Prepared by: Eda Ozden, Director of Business Development, MEP Destination Business Solution
We all know that our worlds are in a constant state of flux these days, we know that trends change even faster than they arrive and global forces affect our local affairs in ways we cannot control nor predict. Despite full awareness of these factors, losing business is never easy. Especially when it is almost entirely beyond your control. As one of the oldest, largest and most awarded DMCs in Turkey, MEP’s inbound business has fluctuated often in its 40-year experience. However, nothing could have prepared us for the drop that we faced after the dramatic events that spanned (and hopefully ended) from 2013 onwards. So while focusing on the “why” is often important, in our case, it is much more productive to focus on “how to win in such a losing environment”.
Turkey became one of the top 10 visited destinations in the world despite not having an effective marketing plan and doomed massively without one. Business was so good (inbound traffic to Turkey increased from 8 to 42 million from 2000 to 2015) that nobody, including ourselves, prepared ourselves a doomsday plan. However, we had a few things going for us. While shying away from politics is Business 101, we found ourselves having to explain the complicated situation to oblivious outsiders.
Lesson #1: Remain multi-faceted. Read news, be a global citizen – it’ll help you in dialogues and marketing strategies. We had also decided to become more digitalized, we had set up a new hand-held device friendly website, purchased and developed a rich CRM program, we were sending out regular newsletters with consistent messaging, enriched our social media presence and had been advertising online.
Lesson #2: Embrace digital, it will help you with its low costs and effective results when your marketing budget falls down the drain.
Due to our busy schedules, we at MEP had stayed out of the official destination marketing efforts, not had gotten involved with the CVB, besides exhibitions. This hurt us when we realized we wanted to have a say in the messaging strategy in response to the damaging events.
Lesson #3: Make sure you partake in non-for-profit efforts set out by the officials, you’ll be sorry when you cannot affect change when you want to. Our involvement in SITE Global Association helped us stay relevant, remain in people’s minds & hearts.
We also had to find creative ways to leverage ourselves, stay relevant and be remembered for the future. We never got too greedy in accepting force-majeures for we believe in long-term relationships. The desperation of the times turned out to be big catalysts for creativity. We put a twist on the challenges, for example after extensive preparations we were able to say: “While we understand your concerns, we at MEP are better prepared to protect our guests than other destinations”. We also argued the opportunities that stem from the experiences we’ve had like our unrivaled gratitude for business and the great value that Istanbul became.
Lesson #4: Stay creative, downturns are great times to make fundamental changes that prepare you for the future.
Finally, we understood that no sales or marketing efforts, no technology, no brilliant minds can substitute human relationships. Machines do not feel empathy, yet! The bridges we’ve built with clients, partners, friends, suppliers have proven to be our strongest anchor – people have gone above and beyond to help us through these times: they’ve invited us to speak, present/exhibit for free offered us a part in their projects.
Lesson #5: Build bridges, with anybody and everybody!
Lesson #6: Do not take anything for granted. Prepare for the worst & hope for the best!