During my time with Greenfield Services, I had been involved in the meetings industry in a supporting role. I have helped with research and business development projects for hotels and other meetings industry suppliers, but never actually worked at a hotel. When it came to understanding the state of sales and marketing practices in the hospitality industry, I relied mostly on my colleague Doreen’s thoughts on lazy sales reps and the commoditization of the meetings industry.
That is, until recently.
Now, planning a new event for Greenfield (The Engaging Association Summit), I've had to source and secure a meeting venue that was unique, attractive and truly wanted our business. Here is what I encountered after I isolated three potential venues that I thought would be suitable:
Venue A: I reached to this venue by email, with a message to the sales manager listed on their website, asking for a site inspection for the event being planned in July. I received an out of office reply with another contact name, so I sent an email to the new contact as well. A few days later (after never hearing from the new contact), the sales manager got back to me by email to advise that their facility was undergoing extensive renovations, and would not be available to view on the day I was asking for. She then proceeded to ask me if there was something we could chat about, so I forwarded her the RFP I had prepared, asking for a call or a response with pricing, etc. I never heard from them again.
Venue B: A little better, but not by much. This venue was also reached by email, asking for a site inspection. Their General Manager got back to me immediately, advising that he personally would be busy on the day that I was hoping for a site inspection, but his Sales Manager would be happy to walk me through the facility. I booked an appointment, and on the day of the inspection, she walked me through the facility, talked about different set ups, and took me back to her office to go through some sample pricing. She wrote on scrap paper to start adding up costs, and offered to send me away with that. I left her with the RFP and asked her to email me a formal proposal instead by the deadline I requested. She did respond by the deadline, but had simply typed what she had written on the scrap paper in the body of the email. I never heard from her again. I have even seen her at industry events since, and she has not even approached me!
Venue C: This venue, thankfully, went above and beyond. The representative responded to me right away. She walked me through the options available to me for the event space I required. We did not talk pricing during the site inspection; I left her with my RFP, and she promised to prepare a proper document. She sent me on my merry way, validating my ticket for parking. Throughout our interactions, this rep made sure I knew that they truly wanted my business. We have had numerous phone conversations for clarification, and they have worked hard to get the business. They sent me a REAL proposal to review, and have come back to me with additional options to help me make my event as successful as possible.
I can only hope that my experience with the first two venues is not indicative of what is happening in the meetings industry in Ottawa or elsewhere. The lack of follow-through and professionalism was truly appalling. I would encourage venue managers to "mystery shop" their sales teams. They might find they need to make drastic changes.
Thanks to Nathalie Boulet and the Canadian Museum of Nature for going the extra mile. I am very much looking forward to our ongoing partnership for Our Engaging Association Summit!
Hot off the completion of the data gathering phase of the MPI Foundation's Canadian Economic Impact Study, one thing I can unequivocally say about Canadian meeting and event professionals, both planners and suppliers, is that they seem to be suffering from time starvation and overwork.
Based on my own experience I had a hunch time was becoming a scarcer resource, but talking to hundreds of meeting planners and meeting venue managers confirmed it. This has been in the making for some time, and it is seriously affecting how we market and sell everything, from events to hotels.
Let's first examine why this may be:
We're Creating More Information
Google CEO Eric Schmidt was reported as saying that, "Between the birth of the world and 2003, there were five exabytes of information created. We [now] create five exabytes every two days. See why it's so painful to operate in information markets?" I'm not sure how much information even one exabyte represents, but from the company whose mission it is to catalogue ALL of the world's information, I take it it's a LOT.
To give but a small indication: the World Wide Web circa 1993 had 130 websites; in 2012, whoishostingthis.com reported there were 634 million websites. And according to Bowker, a leading American bibliographic firm, the number of books published also is growing, thanks to the explosive growth of self-publishing.
Whether it's online or in print, humankind is producing more information than ever, and there is no sign this will slow down any time soon.
We're Accessing That Information Through More Channels
In a presentation at BizBash Elevate New York in July 2013, social media expert and professional speaker Gary Vaynerchuk asked event professionals attending his session how many of them watched TV with their smartphone nearby so they could answer emails or texts. About 3/4 of the room's hands went up. Then he asked how many watched TV with their phone AND a tablet or laptop; almost 1/2 the hands were raised!
At first I thought these people were "over the top", but then my own daughter pointed out that this is exactly what I did when we were catching our favourite reality show together: I was watching, tweeting about the show, all while trying to finish work...
And I'm not the only one becoming more like my teenager. According to techcrunch.com, "the number of mobile-connected devices [exceeded] the number of people on earth by the end of 2012. By 2016, there will be 1.4 mobile devices per capita." Not only is there more information, but now we're accessing it from multiple sources and multiple devices.
We Have More Consumption Choices
With the internet smaller companies and retailers can compete with the giants. And the giants have expanded their buying options to the online world too. All this translates into more choice.
Most consumers welcome having more options on what and how they buy. But there is a dark side to this added flexibility. Adrian C. Ott, author of The 24-Hour Customer, explains, "[In the U.S.] time use studies have shown that the amount of time spent purchasing goods and services has remained relatively constant since the 1960s. Viewed together the increase in the number available products, coupled with a relatively static time spent buying, presents a considerable challenge for executives. Ultimately, more and more goods and services are attempting to push through a small window of time."
...And So We Have the Paradox of Choice
In his 2004 book The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, American psychologist Barry Schwartz actually argued that too much choice actually creates anxiety for most people. And what happens when we're anxious and we lack time? We shut things out.
Adrian Ott asserts, "Businesses are stuck trying to get through to consumers that are actively avoiding them, or to consumers who are so over-saturated with marketing messages in media that they can't hear or see even the content that would interest."
So what are marketers to do when confronted with the mounting hurdles to getting buyers’ attention? How should meetings industry suppliers – hotels, DMOs, AV companies, DMCs, etc. – strive to engage meeting professionals in new business relationships?
We'll be exploring this very question over the next month in this blog. Join the conversation by posting a question or comment!