When marketing to the lucrative group, meeting, and conference markets within the greater travel industry, it is paramount that you cater to the needs and preferences of the professional meeting planners. These are the individuals who need to be convinced, and they are generally very busy. Therefore, whatever information they are presented needs to be fluid and transparent. Most planners are very focused on an RFP (Request For Proposal) process that quickly assembles the correct information, and government planners are required to follow an especially systematic process with a strict bid system. If you make this process difficult for planners, you will lose very valuable group bookings to your competition.
Consider the following points in securing both small and large group reservations and establishing or strengthening an exceedingly profitable facet of your business.
Don’t engage in this. You will lose. Simply give the best available, bottom-line price up front and let the chips fall where they may. Also, be sure to tell planners up front about any hidden costs or fees to avoid billing and/or budget issues down the road. The planner is almost certainly in dialog with a number of different hotels and resorts. If you turn establishing rates into a difficult process, the planner will assume further trouble down the road. They will take their business elsewhere. Don’t haggle.
Always complete RFP’s in their entirety to avoid creating extra work for the time impoverished planner. Do not leave holes in this process or offer unclear information that will require a call back. You may never get one.
Always be upfront about any potential inconveniences such as construction, remodeling, etc. Sell room capacity accurately. Dishonesty in this regard may lead to winning the bid, but you will ruin your chance for return business and will earn a negative referral. In short, don’t oversell and under deliver.
Be certain that communication flows freely and accurately and that the appropriate staff is available to the planner when they are on site. Be sure to immediately communicate any changes that occur that may affect the group negatively or positively. Poor communication is a nightmare for a professional planner and will hurt your chances of winning the bid or earning return business.
Do extra research on the group. Review their website, mission, vision, etc. Enquire about the company or organization culture. If it is a government group, take care in understanding the bid system. Most importantly, ensure that all staff is educated about the group in order to improve service and promote recognition and gratitude. Your efforts will not go overlooked and your service will be recognized as going above and beyond expectation.
Sell Your Region
For many meeting and conference groups, the trip is also a pseudo vacation in which members will often bring spouses and even children along. Cater to this fact. Don’t just sell your property; sell your entire region. Provide information to the planner about local activities, restaurants, entertainment, and site-seeing opportunities. Also consider starting spouse programs and child care options as these services could very well be the tipping point in securing lucrative reservations and solidifying a substantial share of the group market in your region.
Many of these suggestions seem obvious and even fundamental. However, focus sessions conducted with numerous professional planners, each with 10+ year’s experience, concluded the contrary. Time and again these individuals run into the same problems and hurdles when attempting to plan and book a meeting, conference, or retreat. Make the process easy, give them what they want, and you will stand apart from the crowd. And standing apart is, generally, a very profitable thing to do.