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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.