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You’ve got the planner’s attention. Now what?

Attention
The other day, I saw a local political candidate standing on the side of the road waving at passersby. What made the situation unique, was that he was not standing on the ground, he was standing on the top of a huge semi truck that was adorned with his name and face. Not only that, it was the middle of summer and over 100 degrees, yet it made me wonder. Will this really get him votes?

It also got me thinking about gimmicks I have seen done by hotel salespeople. For instance, a sales manager for a luxury hotel who ditched her typical business suit for a casual outfit from a well-known clothing store to wear on her site inspection with executives from that company.

Cute idea, but is it effective?

If a meeting planner is doing their job, they make their property decisions based on what’s best for the meeting and attendees. That could be ideal space, conducive guestrooms, technology capabilities, service level, flexibility of staff, proximity to airport and local attractions, food and beverage … or a combination thereof. And it varies from meeting to meeting (even for the same organization!)

So just keep in mind. A gimmick is a gimmick. Don’t rely solely on it to get the business. Make sure you find out what is important to the client and address how your property can meet and exceed those needs, then follow through. That will get their attention—and keep it (along with their business.)

What are your experiences with gimmicks? Has one ever caused you to make a purchase? If so, were you satisfied?

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Get a Return on Attendance at your next educational conference

Idea notepad
When you attend a meeting industry conference or other learning event, you usually walk away with a bunch of great ideas, right? You are energized and ready to make some big changes.

And then what happens? You get back to the real world (aka your office,) the notes sit on the corner of your desk until they are eventually put in a file folder in a drawer and then are forgotten. Maybe all of the business cards you collect are sitting there too. Nothing has changed and the time and money you (or your employer) spent on the conference is wasted.

How do you stop this from happening to ensure you get a Return on Attendance (ROA)?

1. Identify what you want to learn (or who you want to meet) before you get to the learning event
Is there a new trend you want to explore? Maybe there’s a skill you’ve been wanting to hone, or a new market you want to reach out to. Take some time to think this through and then pick up the conference brochure (or visit the program schedule on the web site) and see what sessions are offered that address those needs. Also take a look at the attendee list and make a note of who you’d like to meet. Create a schedule so when you are at the conference you know where you are going, rather than deciding in the 20 minute break between sessions.

2. Take lots of notes, including action items
Whether in your iPad or other mobile device, the conference notebook or your own notepad, make sure to keep a running list of things you want to do when you get back to the office. Be sure to include names and other resources that you can refer back to when you get started (and you WILL get started!)

3. Evaluate your list of to-dos
Hopefully the learning event you attended was great and your list is long! Now you need to go through and prioritize. Pick the top three ideas you want to accomplish. You can always come back to the others at a later time.

4. Tell someone about it and make a commitment!
Get together with a fellow attendee, a co-worker or even your boss. Let them know the three things you selected and a day you will follow up with them on your progress. If it is a fellow attendee, have them do the same. Then put that date on your calendar and stick to it. Knowing you have to report to someone who is holding you accountable will make it more likely you will follow through. After all, you don’t want to be embarrassed that you said you would do something and not do it.

This is a pretty easy process. The issue is, most people aren’t doing it! Make sure the time you spend out of your office—away from booking new business—is worth it and give it a try.

Incidentally, along with change expert, professional speaker and author, Chris Clarke-Epstein, we educate meeting professionals on how to incorporate ROA activities into their learning events to ensure all of their attendees can reap the benefits. For more information, click here.

How do you ensure you see results from your attendance at industry conferences and other learning events?

Image courtesy of winnond/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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The fine line between informing and annoying

Annoying
Staying in touch with your clients is a good thing. Just don’t over do it.

A few weeks ago, I urged you not to add people to your email lists without their permission. For those who have selected to receive your emails, please do not abuse them!

Last weekend I purchased some shampoo online. It was the first time I had bought from the company’s website and was enticed to sign up for their email list by offers of exclusive discounts and sales notices. (Who doesn’t like a great deal?) Every day last week I received two to three emails from this company. Two to three emails a day!

I went from being an excited new customer to an annoyed oneand I haven’t even received my shampoo yet!

You may have a ton of fabulous things you want to share with your clients: weekend packages, specials in your spa or your restaurant, new things happening on property. Fantastic! How about sharing those things on social media? It’s acceptable and encouraged to post several times a day. Email is a little more sacred. Respect your customers’ time. Save up all of the good stuff and share it once a week or every other week.

What are some turnoffs you’ve experienced with other companies when it comes to email marketing?

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Have unusual meeting space? Embrace your uniqueness

Unique spaces
I love holding and attending events at non-traditional venues. No offense to hotels and resorts. It’s just a nice alternative to the usual banquet or ballroom.

So, I was a little surprised the other day when I flipped through the pages of a publication which showcases these types of venues. There were a number of photos of beautiful, unique meeting spaces set in boring, traditional room sets. Rows of “schoolies” draped with ivory linens stoically lined up, facing the front of the room where a lectern stands on a riser. Yawn. Excuse me while I take a nap.

Hello sales people with unique venues or hotel sales people with unusual space for group functions, you’ve got cool, unusual space. Do something cool and unusual with it! Think about it. If a planner wants to use this type of space, they are probably looking for something out of the ordinary. Unique seating arrangements can facilitate learning and networking. Find out their needs, get creative and make it worth their while.

Need some ideas? A few of my meeting industry colleagues have awesome blogs with loads of suggestions: Joan Eisenstodt and the team at Velvet Chainsaw.

What are some unusual ways your space has been used by groups?

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Get more than just business cards at your next industry conference

Business Cards 2
Picture it. You’ve got a client that is considering your hotel for their annual meeting and is on the fence about which property to choose. She wants to do something different this year and really impress her boss and board of directors. You give her some great ideas from sessions you attended at a recent PCMA or MPI conference—maybe it was a unique breakout format, unusual seating arrangement or clever menu idea. Whatever it is, it fits the client’s situation, makes her look like a hero with her leadership team and you get the business—and a loyal customer.

As a salesperson, when you attend meeting industry events, most likely your goal is to meet as many qualified prospects as possible and walk away with some leads. I get that. But while you are there, take advantage of the great education so you can have tools to book even more business in the future.

It’s kind of like that old saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Your attendance at a conference may result in a nice piece of business or two. If take the opportunity to advance your skills and brush up on the latest industry trends, you will become more valuable to your clients and property which will help you book even more business.

Before you even leave your office, determine your learning goals. Then review the conference program and select which sessions you want to attend. Many events have online tools or apps that allow you plan your schedule—use them! After the conference, review all of the action items in your notes and prioritize which ones you want to tackle first. Then tell a friend or share it on Facebook. You are more likely to follow through on a commitment if you make it public.

What are your best practices when attending an industry educational program? How has the knowledge you’ve acquired benefited you?

Image by Flicker user Christopher S. Penn (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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Please don’t add me to your email list

Email spam
It surprises me how many vendors add me to their email lists without asking or even knowing if I have a need or interest in their product or service. Sure, it’s an easy form of marketing. You create a newsletter or some other promotional piece and blast it out to anyone and everyone. But, really, how effective is it? And a better question is, compared to the number of leads you receive, how many more people do you tick off because they never asked to be added to your list?

I’m fine with suppliers reaching out to me via email—especially if it is a personal message. But please ask my permission before adding me to an email campaign where I receive regular promotional messages.

Yes, I know I can unsubscribe and it takes two seconds, but it’s the principle. I never asked for your information. I don’t have a need for your product or service. And if I did, I would ask.

And keep in mind, by sending unsolicited emails, you run the risk of the recipient adding you to their blocked sender list, thus prohibiting all future messages from reaching them, including personal email.

So what should you do instead? Grow your customer base the old-fashioned way by building relationships. If you meet a planner at an industry function or connect with them on LinkedIn, send them a personal email or handwritten note. Give them a call every now and then or follow up with another personal email. Get the picture? Some things take time and this is one of them. Trust me, you aren’t going to get your next huge booking by sending spam.

How have you been successful in staying in touch with customers and potential customers?

Image by Flicker user Sybren A. Stüvel (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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Take a walk in your guests’ shoes

Smile shoe
Have you ever taken the opportunity to experience what you are selling? I mean, beyond walking the meeting space and guest rooms.

I gave a presentation at a hotel recently and arrived a little early to set up. The event was not listed on the reader board, so I had to ask the front desk agent for the room name and directions. I arrived at the room, which was on the second level and found the door locked. I walked around the floor looking for a house phone or someone to let me in the room. Nada. So I went back down to the front desk who sent a bellman to let me in the room. Once inside, I saw the projector was not set up as requested, and sent the bellman to find an a/v tech. The a/v tech arrived with the projector, handed me the case and left. I noticed the water and coffee had also not been delivered, so I made a second trip to the front desk to check on the status.

All this time, I couldn’t help but wonder, does the hotel salesperson know what a lousy job their staff does in servicing groups?

You aren’t just selling function space and sleeping rooms. You are selling an experience. You could have gorgeous, functional, state-of-the-art meeting rooms and luxurious, spacious guest rooms. You may even have some of the friendliest staff around, but if you inconvenience your guests through your lack of attention to detail then you aren’t doing your job.

Take the opportunity to really experience your property from a guest, attendee and planner’s perspective. Is it easy to find things? Or find people? Do you have someone that checks in with the group contact at the start of the event? Sounds basic but the hotel I visited did not. What else is missing? What would make guests say “wow?”

How can you put yourself in your guests’ shoes and see things from their point of view?

Image by Flicker user Kevin H. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

 

 

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