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From Beyoncé to gardening: 6 tips for successful inbound marketing

I saw this video clip the other day by social media entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, during which he instructed his audience to "Beyoncé" their approach to social media. His exact words were: "put a f*@$#?! ring on it!"  In his own unique, if profane style, Gary was emphasizing the need to build relationships on social media, and not expect it to be a miraculous cure.

But that really can apply to any marketing activity. Whether you are using social media, attending tradeshows, or putting together a traditional advertising plan, there is no such thing as overnight success.

I prefer to liken the current state of business-to-business sales and marketing to that of gardening. It's not as sexy, I know, but having just spent the weekend clearing winter debris from the flowerbeds around my house, I am reminded that whether you're looking to develop business or grow plants, you need:

Yes, this is me, with a bug net
over my head and all!
A Plan - Whether you want a garden to make your house look nice or to grow your own vegetables, you can't just start seeding and planting anywhere, willy-nilly.  Similarly, you shouldn't jump into social media, content marketing or a website redesign without a clear goals and an understanding of how these things work together to generate inbound leads for your hotel, CVB or meetings services business. 

Commitment - The world has jumped into social media because it's "free" and it's easy.  Perhaps.  But the simplest things take commitment of time and manpower.  Just like your garden needs watering and weeding, your inbound marketing program will require consistent attention.  Yes, you can hire a gardener (a.k.a. outsource), but your commitment will simply shift from time to money.

Proper Tools - You can plant your garden with just a spade, but it'll take you a long time.  Same goes for inbound marketing; you can "rent" tools such as marketing automation and social media management tools to make your life easier.  

Fertile Soil - All the fancy tools in the world won't help you if you don't have good dirt.  In business terms it means good data.  And if you need to improve the quality of your business soil, maybe it's time for some data cleansing or list building.

Professional Advice - This weekend I noticed some beast was digging holes all over my flowerbeds.  Turning to my gardening forums I soon found out it's likely a skunk, looking for grubs.  Now I have professional advice to help me solve the problem.  If you have a stinking problem turn to a professional who not only knows the technology, but who also understands your business.

Patience - You can fertilize all you want, but you can't rush nature to produce tomatoes faster.  So it goes with building relationship with meeting and event professionals.  You need to give your inbound marketing plan time to work.  Which obviously means this isn't going to be a miracle cure if all you have is a big gaping hole.  The good news is that any sales pipeline is fixable -- with time and effort.

Greenfield Named Data Gathering Partner for Meetings Industry Economic Impact Study

Meeting Professionals International (MPI) Foundation announced the undertaking of the study of the economic impact of the meetings industry in Canada, having commissioned a team headed by Maritz Research (Canada) and assisted by Greenfield Services, the Canadian Tourism Human Resources Council and The Conference Board of Canada.
(L to R) Scott Meis, CTHRC; Allison Simpson, Amanda Chan &
Rachel Cameron, Maritz Research; Hélène Moberg, & Rita
Plaskett, MPI Foundation Canada; Doreen Ashton Wagner,
Greenfield Services Inc. Not pictured, Greg Hermus,
Conference Board of Canada.

Greenfield will be the data gathering partner, focusing on community outreach and communication with Canadian and international meeting professionals as well as meeting facilities across Canada.  

This will be the second time Greenfield collaborates with this research team.  The first time was in 2006 when the original Canadian Economic Impact Study (CEIS) of the meetings industry was commissioned by MPI.   It found that:
  • Canada’s meeting sector organized 671,000 meetings in 2006,
  • Welcomed 70.2 million participants,
  • Created the equivalent of 235,500 full-year jobs,
  • And accounted for $32.2 billion in direct spending ($23.3 billion by meeting participants and $8.9 billion by non-participant sponsors and stakeholders).

The study was updated in 2008 and showed a 2.5% spending growth from 2006 to 2007, but a 0.1% decline the following year.  No data is available for subsequent years, so this endeavour will fill a much needed void.

Since the original Canadian study the meetings industry’s economic impact has been assessed in other countries including the USA, Mexico and soon to be released in the U.K.  All other studies benefitted from the survey approach originally developed by the Canadian team, according to UNWTO guidelines.

This study, dubbed “CEIS 3.0” will continue providing key economic benchmarks as well as extend the research to regional and municipal levels. The results will be more actionable at the local level, as well as addressing the share of GDP, employment, salaries/wages, and taxes at local, regional and provincial levels.  Results also will support the development of a meetings-specific, regional economic contribution model, the first in the world.

Social Media During a Crisis - Tips for Hotels and CVBs

The terrorist attacks in Boston brought home both the power and the peril of social media.

On the one hand the Twitterverse quickly got the news out,along with photos and information that could help locate a loved one. 

The downside was the contrast of tweets streaming across my screen from people who had obviously no ideaof the tragedy that had occurred.

Most of us who use social media in our business tend torely on tools like HootSuite, TweetDeck or other social media management softwareto schedule posts ahead of time.  When tragedy strikes some of those pre-scheduled posts can come across astrite, irrelevant, or downright insensitive.

Pity the hapless social media coordinator at a Bostonhotel who might have pre-scheduled tweets around a happy Boston marathonoutcome...  When terror strikes and people turnto Twitter or Facebook for updates they might not understand these pre-scheduled tweets.

We'd all prefer not to think of being in such asituation, but it's all too real for Boston hoteliers right now. Andit doesn't have to be related to a terror attack. What if a large convention isat your hotel and there is a surprise protest outside your doors (like there was last year in Montreal)?  That's when your social media activities quickly turn into crisis management.

Here's what you need to think about when putting togetheryour social media plan and your backup in case of an emergency:

1) Create access to your social media managementtools through your mobile device or smart phone so that if somethingcatastrophic happens you can access your pre-scheduled posts quickly.

2) Ensure more than one person has access to these socialmedia management tools. This way if someone is otherwise occupied, anotherperson can take over.

3) Consider putting your social media updates on hold if something big isgoing on. It's no use coming across as uninformed. 

4) If you choose to engage your followers, treadcautiously. Focus on being helpful and safety-oriented.  Do not engage in re-posting graphic ordisturbing imagery. Don't speculate about perpetrators or the number ofvictims.

5) Beware your sources. In the crisis yesterday one source was quoted as saying that a bomb hadgone off at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel. As Fairmont Hotels & Resortsis one of our clients, I was perturbed to hear the news. But I double checkedother news sources, and saw that the Fairmont Copley Plaza had tweeted about update on their Facebook page. They confirmed no bomb had gone off atthe hotel. That was a huge relief, and double-checking prevented me fromspreading incorrect information.

6) Have your social media crisis plan in place and review it regularly.  For help onhow to draft a social media crisis plan check out the following:
I hope you never have to manage a crisis at your hotel or in your city.  But if you do, you'll be glad you had a plan!

Caesars Windsor’s Meeting Planner Symposium

Greenfield Services is proud to be working with Caesars Windsor in staging their first Meeting Planner Symposium and Familiarization event, April 10-12, 2013.

Our collaboration began earlier this year as we surveyed over 3,000 Ontario-based meeting and event planners, sampling views on their most critical business needs.  Planners told us they are stretching to do more with less, and in less time. They were interested in learning about client and member retention, promoting events through social media, and fulfilling attendees’ ever-changing expectations.

Survey results were used to formulate the Symposium’s education program, which will be facilitated by Doreen Ashton Wagner, Greenfield’s Chief Strategist. 

The event is free for qualified planners who have organized business events at Ontario hotels in the last year, and who are able to consider Windsor for an upcoming meeting. 

Meals, accommodation and education are courtesy of Caesars Windsor. Transportation to and from Windsor is provided on a complimentary basis by Caesars Windsor, in conjunction with program partners, VIA Rail and Porter Airlines.

15 Lessons Learned in 15 Years of Self-Employment

Today marks the 15th anniversary of Greenfield Services Inc., the company that my husband Heinz and I initially founded as ourticket to leave the corporate rat race.  It was just the two of us back in 1998, but today our company employs 15 people (who get the day off today because of Easter Monday!).  

We have worked with wonderful clients, employees, and partners, learning 15 precious lessons along the way:
  1. Entrepreneurship IS the Ultimate Freedom: Whenever I hear about corporate politics from some of my hotel friends I am so thankful that I chose the entrepreneurial route. Being an entrepreneur is hard work and there are rules to follow, but ultimately it is my choice if take a day off, invest in new software or hire more people.
  2. Turning Down Business is OK: Entrepreneurial freedom also means saying NO. Because the work isn’t the right fit, the time isn’t right or the relationship doesn’t feel good. It took me several years to learn this lesson because in the early days I was so afraid to run out of work! But I know now to stick to my strengths and follow my gut.
  3. Always be Prospecting: To be able to say no, you have to have enough business in your funnel. And that means consistently looking for new opportunities and developing relationships.
  4. Develop Confidence with a Positive Focus: Several years ago I took a program which I affectionately refer to as an “MBA for Entrepreneurs.” With The Strategic Coach I learned the concept of Positive Focus, which helps one focus on “wins” to build confidence. Now at every morning briefing all Greenfield team members share something positive so that they begin their day feeling happy and confident. 
  5. Keeping an Attitude of Gratitude: This is different from the positive focus. Being grateful also entails being thankful for the tough situations and the bad days. Because that’s when lessons are learned…
  6. Do What You Love (and are usually best at) & Delegate the Rest: Another lesson I learned with The Strategic Coach – the Unique Ability concept. And probably the single biggest reason why Heinz and I have a successful business and are still happily married… He’s good at what I’m not (like accounting) and vice-versa! 
  7. People Move On, and That’s OK: In the hotel sales world where I come from, when someone resigns they instantly become persona non grata… and often are walked out the door! I had to learn not to take a resignation personally. Someone who leaves an organization can be a wealth of information to help improve the operation. 
  8. No One Is Irreplaceable, Not Even You: As devastating as it may be if a key team player leaves, no one is indispensable. Not even the owner! Even if it’s just to cover for vacation time, have individual development plans and give the opportunity for people to step up. 
  9. Take Care Of Yourself First: A lesson I have been taught over and over again (yes, I’m a slow learner). If you’re not healthy, you’re useless to your business. Make sure you take time for YOU.
  10. Know Your Why: It’s one thing to be in business for yourself, but do you really know WHY, beyond just earning a living? The book Start With Why by Simon Sinek helped define my personal purpose and by default, my company’s purpose: To help our clients, our employees and our community GROW and PROSPER.
  11. Be Clear On What You Want: One of the most valuable lessons my friend and personal coach Betty Healey taught me was to listen to my own complaint (what I didn’t want) and FLIP IT to focus on what I wanted to attract. Because the Law of Strategic Attraction says you attract what you focus on…
  12. We All Have Blind Spots: Some of us are extroverts, others introverts; some feeling-based, others fact-based. We all process information and communicate differently. Being an effective leader means acknowledging shortcomings and ensuring proper team communication makes up for blind spots. My two favourite self-learning tools are: Kolbe and Lumina.
  13. Laugh: My personal nature is to joke around and be demonstrative. But I used to be afraid to be playful because I thought business leaders had to be serious. Wrong. Life is too short. Besides, laughter is a great stress-buster!
  14. There Is No Magic Bullet, But You Can FEEL Better: Owning and growing a business is very similar to gardening, one of my personal passions. And just like growing plants take time, there is no magic bullet, no magic fertilizer that will make everything instantly better. Except perhaps with how you choose to feel about things. 
  15. Change Is The Only Constant: Just when you think “OK, we’re all set,” something changes. Your key contact at an account is let go, budgets are cut, a supplier goes out of business. Change is the only constant, said Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, and that was over 2,500 years ago!

To all our clients and employees, present, past and future, THANK YOU.  It’s been a great journey so far.