As a global site selection leader for corporations and associations, HelmsBriscoe (HB) has gained significant influence as a meetings resource for over 20 years, with over a thousand Associates in over 50 countries providing clients with market intelligence on the ideal meeting destination and experience. While the sheer volume of meetings that go through HB's doors is impressive, I also found the company's philosophy interesting in the way that they execute on the needs of not only their Associates' and clients' needs, but also the priorities of their partners. I sat down with Danielle Boyles, Vice President of HB, to discuss how they broker these complex relationships in today's marketplace.
Join Danielle in the upcoming complimentary webinar "To Copy or Truly Collaborate? HB Associations and DMO Professionals"
In a digital age where so much knowledge is at our fingertips, what are the major sources that you find planners (and clients) rely on for information?
When it comes to researching for the right destination/venue, we are very fortunate at HelmsBriscoe where we have several internal, proprietary systems which our Associates use on a daily basis to enable them to better serve their Clients. These HB systems provide industry intel, market trends, sharing of best practices, ratings and updates on hotel and DMO Partners, special promotions for our Clients from our Partners, etc. For our DMO Partners, we post a Partner Profile which has links to not only their website and main point of contact’s email address but also to their DMAI empowerMINT listing. With 1,200 HB Associates around the world, through these internal systems, we are able to collect a lot of pertinent data and intel. When it comes to the actual search, our HB Associates use HB Connect, which is our proprietary version backed by Cvent technology. And we just launched our Site Inspection App technology earlier this year which is a game changer!
That intelligence must be key to HB Associates and their Clients having what is often described as a unique and personal relationship. Can you share some insight into why that is and what makes it unique?
Thank you, we pride ourselves on our long-term, close relationships with our Clients! The HelmsBriscoe business model was created 22 years ago solely on the basis of representing the client’s needs. As most of our HB Associates join HelmsBriscoe from either a former hotel or DMO sales background or from an independent meeting planner background, we are able to instantly bring a lot of industry experience to an organization who needs assistance with their meetings management. I also think that this helps us be great ambassadors between our Clients and our hotel and DMO Partners because we’ve been there and know the pressures that our Partners face. With the power of our brand, we are also able to bring a huge chest full of resources and tools to an organization. In most cases, our HB Associates are truly thought of as either the organization’s site selection arm or an extension of their meeting planning division. We provide a lot of value and treat the meetings as if they were our own, that makes us personally vested and our Clients can sense that it is more than just a business transaction for us.
So as an extension of your Clients' overall organization, what would you say are the top three priorities of a HB Associate when planning a meeting for a client?
Location, overall value for price (which does not always mean the cheapest room rate), and the destination needs to have a feeling of all parties working together. Hotels and DMO sales teams need to appear as one team in a destination. I have to say however, that at the end of the day, if all things are equal, our industry is totally based on relationships. We are going to recommend a destination where we feel our Clients will best be looked after because we know the DMO team there well.
Solidarity and collaboration with their partners is definitely a big picture goal for many DMOs. What do you dream big about?
Philosophically, I think we dreamed big four years ago when we launched our Destination Program and dreamed about working closer with the DMO community in order to better serve our Clients. We still have some work to do on both ends in this partnership but I think we are in some way living the dream now. We’ve seen the results of all of us coming together and creating an excellent experience for the Client together. Our Clients love the new collaborative outlook in our industry.
Can you share more about that collaboration?
We educate our Associates to let them know that they need to include our DMO Partners right at the start of the RFP process in order to take advantage of their services. Especially now in this Seller’s Market, having a conversation about business opportunities in the destination with the local experts -- prior to even sending out the RFP -- proves invaluable by saving time for everyone. The DMO can provide a huge service by providing local market intelligence and insider tips up front. Additionally, our HB Associates have ranked assistance with site inspections the top service that they value from our DMO Partners. As our Associates focus primarily on the site selection and contracting, knowing with confidence that the DMO Partner is there to pick up and support the actual execution of the program, is key.
If I'm a DMO exploring whether to become a HB Partner, are there any changes or developments to the program that you’d like to share?
We launched our Valued Plus level this year which is exciting for us. Previously, we just had three tiers in our Partnership Program and now we have another option for those Valued Level (entry level) Partners to consider who have seen a considerable return on their investment already. Already we’ve seen more than a dozen Partners take advantage of this enhanced level of benefits.