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Destination Innovate Blog

What are the best ways for destinations and hotels to get meeting planner attention in 2019?

Ahhh… the Meeting Planner. Destinations, hotels and venue’s coveted golden goose customer.  From corporate planners to social planners, the research shows that a consistent digital investment is the way to go.

According to Destinations International, 73% of planners say that digital advertising is their preferred method of being marketed to.

When marketing in B2B (which is the meeting planner space), we sometimes overlook or forget that it is really H2H – Human to Human.  These humans fall in line with the same habits as any consumer.  Therefore, digital attention far outweighs traditional in discovery, affinity and choice.

Let’s dig into how and why to shift your marketing to match this research.  In line with the statistics, you should be spending 73% of your meeting planner marketing budget in digital.  Here are some ways this should be done:

Your website.  

  • Let’s be real for a minute.  Your website probably isn’t as pull as it is push for meeting planners.  You have the facts present, but are you really doing the full job of selling the meeting planner on the destination.  Let’s connect the biggest consumer trend to meeting planners here.
    • Peer envy.  94% of visitors choose a destination today based on how envious their friends are or how cool it makes them look.
    • Consider a meeting planner needs to build more business for themselves or please their superiors.  How does holding a meeting with you help them?  Start with desirability and build from there.  Meetings here result in what kind of attendee delight?  Meetings here result in what kind of customer service, cost savings?
  • Your meeting planner section (or even better, a microsite), should have the following key components:
    • Easy self-identify.  Break out personalization by a corporate (bonus points for personalization by Trade Show, Conferences, Product Launch, Executive Retreat, Town Hall, etc) and social (must break these out Weddings, Family Reunions, Celebratory Events, Tour Groups, Military, Social Groups, Media Events, etc)
      • When they self-identify, serve content that speaks to them and shows off your destination/hotel as a perfect match.
      • In each self-identified section, add:
        • Incredible photos that are real.  Don’t catfish the meeting planner with skewed or over cropped and filtered pics that do not accurately represent you.
        • Click to chat. They made it to the site, customer service is key and helps you get into their head on what their priorities are.  Make sure this is either a well-thought out chatbot program or live human.  Make sure to gather their email when the chat launches so that your sales team can nurture that interest and you can market to them via email.  80% of meeting planners say email is their preferred communication.
        • Stories.  This can be testimonials (vid format is best) or interviews/guest blogs from planners who have held meetings with you.
        • A shopping cart RFP.  Think about the opportunity if the meeting planner can “shop the destination”.  The advantages of this are two-fold.  First, the new generation of meeting planners value the convenience and simplicity of a transactional experience  according to Cvent.  Second, if you have “cart abandonment”, you have remarketing opportunity.  Also, ditch the long-form RFP.  Professional meeting planners already have the RFP to send and the conversion on this type of digital communication is abysmal.
        • Helpful pieces of info and service.  How can you serve the meeting planner and make them successful?  Can you build an attendee site for them?  Can you market the event?  Can you increase attendee satisfaction?  Get creative and put it out there.
        • Easy.  Just make it easy and enjoyable and authentic to your destination or hotel.  Your CRM might make it easy for you to manage stakeholder information but it comes with the cost of making it difficult and increases the odds of losing a sale.  Consider a better way for them to discover your stakeholders and “shop” your website.

Social Media.

A lot of destinations and hotels are experimenting with social media to promote meeting planners to choose them. Your social media presence is as important if not more important than your website. Here’s how this is shifting: Google remains the number one search engine, YouTube is number two and…Facebook is number three with 3.5 billion searches every day.

  • Millennial Meeting Planners are discovering and care about your social media presence.
    • Reports show that social media, reviews and blogs influence their decision to choose a venue, 50% more than previous generations
  • The top three platforms for venues and destinations to market on social media are Facebook, Instagram and Twitter 
  • LinkedIn is still largely untapped in promotion to meeting planners, which is an opportunity to up your game in social selling. Read our curated social selling deck here.
  • Advice:
    • Optimize your platforms and separate for meetings as if they were your website. Make sure all information, materials, message chatbots, etc are blown out to their full potential.
    • Post as if you are already friends/working together.  This strategy blends a pull methodology with narrative psychology.  It also helps with the algorithm updates that favor groups and friends over brand pages.  Post often.  We are talking more than once a day and personal.  Once you get engagement, you can retarget to get them further down the funnel and tighten up the introduction of your brand to an actual lead more smoothly.
    • Follow4Follow.  Show your interest in meeting planner prospects by following them on channels.  It also gives you a good purview into pre-sales information.
    • Run ads.  But, craft your social ads like your posts, if possible.  Lead ads are an exception, if you are running lead ads – make sure your sales team realizes this is a lead and not a prospect, yet.  You still have to do the work of building the relationship and selling.  Lead ads are a great form of quick RFP, though, if followed through with a savvy social sales person.
    • Consider all ad possibilities and rely heavily on branding messages in your ads.  These are some types of ads that you can run on FB/IG/LI:
      • Photo ads
      • Lead ads
      • Video ads
      • Stories ads
      • Messenger ads
      • Carousel ads
      • Slideshow ads
      • Collection ads
      • Full Experience ads (Canvas ads)
      • Playables
      • Dynamic Booking Ads (formerly Product Catalogs)
    • Remember that 73% of meeting planners prefer digital advertising as a method of marketing to them, and social advertising is still undervalued price-wise.  It’s a much better buy than PPC at this moment in time.

Retargeting.

Retargeting meeting planners based on intent and behavior (like visiting your competitors site/search behavior and having the proper job title) can bolster the chances of your message to start an actual relationship.  Retargeting will drive the meeting planner to your website.  So, make sure your site is in perfect order before deploying this ad strategy. Things to consider:

  • Strategy First.  Work out your goals with retargeting early on.  The lifecycle value is most important.  Factor in your sales performance as a potential KPI once actions are taken on your ads.
  • Custom audience development.  Spend a good amount of time on audience creation and storied delivery based on LCA (last click attribution).  Storied ads mean that you are not serving the same ad on view 3 as you are on website view 7 or ad view 19.
  • Make your squeeze page work for you.  It takes an average of 56 impressions per meeting planner to get a click, so make that landing page count.
  • Think beyond the image ad.  You can develop HTML5 dynamic ads, video, content distribution remarketing.
  • Get their email.  In dynamic ad development, this can happen off website. In most cases, when you send them to the landing page of that campaign, you should be asking for their email right up front and be clear about how you will use it.  When you do, have a human reach out via email and start up a conversation with this lead/potential prospect. 80% of meeting planners prefer email communication and this integrates sales and marketing.

 

Get Your Hotel Sales Groups Speaking the Same Language

One of the biggest issues we hear about most often is lack of collaboration between sales and marketing. Going a step further beyond collaboration, the selling points hotels use to also sell the destination can be scattered and not consistent with your destination’s key selling points. If this sounds like a problem that hits close to home, get these groups collaborating asap. Pull your hotels and convention sales groups together for a half day session on how to sell your destination that’s consistent with the brand’s story. Get those who don’t feel equipped to answer all the tough questions the resources they need to do so. Keeping your marketing teams involved in sessions like this does two things for you. 1. It allows marketing to hear first hand the challenges sales faces in your market and the objections they hear most often. Gives marketing ammo for further campaign development. 2. It allows sales to connect with marketing on what data has shown to be most effective in marketing these selling points.

If you have more than a half day open, consider doing a more robust destination amp camp. These camps are designed to be between 1-3 days and catered to what your destination partners need most to better sell your destination together. Amp it up!

 

Other interesting trends with meeting planners today.

Millennial meeting planners were 50 percent more likely to say social media and blogs are highly influential when it comes to evaluating a venue compared to older generations. These millennial planners rely on online reviews, ratings and opinions, compared to traditional media.

  • Solicit reviews from past happy meeting planners.  Filling out a form for your organization only decreases the social currency you could garner.

Meeting planners are increasing their communication with suppliers through social channels, and they are relying heavily on website research when forming perceptions of suitable destinations.

  • This report from 2018 is well worth the cost.  We can only imagine how the findings have skyrocketed since then.

Even back in 2015, Google found that nearly half the B2B buyers are millennials.

  • This translates to the meeting planner demographic we have found to be true.

 

In all honesty, this blog barely scratches the surface of the changing meeting planner needs and maneuvers that a destination or hotel can employ. Subscribe to our blog and never miss a trend or tactic that will improve your meeting planner ‘smarketing’ strategy.

Or get in touch with us now if we can help take your meeting planner strategy to the next level.

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