Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Leveraging Year End Sales Bonuses for Great Meeting Deals

This past week I was talking with a few of my many hotel friends, asking them how business was going and if they were going to finish strong at year end.  I was amazed at how many indicated they had numerous associations who were on hold or waiting until after the holidays are over to move to the next step or make a final decision on their meeting destination.

If you are in a waiting mode with your meetings right now, you are missing out on one of the most prime opportunities of the year to squeeze the "best deal" out of almost any hotel location.

Why?  Because it's year end!  Hotel's General Managers are working hard to make year end revenue goals, and the sales rep you are working with, most likely gets a bonus in some fashion on how many contracts or rooms they book each year.  They need those year end contracts to meet bonus in many instances.

In 2009, when the economy tanked, we went into overdrive on contracting meetings all the way through 2013.  Our members have raved about the deals that we negotiated for them.  The key is:  we saw the opportunity and seized the moment to take advantage of a very soft economy.  That still exists today for a little while longer, hence we are about to complete contracts for our meetings through 2017 with some very good value around the country.

If your #1 goal is to deliver member value, you are missing the boat by not leveraging the hotel and sales rep's motivation to close contracts by year end.  If there is a time the hotel will say "YES" to the things you need to maximize attendance, the last month of the year is it!  And guess what...when they say yes to the things you really need, that creates member value by making your meeting more exciting or more affordable for members to attend.

Here are a few things that I feel have worked well for MTI in getting some amazing deals and partnerships with hotels:

Use a Third Party for Site Selection and Contract Negotiations
With so many venues available, I feel it's a must for meeting planners to use a third party, or the local CVB to assist in finding the right venue and negotiate the contract with the final choice.  First, it doesn't cost the association a dime to use those services.  Secondly, if you use the right one, they provide you an easy-to-read spreadsheet for you to quickly make a short list for site visits.  Third, you leverage the amount of business they have on the books with hotels as well.  Think about it, if a hotel upsets one association meeting planner, they may lose one 400 room night event...upset a third party and you could lose thousands of room nights from the many clients they represent.

Pick the Hotel You Want and Tell Them It's Their's to Lose
I know many meeting planners who don't get everything they want because they spend so much time playing all the hotels against one another.  This is a huge waste of time in my opinion.  My experience has been, when you look the hotel rep in the eye and say, "We have analyzed all the sites and proposals, and this is YOURS TO LOSE", all of the sudden the hotel rep gets real serious and they really work hard to meet your rate and concession requirements.  Making that statement says, "we want you to be our partner and we need these certain items to help us maximize attendance and revenue to your hotel."

Know the F & B Spending and Value of Your Ancillary Member Spending
This is a biggie for any association.  Hotels want associations to come who bring not just room rate revenue, but spa, bar, food, and group activity revenue.  Share with them your need to work on a rate that helps you maximize your attendance; that will maximize their food & beverage and ancillary attendee spending.  The more numbers you can put to that, so you can let them know the other types of revenue your group will bring to the hotel, the better rates you can command.

The Key to Getting is Knowing What You Can Live Without
In the art of negotiations, everyone wants to feel like they gained something, or didn't give away their best hand.   As a meeting planner, you can't ask and expect everything.  You need to be a profitable piece of business for any hotel, or you won't get the first class service you want for your members.  When looking at your list of concessions and the rate you are trying to obtain, make sure to know which items you are able to let go of and what is the top end rate you can afford to have for your members.  If you are able to let the hotel win on some items, they are more inclined to work with you in other areas, and give you a much better rate.

For me, the goal is to get from the hotel the best set of rate and concessions that help us put the best team on the field to win the game of "maximizing attendance."  Sometimes that looks different from venue to venue, but knowing your various meeting revenue streams to the hotel, and how your meeting flow impacts your member's spending habits, can go a long way to getting everything you need to create  the maximum member value at your meetings.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

5-Stages to Building Believers in Your Association

Every month, we as association executives, strive to build a value proposition and brand that make our association a priority in our member's daily course of business or personal development life.  When the dues renewal hits their desk, it is one of the top priorities to be paid.  In a bad economy, it's the one bill that doesn't get dropped.

Those are called BELIEVERS!  Everyone else is just members.  So do you have BELIEVERS or just members?

BELIEVERS are part of a revolution.  Members are part of an association.  So is your association part of a revolution of change or just an association providing services.

BELIEVERS believe they have a competitive advantage by being a member.  Members just belong.

Creating BELIEVERS in your association is about building a relationship with a member long before they are ever a member.  It's no different than dating towards marriage, making sales calls to convert a huge customer, or getting a big donor for a foundation.  Those don't happen without the following 5 key elements taking place first.   Creating BELIEVERS in your association is no different.

My question is, "how many of your association action steps with meetings and communications fall into the first 4-blocks before someone is a member and the first year after they are a member?" 

 The five key steps to building BELIEVERS are as follows:

People want to know they can trust you in all your efforts and activities...especially when they are giving you money.  A lot of associations suffer because their members don't really trust their activities...especially the "good old boy network" syndrome.  Trust is built when the association's actions match up with their words, and those actions and words are deemed highly valuable assets to their development or success.

After trust comes Developing Care.  Do your actions at events and your communications say, "We really care about your needs and want to help?"  Or does it say, "We want you to buy this membership so we can stop our retention falling off the cliff?"  Developing CARE comes more from asking questions about what a member needs and wants for their development and success, than shoving what the association can do for them down their throat until they join.
This is one most associations struggle with.  This is all about your value proposition.  Your relevance is the center of creating your revolution.  It's critical your association leadership establish "what you can do for your members that they cannot do for themselves, and that are really meaningful to them."  Once you do this and move forward with action steps to make them happen, you gain immediate relevance to your industry.

This is the area when people are on the verge of joining or have joined.  From here, they are tapping into your information, meetings, financial data, programs and services, and experiencing the personal or profitable growth that comes from being a member of your association.

This is where members make the change to BELIEVERS.  They see a tremendous difference in themselves personally or in their business by being a member of your association.  Your association now becomes a priority for them...they get involved.  They want to do more to be a part of the association REVOLUTION. 

My question is simple, "if you put the above diagram up on the wall and stuck a pin in for all your actions in the categories they belong, where would they be?"  For most associations, they would all be near REAL CHANGE.  Most associations don't care about you until you become a member.  With that attitude, all you get are members with a low retention rate.  You are stuck needing to generate more new members than you lose so your membership trend doesn't move south.  

ACTION ITEM:  Put the above diagram up on a board and put a pin in the block you feel your events and communications belong in.  Be honest.  Don't put them in places to make you look good...put them where they belong.  If you have very few in the first 3 blocks, you need to reshape your member recruitment and member engagement plan.

Building members is about a financial transaction.  Building BELIEVERS is about a relationship that you can trust us, we care about you, and we are relevant to your cause.  Tap into your BELIEVERS today, and build your industry REVOLUTION!