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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?