data, the timing of the project, whether it is just a calling campaign or whether there is an email component, etc. 

I asked the person to have a conversation, so we could discuss what they needed exactly. Unfortunately, my request was flatly denied, “Please send via email the pricing for the request below, as well as any recommended strategies, if you are interested in being included in the bid process for this project.”

Wow!  I was really taken aback.  I wondered how this DOSM would feel if a planner called their sales office and asked for “a rate” for a group, but was not willing to provide a time of year, the size of group and other requirements such as F&B and meeting space.  Would they just quote a group rate?  I doubt it.

This was especially disappointing since I had a few prior conversations with this person over the last 18 months.  I thought we had established an understanding that marketing services must be tailored to individual property or destination needs.  From our experience, cookie-cutter does not translate into success.

Lesson learned?  As much as it saddened me, I let this one go.  If I could not have a conversation to discuss where they were at, how could I recommend a strategy?  In the long run, my gut told me, they probably would never be happy.  They were looking for a vendor and we were looking to be their partner.  We were simply not a good fit.

I concluded that whether you are on the supply side of the meetings industry – a hotel, a CVB or a meeting services provider – or on the buying side, you must be clear about whether you are looking for a commodity or a customized solution.  And in the end, the way we treat others often will be reflected in how we get treated ourselves!

Avoid Getting the Cut

Two months ago I stopped going to my hairdresser.  It was a difficult decision; one that I suspect may be better understood by female readers.  But after spending an average of over $200 per month for the last 2 ½ years with him I felt under-appreciated.

What does this have to do with the hospitality and meetings industry?  Two things: first, I think many planners view their relationship with their event suppliers as critically as the one with their hairdresser.  As one planner I know always says, “it’s my suppliers who make me look good to my client.”  Secondly, because most event professionals are people pleasers, like me, they may not be very good at making known their decision to go elsewhere.

So like me, they go silent.  That’s right.  I’m not proud of it, but I have yet to tell my hairdresser the real reason I haven’t returned is the premature fading of my last three colours.  To his defense, he texted me to remind me I was due for my next appointment.  I didn't reply, but he never called to ask what was wrong.  It was just easier for me to try someone else.

How often has that happened to you?  You’ve had the same group at your hotel for years and, all of a sudden, they say they aren’t coming back… Or they stop returning your calls and your emails and when you finally corner them, they tell you “management” decided to try something new.

Unfortunately, it happens more than any of us would like.  Feeling under-appreciated or being dealt with by a non-caring staff person was cited by nearly 70% as the main reason they changed suppliers, according to a study by the US Small Business Administration.

So here are two strategies to avoid the pain of being cut by a regular customer:
  1. Surprise-surprise: show your appreciation!  No need for big bouquets and expensive gifts here – though that is nice on occasion and if the client’s organization allows it.  Consider low-cost, personalize tokens of your appreciation: hand-written notes, “how-did-your-other-big-conference-go” calls, and forwarded emails with educational information.  Anything that you feel will be helpful to your client, on a personal or professional level.
  2. Go high, wide and deep:  sometimes you’re stuck with a client who thinks they are your ONLY client.  Or they get their knickers in a twist about something outside your control.  If you’re looking for some insurance against getting dumped, Colleen Francis, my sales coach, advises to forge meaningful relationships with your client’s boss (go high), with people in other departments (go wide), and with people below your client (go deep).  You can watch a video of her discussing this concept by clicking here.  By demonstrating your value and your appreciation across the organization, it doesn’t mean you’ll keep the business forever; but you could stand fewer chances of getting the boot unexpectedly.
Now excuse me, as I have to gather courage to write a proper “Dear John” note to my hairdresser…

More Twitter Advice for Hotel & Meeting Venue Reps

Continuing on the Twitter theme of my post two weeks ago, I was approached by one of our hotel clients to help their sales managers understand and use Twitter in a meeting and event environment.

This is a new challenge that had been given to the three sales managers, all of whom are seasoned sales people. In our discovery call, I could hear their apprehension about having yet another task on their already long to do list.

What is this going to help them create more leads? What is this going to help them close more business? They wondered. Yet their Director of Sales & Marketing was determined to push them out of their comfort zone to try this new tool.

Not an easy task. But I salute the DOSM for pushing the envelope. Eventually we came to the conclusion that the three sales managers could  probably share one account and, using appropriate time management and the right tool, they could away with monitoring ongoing conversation and each tweeting a few times a week.

They started to warm up to the idea when they realized that meeting attendees could be tweeting, and that they could help their clients by tweeting about the upcoming event, alerting them to pre and post block rates, cut-off dates, and other side activities.
Soon they realized they also could get exposure and build trust with sponsors and other meeting organizers within those audiences.  This could mean referrals and additional group business.

And that is the answer. Twitter strictly as a promotional tool won't take you very far. But if you look at it as a tool that helps you listen to your clients, and enables you to help them meet their meeting objectives, all of a sudden you are not just "salesperson", you are more of a solution provider. And this helps you build trust. And of course building trust helps you build more sales.

My advice to hotel, CVB, and meetings industry supplier sales leaders: don't look at social media as yet another chore. Look at it as an opportunity to help build trust with your prospective and existing clients.

Think Magnets, Not Darts

The inbound marketing trend is finally beginning to sweep the hospitality and meetings industry. It isn’t too soon for it to begin sweeping away any parts of your hotel or CVB's sales marketing program that have outlived their usefulness.

Look to attract potential clients
vs. target them.
The opposite of inbound marketing, outbound marketing, refers to the collection of strategies that most of us grew up with as the gold standard for customer contact. We would deluge meeting planners with direct mail. Follow up with phone calls. Ply them with gifts. Swarm them at trade shows. Volume was the key to success, and the best message was a relentlessly consistent (and consistently relentless) one. As fax, then email and mobile entered the mix, we adapted those technologies to the proven way of getting sales done.

But somewhere along the way, we began to realize the outbound marketing model was broken. Customers came up with elaborate ways to avoid being “sold”. Regulators and procurement officers were nervous about all the free giveaways. And the best account managers realized the expectations were all wrong: instead of setting out to build genuine relationships that delivered real value, it was all about the quarterly sales targets, methods be damned.

You’ve no doubt heard the more recent business maxim that to get something back, you have to give something away. With inbound marketing, you get back the attention and engagement of your target audience—and, eventually, their buying power—by giving away something they need and want in place of a standard, outbound sales pitch. Offer them knowledge. Point them to resources. And make it clear that you ask nothing in return, that the conversation is its own reward.

Once your customers know why they want to talk to you, they’ll figure out the rest (and, yes, you can help them with that final step).  Inbound marketing is still a new enough concept that its meaning is sometimes in the eye of the beholder.  The important thing to remember is that focus has shifted from using darts to “hit” prospects, to one where you magnetize your communication and they come to you.

To read about Greenfield’s take on how the sales and marketing world has shifted; download our Discussion Paper, The Great Shift: Why B2B Lead Generation is Changing and What You Need To Do About It. Or join the discussion by registering for one of our webinars.

*This post marks the appearance of Greenfield's Chief Strategist, Doreen Ashton Wagner, who is speaking at the Meeting Professionals International (MPI) Toronto Chapter's Education Conference in Niagara Falls, ON, on Monday, June 11, 2012.  She will be presenting the session: The Magnet vs. the Dart: Helping Meeting Professionals Create an Inbound Lead Generation Channel.

Building Trust on Twitter

Recently I wrote about ways that meetings and hospitality industry suppliers can build trust on their website.

This past Friday I had opportunity to experience a first-hand example of how trust can be built through Twitter. Mind you this was not an encounter with a hospitality company, but I do think there are a lot of similar applications.

This encounter happened as a result of my experiencing difficulties on a new social media tool called Triberr.  I had registered on the tool and was ready to start using it but for some reason I could not get to the screen that would allow me to get started. I reached out to a colleague on Twitter. And one of the cofounder of Triberr, Dino Dogan (@Dino_Dogan) happened to be "listening". And he messaged me immediately! I was so impressed that one of the key executives of the company would do that that it immediately increased my trust in this new tool.

Not only was I able to solve the problem (which appeared to because to my Internet Explorer not working properly) but it got me using the tool immediately.

So how could you use this tool at your hotel, CVB, or convention center to help meeting attendees and meeting planners have a better experience?

Imagine posting something on Twitter and having someone like the general manager or director of sales and marketing, respond almost immediately. Now that would be something that would increase my trust in a supplier!

The advent of social media is definitely changing the way we have had to operate in the meetings industry. It doesn’t guarantee success, but those embrace it just might have more chances to experience it.