100 Years of Advancing Destinations

What Would You Do for 15 Extra Minutes with a Planner?

Author: Joy Lin
Posted: June 03, 2014
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A planner's time is precious, which is why getting even 15 extra minutes of their time is solid gold for a DMO sales pro. I recently heard of a fantastic case of one DMO, Travel Lane County, using online channels and its unique expertise on a certain topic to earn an average of 15 minutes of time spent on a single meeting planning page.

Yes, everyone, that's 15 minutes of planners learning about their destination, gaining new knowledge about how to make their meetings successful there, and encouraged to consult a sales pro directly.

Janis RossHow did they do this? I sit down with Janis Ross,Vice President of Convention & Sports Marketing with Travel Lane County, to find out from the beginning.

Tell us about yourself. How long have you been in the industry, and how long with Travel Lane County?

I've been at Travel Lane County as Vice President of Convention & Sports Marketing for ten years. Prior to that, I was Director of Sales at a boutique luxury hotel in Portland and worked as a corporate meetings manager before that. In total, I've worked in the meetings and events industry for over 30 years.

I love living and working in the Eugene, Cascades & Coast region with a thriving arts culture, local university, culinary bounty, and more recreation than you can imagine! As we like to say, we live our culture everyday and we want to share it with everyone.

Sounds like a great attitude for your team to have. Who do you work most closely with on promoting Lane County?

We have an exemplary convention sales and service team at Travel Lane County. Our sales managers specialize in different meeting verticals: Sue Harshbarger, Senior Convention Sales Manager, manages the association, education and sustainability markets. Juanita Metzler, our second Convention Sales Manager, is responsible for the faith-based, medical and military markets. Linda Norris, our Convention Services Manager, provides outstanding support to our planners.

Our staff are involved in the local community, which helps them bring a wealth of resources and knowledge to planners. Juanita Metzler, for example, sits on the board of directors for Northwest Christian University and is part of a faith-based initiative called One Hope. Sue has been part of the Bicycle Pedestrian Alliance for the City of Eugene and routinely volunteers for events. Linda's background include hospitality in hotels and wineries. All are passionate about what they do and love sharing our county with both planners and delegates.

With such well-connected group, what would you say then, is the role of online sales for you? How does it fit with your overall destination sales strategy?

As a smaller destination, we love that online sales "evens the playing field". For planners, being able to search destinations that are new to them can provide enticing options that they may not be aware of. Images and video help us tell our destination's story much better than a phone call or email can.

Online reach is always a great advantage in today's world of search. Can you share why you chose to get involved with DMAI’s empowerMINT initiative? What gap were you trying to fill with this service?

Recent studies have indicated that planners have already decided on their destination by the time they contact the DMO. This means that they are doing a tremendous amount of online research. We want to be front and center during the planner's online research phase. The "extras" that empowerMINT provides for marketing are valuable: Presenting webinars and DMO profiles on the empowerMINT blog, for example.

The webinar we presented on accessible meetings not only drew a good number of planners for the original broadcast, but when we produced an auxiliary online campaign, we drew additional planners to a web landing page containing the archived video. The average length of time on that web page was 15 minutes!

Those are some truly enviable results. DMAI always tries to encourage DMOs to recognize that there’s more to online sales than simply filling out a profile and waiting for planners to come, so if you could recommend one thing that all DMOs do to drive home their value to meeting planners, what would that be?

DMAI offers great resources on communicating this message to planners. The organization is doing an excellent job in reaching out to planners groups to communicate the value that DMOs offer to planners.

DMAI's empowerMINT in particular is a powerful tool to reach planners, to be visible in the planner's research cycle, and to position your DMO as a knowledgeable and reputable resource. Signing up with empowerMINT is a first step, but then proactively taking advantage of all of the opportunities provided with your empowerMINT package is the critical next step. It's surprising how many DMOs sign up for the program and don't do anything else.

Many thanks to Janis Ross for her contributions to this interview. If you have any questions about empowerMINT or how to step up your engagement with our marketing opportunities, contact Kate Skidmore at kskidmore@destinationmarketing.org.