100 Years of Advancing Destinations

5 Steps to Bridging the Digital Sales Divide

Author: Joy Lin
Posted: October 21, 2014
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We're back from eTourism Summit and loaded with interesting insights into new technology research and trends affecting travel marketing. It's incredible how far we as an industry exploit the digital potential for reaching the transient community, but are largely absent in similar activities on the meetings side. As a part of addressing this gap, I had the opportunity to present on digital strategies for the meetings market and wanted to share highlights from the discussion here.

Note: It's not just about social media.

When we talk about digital, we often make the immediate jump to social media. Are meeting planners on social media? Do they use social media for work? Who are they talking to online? Are they buying through these channels?

While these are all important questions to address, keep in mind that digital strategies, just like all strategies, are not about any one tool. Nor are they about any one department. Digital strategies in the meetings market actually involve the cooperation and collaboration of marketing, sales and services teams to execute fully.

Here are five steps that illustrate how to bridge our digital sales divide:

1. Understand planner pain points.

Planners, like any other customer, are looking for solutions. They're looking for ways to be better at their jobs. The better understanding you have of your customer's pain points, the more likely you'll be able to speak to them about something that actually interests them. This is key to holding a busy planner's attention in a time-starved buying environment.

Take action: DMO sales and services professionals alike have significant experience working with various clients to uncover exactly what target meeting planners struggle with. Conduct surveys, focus groups or advisory groups with target planners who can be honest about their needs and challenges. Identify any patterns or buckets.

2. Know where your DMO shines.

A destination can't be all things to all people. DMOs are particularly adept at finding groups that fit when it relates to dates, rates, space, services, and brand; but I challenge you to think of "fit" in another way. Where does your destination truly shine when it comes to solving a particular planner problem?

Take action: Consult services professionals whether within the DMO, convention center or hotel staff to surface solutions that your destination is particularly adept at addressing. Match these solutions up with the pain points identified in Step 1 and narrow the list down to a few key pillars to communicate.

3. Publish your solutions.

In a recent study, Marketing Challenges International showed that meeting planners are increasingly savvy and strategic in their destination selection process that is leaving traditional marketing in the cold. Content marketing has long become the standard for attracting leisure travelers, and the same principles apply to the B2B side of the equation. DMOs must be actively creating and publishing interesting and helpful information to remain relevant to the planner community.

Take action: Marketing professionals can begin collecting and creating different pieces of digital content that illustrate the expertise identified in Step 2. Depending on your target meeting planners, you could use a variety of media, like video, Instagram, blog, etc. The only rule to follow is to make them educational, not promotional.

4. Share them. Make them findable.

Don't let your expertise be the "best kept secret" in the industry. Start sharing it and make it findable online. This is where social media crops up as a strong channel for DMO sales pros to engage with meeting planner groups online with solid answers. Don't forget to optimize content to be found by customers not necessarily looking for your destination, but find answers to their questions on DMO websites.

Take action: Content created in Step 3 opens the door for sales pros to start having meaningful conversations online. Marketing teams must optimize the content to be found by self-educating meeting planners.

5. Deliver on your brand promise.

While there isn't an organized peer review site especially dedicated to meeting planners (yet), the meeting planner community is a strong and established group that trusts the experiences and recommendations of its peers. Therefore, ensuring word of mouth is still an incredible way to market and sell your destination.

Take action: Empower services teams execute on a great experience and delight the customer in unexpected ways.