We understand the challenges a DMO faces when creating a marketing plan for their destination, let alone for a niche segment like Meetings & Conventions. That’s where we come in. We are experts in this industry and have built tried and true strategies and solutions for meetings marketing that can help bridge the gap between a DMO’s sales and marketing teams.
To make it simple, we’ve condensed it down to three simple steps to create a meetings marketing campaign that delivers results for your DMO’s sales and marketing teams.
Step 1: Smarketing
Meetings marketing isn’t a one-sided coin. It requires the support of both the sales and marketing teams working together to create strategies and synergies to drive awareness and leads.
Implementing unique ways to blend the sales and marketing teams’ messages and goals can help drive leads. DMOs must adapt to smarketing. Smarketing is the cohesive integration of sales and marketing efforts to create a strategy and program to reach your goal. It’s the marketing team’s job to teach your sales teams that reaching planners has to go beyond the RFP. It can be difficult to teach sales teams as they are so focused on selling. They forget that selling starts with relationship building. Marketing needs to help build those relationships and create awareness.
It’s imperative for a DMO’s sales and marketing teams to collaborate to align their goals. They have to think in this smarketing mindset.
Often times, sales teams and DMO partners just want the RFP, but awareness must be built in order to get to that step.
We like to think that meetings marketing is like dating and that getting the RFP is like getting married. No one (except Danny Bonaduce maybe) gets married on the first date, so why would you expect to get an RFP upon a meeting planner’s first encounter with you?
That first encounter may be receiving an email, seeing a banner ad or reading a social media post. I just saw a Meetings banner ad for a Tier 1 destination and it was lovely but when I clicked on it, it took me straight to the RFP form on their website. So the ad had a catchy headline and great shot of their Downtown but the payoff for me was the RFP form. As a meeting planner, why would that make me ready to send an RFP? This is a classic example of getting married before the first date even happened.
Sales teams know that they can’t walk up to a planner when they see them at a trade show and say, “Hello, can I have your RFP?” So they should also recognize that the DMO’s marketing campaign doesn’t always produce this immediate result either.
The marketing campaign should be thought of as a romantic courtship. The planners need to be wined and dined; they need to know your destination is the right fit and that your destination will take care of them.
It is essential that your entire team knows the steps it takes to get to the RFP stage – this is going to help you create better sales and marketing strategies and help your team get on the same page for meetings marketing.
The sales and marketing teams really need to seduce their target audience, flirt with them through advertising and then seduce them through FAMs and site visits. This engagement will eventually entice the planner to pull the trigger and propose with the RFP.
You have to put in the work to get the relationship you want.
Step 2: Site Visits
Site visits are essential to getting the RFP and providing value to your partners.
We hear it from DMOs all the time and we remember from our days at DMOs here in Florida: once you get a planner to your destination, it is so much easier to close the deal. Site visits essentially give you one on one time with the planner and allow you to show off your destination in a way that you simply cannot do from a trade show floor, phone call or advertisement.
So, if you focus your efforts on getting the site visit, you essentially will be getting the RFP or even better, the contract. We were just in Grand Rapids, MI visiting with their team and they told us it’s almost a done deal once they do the site visit. We hear this all the time. Site visits give your audience a much better perspective on the destination and get their offerings.
“Destination awareness is low. Once meeting planners know what we have to offer and see how accessible or convenient or impressive our package is, they want to bring their meetings here. Then, the sales teams have to help them convince the other decision makers.” – Digital Edge client
We focus our digital marketing efforts on helping the sales team get more site visits. By crafting exciting and alluring site visit promotions, we are helping the sales team close more business.
Too often we see DMOs that don’t have a line item for site visits in their budget and this is very surprising. Hosting FAMs and hosting planners individually is the key to success and one of the measurable things that the DMO can control. So whatever you and your teams are doing, make sure to include more site visits and focus on incorporating them into your planning.
It’s always nice to hear first-hand from the DMO team and get their insights and feedback as a local and a resident. You can really get a sense of their passion for home and even get the insider tips and secrets to local flair, which is a huge drive for planners as they want their attendees to experience that authenticity.
No matter how digitally focused we are, nothing beats being there in person and getting to know the people and places.
Step 3: Invest in Digital
Traditional marketing isn’t enough anymore – in the age of Google and Siri we have the ability to answer any question at any time of day so your meetings marketing must be digitally present.
If you focus your advertising predominantly on print advertising and traditional marketing, when a planner goes to Google and searches for destinations your DMO won’t be present. These searches by planners happen every second of every day and making sure your digital content and digital presence is strong is key to being successful today.
If your online messaging focuses on space, dates and rates or lists of hotels, you don’t have the type of digital presence that will get attention. Meeting planners are searching for the same types of questions they ask your sales team. Those questions are a great starting point for developing digital content that will make you relevant in the age of Google.
To craft content that is relevant to what meeting planners are searching, you need to circle back to smarketing. Ask your sales team what questions they get asked frequently from meeting planners. Those FAQ’s are a great starting point for creating your meetings content calendar. Also, take a look at your team’s services survey’s to see what feedback your destination is getting from groups.
Being socially present is key too. The lines between personal and professional are completely blurred now on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
LinkedIn is a key social site for meetings and each member of your social team should have optimized LinkedIn pages. Taking your social presence to the next level includes making sure your meetings content and messaging is relevant across all social channels.
DMOs need to invest in digital content, digital imagery and videos and digital marketing technologies to capture planners when they are making those instantaneous decisions online.
59% of meeting planners prefer receiving updates through email marketing, reading reviews and ratings (on DMO’s websites), and following a destination’s social media. So it’s really important to have a digital presence.
There was another article from PCMA that discussed this “emerging generation of prospective attendees consuming content on their smartphone from all major media outlets, they’ll demand the same level of convenience from other organizations, too.” So being digital and mobile is extremely valuable here because users are consuming content in their “downtime” – in transit, in waiting rooms, between sessions at a conference, etc.
Being digital also means you can utilize every aspect of social media … especially in regards to meeting planners – 60% of whom use LinkedIN (60.36%) and (42.01%) Facebook.
Marketing and advertising on these social channels are not only beneficial but necessary.
Another Tidbit of Info…
33% of meeting planners prefer to submit RFPs online
59% of meeting planners prefer to communicate through email
Take a second to bookmark two blogs on our site for a later read:
What do Meeting Planners Want
How a Digital Mindset Will Help DMO’s Promote Your Meetings & Convention Product
Let me tell you, we get it. I think that’s becoming our motto.
We get that it is hard to transition from a traditional approach to meetings marketing but it is definitely worthwhile. We will be sharing a case study in October at the eTourism Summit about how one DMO took their meetings marketing digital. It took them almost two years to make that transition so it should be really interesting!
Just to Recap
The top three things your meetings marketing should be doing are 1: Smarketing – integrate your teams – you will be amazed at what you both learn and are able to do. 2: Focus less on RFP’s and more on Site Visits – this will help you get more RFP’s! And 3: Be digital. Be where meeting planners are today. If you haven’t made the transition, the time is now. Take a fresh look at your website and the messaging to meeting planners. Make sure it focuses on what sells your destination best.
We know your DMO is struggling with the same challenges most of your peers have. Limited resources, limited funds and limited time. So, while you are struggling to make all of this happen on the leisure side it also must be a priority for your meetings marketing.
We are here to help you. Hop over to our resources page for tips, tools and solutions for DMOs, along with free downloads of our eBooks and additional links to our blogs and case studies.
A veteran in Destination and Hotel Sales and Marketing, Shirley utilizes her expertise to develop services that assists DMO’s in research, generating leads and increasing awareness for the destination’s meetings product and experiences.