Assignment Three: MARKETING AND SELLING FOR THE MARKET SEGMENTS
In the field of convention and meeting planning associations spend more than $81 billion a year on meetings (Astroff, 2011, p. 119). These meetings and conventions account for 32% of associations income, more than any other single source and twice as much as corporations spend in meetings annually (Astroff, 2011, p. 119). All of this adds up to make associations an essential market segment and one requiring careful planning (Astroff, 2011, p. 120).
Site selection is the number one consideration for an association when planning a convention and location is a large part of determining the best site for an association (Astroff, 2011, p. 121). A good location will be near the largest percentage of association members as possible, have good weather and a good selection of facilities (Astroff, 2011, p. 121). In addition to location an association convention planner should consider if the site offers an appropriate amount of meeting space, availability of quality guest rooms and exhibit space, cost of the facility, and quality of food service (Astroff, 2011, p. 121-122).
Salespeople use many techniques and tools to ensure they don’t miss out on the association market segment. Before they can use techniques such as personal sales calls, telephone selling, or sales blitzes a salesperson needs to identify associations and what their upcoming convention and meeting needs are. Directories like Who’s Who in Association Management and National Trade and Professional Associations of the United States provide thousands of listings of potential contacts in the works of association meeting planning (Astroff, 2011, p. 141). Additionally, databases like the Concept Marketing Group’s comprehensive directory offer information for more than 45,000 associations and non-profit groups within the U.S. (Astroff, 2011, p. 141).
Association and Corporate meeting planners look for many of the same features in a hotel but the meetings themselves can be very different making it vital to know what the planner needs and present it to them (Astroff, 2011, p. 150). No matter the size, quality foodservice is key to the success of a corporate meeting (Astroff, 2011, p. 150). Having an appropriate meeting space with the necessary capabilities is vital for a successful, productive meeting (Astroff, 2011, p. 151). Services like wi-fi and high-speed internet access have become as important as a variety of meeting rooms (Astroff, 2011, p. 151). The quality of service and guest rooms also top corporate meeting planners’ list of needs when choosing a site (Astroff, 2011, p. 151). There are several tools salespeople can utilize to ensure their contact list is efficient and enable them to contact the people whose needs are best matched with their property. Directories like Dun and Bradstreet’s Million Dollar Directory, Standard and Poor’s Register of Directors and Executives and the Meeting Professionals International Membership Directory provide a list of potential contacts key personnel in the corporate meeting world while special meeting and business publications provide a direct line to key personnel in the market (Astroff, 2011, p. 177).
Selling meeting services and products to social, military, educational, religious and fraternal organizations requires different considerations than selling to associations or corporations (Astroff, 2011, p. 189). Unlike association and corporations, planners for SMERF meetings are often volunteers or part-time workers who need more assistance and want to be assured you will continue to be available to them throughout the planning process (Astroff, 2011, p. 189). Military reunions are estimated to be worth $15 billion a year in potential revenue (Astroff, 2011, p. 190). Military reunions typically include a memorial and a banquet for the veterans but don’t offer much for spouses and family members creating an opportunity for additional food and entertainment revenue (Astroff, 2011, p. 191). Educational meetings are often very short and attendees are very price sensitive making properties near major transportation centers a good fit (Astroff, 2011, p. 194). Religious meetings is a fast-growing market that present an opportunity for additional revenue in food and entertainment for family members since attendees often make the trip a family vacation (Astroff, 2011, p. 195). Although SMERF groups average smaller numbers of attendees and have less money to spend than the other market segments they often meet in slower months helping fill otherwise empty rooms (Astroff, 2011, p. 189).
Meeting salespeople have many techniques for reaching potential clients, including sales blitzes, trade show selling, site-inspection selling, selling with convention bureaus and familiarization tours. A sales blitz consists of a salesperson or team spending a few days concentrating on contacting potential clients in a concentrated area (Astroff, 2011, p. 235). New properties may initiate a sales blitz as a way to announce their opening to the community and invite them to a property presentation (Astroff, 2011, p. 235). Trade-show selling is a different from other sales techniques in that it is an opportunity to contact many potential buyers in on place, at one time as well as providing a look are what other properties are doing to attract groups (Astroff, 2011, p. 235). Selling with convention bureaus allows properties to join other facilities throughout the city in an effort to market the city as a destination while also ensuring they receive convention lead forms once an organization has chosen the city for their meeting (Astroff, 2011, p. 242). It is hard to sell a property to someone who has never seen it in person which is why site-inspection selling and familiarization tours are effective ways to sell (Astroff, 2011, p. 245). A site-inspection is a personal invitation for a potential client to tour the hotel and see the facilities first-hand while watching the professional staff care for guests (Astroff, 2011, p. 245). In contrast to a site inspection, a familiarization tour requires planning and qualifying potential attendees to ensure their potential for booking legitimizes the cost of the tour (Astroff, 2011, p. 246).
Astroff, M. and Abbey, J. (2012). Convention management and services (8th ed). Lansing, MI: American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute.