Five Things Meeting & Event Planners Look for in a Hotel
This is a guest blog post by Claire Harrington, CMP, public relations manager for Social Tables
By personalizing packages, offering cost-efficient options and proactively catering to meeting planners, reports show that hotels are playing an increasingly substantial role in the $117 billion-a-year meetings and convention industry. This exciting news for the hotel industry simultaneously ushers in increased competition amongst properties looking to attract meeting and event planners to their venues.
As the meeting and events landscape shifts in favor of hotels, it is more important than ever for properties to differentiate themselves from one another when vying for business. This article will discuss the five distinct ways in which you can set your property ahead of the pack.
1. Peer Reviews - For those planners who have not been to your site, 66% say that colleague recommendations play a crucial role in their decision making process. Questions like “Have you ever been to this geographic location? What property did you use? How was your experience? Would you go back?” will be asked of their networks before a planner even begins their search. By ensuring your venue has great customer service before, during and post-event, you will generate positive word-of-mouth that no marketing campaign can emulate.
2. Familiarity - The 2013 DestinationMap report by STR found that 92% of planners surveyed say that previous experience with a property is incredibly important to them when considering a future meeting location. There are a variety of reasons for this, but the most important is the establishment of known-relationships. The same report found that 91% of planners “consider the helpfulness of staff to be very important in venue selection.” Having past working knowledge of a hotel’s staff and vendor partners gives planners a sense of peace (or not) about the support they will receive and the quality of their programming.
Ensure you are maximizing your hotel’s ROI on a client by participating in diligent follow up after they have departed your property. Thank you notes, surveys, check-ins and sending (seemingly) random emails highlighting information you think you client would benefit from are a just a few examples of how to achieve this extended relationship.
3. User Generated Reviews & Online Presence - Once an event professional has compiled a list of potential properties, they will inevitably head to the internet to do some research. That’s when having a great visual and educational presence will help your hotel stand out from the competition. User generated content will take you much farther than a five star rating or a pretty picture. Ask your customers to write a review of your space, and influential guests to comment - then make sure that these responses are front and center when a planner is investigating your property.
Should there be a negative reaction to your property, don’t cover it up - embrace it as an opportunity for the public to see your responsiveness and your commitment to making every experience better than the last.
Also remember that an easily navigated site, with colorful, updated photographs, virtual tours, and accurate diagramming will go a lot further than an event page asking the inquirer to call you for details. MeetingsImagined by Marriott is a perfect example of how to shape your hotels’ visual platform to be the most appealing to a client.
4. Cost - The report notes that 89% of respondents said that “exorbitant costs” were one of the top reasons for bypassing a property. In a recovering economy where every penny is being accounted for, a meeting planner won’t be able to leverage the beauty of a property into a deal if the price isn’t right for the client.
Consider proactively offering tiered meeting packages that appeal to a variety of budgets when you submit your business plans to potential clients. By making the planner’s life easier from the start, you establish yourself and your property as strategic assets, as opposed to just another location looking to close a deal.
5. Internet Access - According to STR, in 2013 94% of planners required Wi-Fi at their meetings. That number will continue climbing year over year, meaning that offering this service is non-negotiable. Simply providing internet access isn’t the only thing you need to be accounting for, however. Your Wi-Fi must be reliable, fast and should be offered at a free to very-low cost rate.
In an age where every corner coffeehouse gives its patrons free access, it is becoming less acceptable to charge guests for access. Group size will dictate the speed and strength of your internet capabilities, so ensure that if you do add a surcharge for this option, you fold this cost into your tiered packages. Being honest and upfront about any add-on costs will position you as a trustworthy contact in the eyes of your client, establishing the base of the foundation that you will need to ensure repeat business.
By proactively offering affordable options that make your client’s lives easier while delivering exceptional customer service, you will be establishing your property as the location of choice for event and meeting planners.
Tell us what you do to differentiate yourself from the competition!
Claire Harrington, CMP is the public relations manager at Social Tables. In this role, she is responsible for increasing brand awareness through education, content curation, thought leadership and community partnerships.
Prior to joining Social Tables, Claire served as director of events for a Congressman and worked on the national events team for a D.C.-based lobbying firm. She serves as a WINiT committee member and is actively involved in the MPI, IAEE and PCMA communities.
Claire received a B.A. in Recreation, Sport & Tourism Event Management from the University of Illinois. She resides in Denver with her husband, Christopher.