“Winning Strategies” Report Reveals Best Practices for Today's Tough Meetings Market

By Karyl Leigh Barnes Executive Vice President & Partner, Development Counsellors International | October 28, 2012

Competition among destinations to snare meetings and conventions business has never been more challenging. Cities are marketing themselves with new infrastructure and services for greater buyer appeal, but there are fewer hosting opportunities and lower attendance at events.

As demand has diminished from what it was a few years ago there's greater availability. Today's marketplace is demanding that destinations use best marketing practice to even survive.

In a recent study, meetings buyers - meeting planners – revealed what marketing techniques meetings sellers – destination marketing organizations and other hospitality members – should use to influence buying selections.

Car racing, football and politics are blood sports of long standing, and now there's a business activity that requires the same survival skills: meetings and conventions procurement.

It's no news to hoteliers and others in the hospitality and tourism industry that snaring lucrative meetings for their destinations has never been as difficult as it is today. Cities have expanded and enhanced meeting facilities and other infrastructure for greater appeal to buyers, yet fewer events and lower attendance at those events has produced a market that resembles a housing war in which multiple bidders offer competitive contracts.

So what should destination marketing organizations (DMOs) do to not just survive but thrive in their pursuit of meetings business?

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Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.