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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?