These are summaries of what each table presented.
What’s the best market to target in this economy?
- The healthcare meetings market seems to be doing the best right now. If you’re going after a special corporation or association market, learn more about healthcare
- Also, the social market is a good one to target because weddings will still continue to happen and people are still spending money on things that have an emotional connection to their lives
- Sporting events are a good market to be in if you have the ability to host the banquets; and depending on what market you’re in, government business is strong
- Market on a regional basis instead of trying to reach the whole U.S.
- Target niche markets, instead of doing what you’ve always done. Aruba always did the industry shows nationwide, but we wanted to do something different that’s why we’re working with PYM, because it’s a market we’ve never touched, and it’s paying off so far
- Don’t contract your marketing spend of presence when the economy is down. You need to be as visible as possible so the world knows what you’re doing
What incentive groups (or planners in general) looking for?
- They’re wanting money. They are continually asking — blatantly saying — "what are you going to give us? What are you going to sponsor?" A lot of rate-cutting is going on — the most expensive venues are undercutting the middle tier. We’ll put parameters on it and say, "Sure you’ll get this rate, but only if you book before this date."
- Also what we’re seeing is that numbers are dropping, so you have to get creative with what you offer
- It’s all about networking and helping each other out. Ask for referrals; refer people business
How do you differentiate yourself and elevate yourself above the competition?
- It’s all about networking and relationships. They’re not just coming to the place because it’s the place, it’s because they want to be taken care of
- Think long-term (including green initiatives)
- Big thing is cross-marketing — if you can’t take care of [a group], you go to your competition and you hold their hand out to them. You’re saying no with a twist. If you trust their level of quality, and you can’t handle the business, let them. And they will probably refer you the next time
- Stay connected with your client, keep going the extra step, giving out your personal phone number if you have to, say “you are an important person, here is my phone number, utilize it at your discretion, but know that we are here for you.”
- They’re looking to you for guidance. The worst thing you can do is make them feel like you’re being disingenuous
- If they succeed, you succeed
How do you help clients get more without selling your services short?
- Instead of maybe giving hard dollars, give soft dollars. A great example we had is a customer said, “I want the rate we had in 2005″ and we said, “If you [book with] me for 3 years, you got it.” It was a win-win because the planner could say to their boss, “I got a great rate.”
- Unfortunately a lot of people are all about discounting, and they want 5%, 10% off. Don’t say no, say yes, and say yes creatively. Help your clients reduce costs so they feel like they get more, but it’s not costing you an arm and a leg
How are you handling cancellations and filling those spots in your calendars? What are your biggest challenges, and some possible solutions?
- Narrow your focus — you’ve got to focus on the markets that are the most profitable
- Focus on niche markets
- Look at ways to salvage the meeting if people want to cancel, offer to rebook it within a certain amount of time so they’re not paying the charges
- If someone can’t afford a dinner, ask vendors for a discount so you can make it happen
- Bundling – offer more value by offering unique services/amenities/add-ons
- Be creative helping customers cut costs: offer a lunch vs. dinner, drink tickets vs. open bar, green initiatives,
- Partner with each other – I can hook you up with someone who can hook you up with tickets and a restaurant with one call she thought she was getting transportation and I put it all together for them
- Look at Drive-to markets
- Partner with each other. Transportation can partner with hotels, attractions and restaurants, and vice versa
- Refer each other business or organize a package yourself so the planner doesn’t have to make so many calls. Use your relationships to save time for them
- Reconsider what you used to think was bad business. I think we’d all take anything now
- Be flexible
- Those that are marketing right now will be on top when the economy rights itself
What’s working/not working in terms of marketing?
- At our table people are having a lot of success with the digital market, optimizing search engines so you come right up – getting 10-20 leads a week with that
- Making sure you’re up there with Google searches
- Make sure your Web site is up to date
- Have a Weblog and virtual tours so people can see what you offer
- Make sure people know about your Web site, put it on your voicemail
- E-mail blasts are big — you’ll always have people say take me off your list, but you’ll get something from it
- Follow up phone calls with e-mails
- Work with other vendors and host events and meetings for industry associations – get other groups in to your space by offering to host
- Co-operate with other vendors, share ad space, negotiate with vendors
- Be involved in associations, networking
- Utilize social networking – I don’t know if you know it, but PYM has a Facebook page
- I take clients to lunch, it doesn’t have to be fancy. But just that personal touch.
- Trading services and bartering is getting a lot more popular. Think soft money benefits: Instead of giving them a dollar off, give them tickets to a show
- What’s not working is waiting for phone calls and doing minimal advertising
How are you dealing with operational cutbacks and maintaining service with a skeleton crew?
- Make sure a live person is answering the phone
- Make sure someone’s always in the office
- Have a meeting where staff can vent
- Have e-mail and Web addresses on your voicemail so people can find you if you’re not in.
- Attach sales kit and Web site info to e-mails
- Keep office atmosphere light
- Have weekly team meetings
- Use intern labor
How do you develop existing business when clients are hurting?
- Creatively rebook business rather than having it just cancel. Instead of giving money back, use it as a deposit for a future event if rebooked within a certain amount of time
- Help them reduce costs: Maybe they used to do a formal evening event, and now you do a fun daytime event
- Everything we do for planners in good times we need to do doubly in the bad
- What is most effective way of reaching the corporate market right now?
- Going back to basics, cold calling, visiting with clients, a lot of telephone calling, (but short keep them short just to touch base), calling all your clients from last year and incentivising them to rebook
- Keep Web sites up to date and at top of search engines
- At our table, Facebook was the No. 1 thing to do. I didn’t get it, but fortunately, we had Zach at our table who explained, “Think of it as a virtual mall, a modern yellow pages.” I didn’t get how it related to businesses, but once he said that, I got it
How do you get people in the door? What’s the most effective method of introducing your services to planners?
- Come up with a creative marketing plan, do e-mail blasts, we have a planner referral incentive – we give gas cards for RFPs
- Networking with your peers is important
What makes planners book business?
- Be competitive with their budget
- Listen to what they need
- Be one step ahead of them and offer solutions to make their job less stressful
- Providing added value, by throwing in tickets or transportation, etc.
How to turn a no to a yes
- It’s about changing the way you think, serving their needs
- Become more full-service, which is easy for us to do because we all have connections
- Those who get referrals, we remember and refer back — it’s a win win
- See if you can meet their budget and add more value
- Become familiar with Webinars and be able to provide that because they can’t bring everyone they used to a meeting anymore
- In this environment, companies are doing more employee and client appreciation events instead of giving raises, so look for that business
- It’s all about customer service, building relationships
- If you don’t have a relationship, technology is no substitute
How can PYM help?
- We would like to see a continuation of events to build relationships between vendors and between meeting planners and vendors
- Anyone who’s ever exhibited at a PYM LIVE Event knows that vendors get just as much out of the time we have on the trade show floor before the planners came by as we do when they’re there
- Everyone wants to work with PYM people because they’re fun to be around
- Keep creating more relaxing opportunities for us to engage each other
- More frequency on LIVE Events (suggested four Atlanta shows next year)
- Continue to bring in more planners