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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?