kongres_magazine

DEFINITION

The goal of every meeting planner is to secure as many participants as possible. There are a few occasions during the MICE sales process where we ask ourselves who our buyers are and what drives their sales decisions. The answers to the questions who, what, how and why are the most important questions of the sales process.

WHO is buying (buyer’s profile)
WHAT is he/she buying (product portfolio)
HOW is he/she buying (buying habits)
WHY is he/she buying (motivation)

THE STARTING POINT

When you are sure that you know all key buyers and you have all their contacts, then you have placed everything in its rightful position. However, if you do not, the MICE industry sales process can be challenging and complex. Buyers rarely buy impulsively, so marketing campaigns have to be thoroughly thought out and calibrated. Several factors influence the sales process, and we must find the right solutions.

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Photo: Aljaž Čad (Kongres Magazine)

THE CONCEPT

In companies, we often hear sales personnel complaining that marketing has no idea what sales actually does, while the marketing department says that sales doesn’t fill them in on anything.

Marketing professionals
believe that branding along with a series of tools is crucial to reaching goals. Such tools enable digital communication with meeting planners and other potential buyers.

Sales specialists are confident that through epic feats, workshops and sales calls against the backdrop of looming deadlines, they bring their company every euro. Sales bring income so the rest of the destination can survive, whilst marketers are hopeless spenders who recklessly waste money.

When considering both segments from a distant perspective, it seems sales are more manly, goal-oriented and physical. Marketing, on the other hand, seems more thought out, subtle and people-oriented, attributes which are usually regarded as more feminine virtues. Both fields of expertise have the creativity and story-telling in common.

In my opinion, effective marketing creates opportunities for sales to even happen. In other words, marketing creates opportunities, while marketers transform them into money. Only when marketing has done its homework can the sales winners come in. Bad sales results are predominantly the result of a lack of sales opportunities.

Creating such moments and thrilling potential clients currently takes place mostly on digital platforms, which crave good stories and quality marketing. Metaphorically speaking, I tend to compare this with the digital beast hungry for good content and good stories. In today’s world, content marketing should be incorporated into all marketing processes. Needless to say, content is the predisposition for the success of any marketing activity. In the next chapter, we will uncover some of the most commonly used tools that are here to stay, even after the corona crisis.

TIPS AND TOOLS

When giving detailed advice, we base our information on the comprehensive analysis carried out among meeting planners during the corona crisis (March–October 2020). More than 6,000 individuals answered our questions. Among the questions, they were asked about the most imperative sales activities after the corona crisis. We have gathered the answers into segments and accompanied them with our perspective on added value.

In our opinion, one of the most important sales tools and undoubtedly one of the most valuable is the WEBSITE. How to create and build a great website will be described further on. In any case, the belief that an investment into a website is a good investment is indeed true. Here’s where the sales story likely starts and ends. Evidence shows that during the corona crisis, webpages became the only entry point of potential buyers into a company. By acknowledging this, companies will develop their websites into virtual shops and more.

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Colleagues choose the following sales tools as the most important ones:

PERSONAL CONTACTS
Contacts of event participants, gathered and sorted into a working CRM system, are the quintessential part of any marketing of an event. As organisers, we must ensure that data is used and processed according to the GDPR legislation. The database is the heart of marketing.
Advantage: Good CRM is crucial, as every potential participant is valuable.
ROI effectiveness: Very high

PERSONAL RECOMMENDATIONS
A personal recommendation is the most useful tool in sales. We can spread the recognisability of our brand on the market without our influence, or we can gather the recommendations purposely. Common to all recommendations and endorsements is an authentic, personal experience with the event. Participants particularly appreciate recommendations from trustworthy individuals.
Advantage: Personal recommendations are highly appreciated and are a trustworthy source of sales information.
ROI effectiveness: Very high

INFOGRAPHICS
Infographics are another highly effective form of sales, particularly when the infographics are based on challenges relevant to the participants. In cases when the information is visually appealing and nicely presented, potential participants will enthusiastically share it across social media. Infographics can also be a platform for media promotion.
Advantage: Infographics are virtual and are among the most effective sales tools.
ROI effectiveness: Very high

CONTENT MARKETING
With the use of content marketing, we offer stories that are relevant to our clients. Consequently, clients will reward us with their loyalty and by purchasing what we offer. If we do not tell them authentic stories ourselves, they will make them themselves—even negative ones. When we connect stories with effective marketing, we pave the path to our success.
Advantage: Content marketing helps to create a healthy relationship between participants and improves interaction.
ROI effectiveness: Very high

IN-PERSON MARKETING
In-person marketing remains a vital tool, beating virtual and other forms of marketing that are often in support of the already mentioned face-to-face marketing. Personal marketing includes everything from business discussions to sales calls and negotiations. It is a field of expertise that will stay vital for marketing even after the corona crisis, as it is an important tool when marketing events. However, it is a relatively complex sales communication tool.
Advantage: Live interaction, meaningful (friend-like) partnerships
ROI effectiveness: High

SOCIAL MEDIA
Events connect individuals into communities based on their common interests, habits and hobbies. Hence, social media platforms are ideal for building event communities. It is a long process, but allows for greater event recognisability and gives an insight into the habits of potential participants.
Advantage: Creates an authentic bond between participants and improves interactivity
ROI effectiveness: High

MARKETING VIDEO
Lately, marketing has seen a spike in explanatory videos, video marketing letters, video interviews and videos statements from event participants. Marketing videos are one of the fastest ways to connect our content with an idea of an event with our potential clients. It is important to note that the format should be short, ranging from a minute to three minutes. In other words, a video says more than a thousand words.
Advantage: Creates trust, credibility and authority
ROI effectiveness: High

EVENT E-GUIDE
E-guides are mostly present in a .pdf format that is then available for potential clients to download from websites. Readers receive useful information, whilst the content is in-depth and more comprehensive than the information supplied on the official event website.
Advantage: If quality information is provided, this can be a very effective form of marketing.
ROI effectiveness: High

WEBINARS
In the time of the current corona crisis, webinars are the most-used form of marketing. Although they have been around for years, they have become a novelty in terms of marketing and sales. With well-prepared webinars, you can enthuse clients about participating in an event. However, you can also do a substantial amount of damage with poorly executed webinars.
Advantage: Effectively building relationships with partners, if done correctly
ROI effectiveness: Medium

ONLINE RECOMMENDATIONS
Such forms of advice are a non-aggressive manner of increasing sales, but they demand a made-out concept and top-level production. They can take the form of VODs (video on demand) or even through video calls. Chatbots are a great helping hand when it comes to this.
Advantage: Visualisation of the advantages of our solution
ROI effectiveness: Medium

E-NEWSLETTERS
For successful marketing via mails, we must not only offer quality content but also understand event participants and their habits. We must explain the benefits and opportunities of attending an event. E-newsletters are a great marketing tool, although their preparation can be demanding content-wise.
Advantage: Measurable reach
ROI effectiveness: Medium

QUIZZES AND SURVEYS
Surveys and quizzes have become a popular tool used for boosting sales. They can extend over a longer period and are an essential part of other marketing activities. In particular, such tools allow the successful gathering of contacts or lead generation.
Advantage: Effects of campaigns can be easily measured.
ROI effectiveness: Medium

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FB-EVENT
Although this falls into the category of social media promotion, marketing through Facebook events is highly effective. When you create an event profile, you can automatically communicate with your followers, target them and connect them with online sales. This is dependent on the quality of your database of followers.
Advantage: Focused marketing and harvesting the potential of your community
ROI effectiveness: Medium

BLOG
With the use of a blog, you can help clients solve their problems. The success is relevant to how interested your audience is in your topics. Regularly posting is also crucial.
Advantage: Great way of increasing reputation and credibility
ROI effectiveness: Medium

CHATBOTS
Increasingly popular in the virtual realm, chatbots offer relevant information or help with easy operations through the use of several questions.
Advantage: Beneficial and entertaining company, enabling the segmentation of participants
ROI effectiveness: Medium

E-TICKETING
There are several systems for e-ticketing on every market. If your event is open to the public, the system usually does not fail. On the other hand, when hosting specialist events, it depends on the focus group. Because most systems operate on the provision principle, it is worth trying this method, especially if the system offers participants the opportunity to buy the tickets in person.
Advantage: Information is disseminated to a wide spectrum of participants, therefore improving the recognisability of the event
ROI effectiveness: Medium – Low

COLD CALLING
During the few past months, telemarketing was almost completely forgotten, although this was once a common form of marketing and sales. Event organisers are divided when it comes to this method of marketing. Either way, cold calling is very effective when conducting surveys, analysing buyers and establishing contact with known event participants.
Advantage: Effective method of surveying, follow-up among participants
ROI effectiveness: Low

NOTE: Never forget existing clients, the participants at any of your events. They already have established contact with you, and if you communicate with them post-event, the likelihood of them staying loyal to you in the future is much higher.

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Photo: Marko Delbello Ocepek

RECOMMENDATIONS

A THIRD OF RESPONDENTS RELY ON THEIR GUT FEELING RATHER THAN CALCULATIONS AND ROI ANALYTICS WHEN IT COMES TO MARKETING AND SALES

In 2019, we conducted comprehensive research into the added value of MICE sales activities. As event organisers, we have various sales opportunities and the main challenge is to increase their potential.

Research has shown that a third of respondents do not have developed tools and techniques for measuring marketing activities. The answer to the question of whether they had any developed support systems (including CRM platforms or informational systems designed to support marketing activities) is also surprising.

The respondents positioned sales calls and fam trips as the most important activities. Answers regarding the importance of each marketing tool show a predominantly conservative industry which is loyal to traditional tools, while the modern solutions are not considered as good case examples and are rare to find. We believe that there is much space for improvement in this aspect.

The success of marketing depends on several elements. Our best advice and recommendation is to start regularly measuring and following your return on investment into marketing (ROI – Return on investment). There is an array of methods and techniques, yet they all start with having clearly set out marketing objectives. This is the only way for the current state to change, where only 23% of respondents use this magic when measuring results and success.

INSPIRATION

In cooperation with Tourism Ljubljana, we have developed an original method for measuring the consumption of congress guests, compared to that of classic tourists. The information is gathered with the method of in-person surveying on a representative example of congress guests attending international events. Using this method, the surveying ensures high-quality information and enables the possibility of following the level of congress services. One of the criteria is the satisfaction of congress guests. Following the results for a longer period, the method provides extremely high-quality data for destination development. Besides giving the amount of consumption in EUR, it also offers an insight into the perception of a destination.

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Photo Credit: Miran Kambič/Ljubljana Tourism

Partner satisfaction
We must undoubtedly start with the satisfaction of our partners. Regardless of the bureau structure, which can be public, public-private or completely private, this should be the priority. Measuring satisfaction is most easily done with an annual survey on partner satisfaction. Believe it or not, such surveys are not as common as one might think. However, if such a measurement does not exist, we recommend you keep track of the following:

– Partner loyalty measured by the percentage of partners who withdraw from a partnership agreement. If this percentage is higher than 10% annually, it is time to raise the alarm.
– Number of complaints and suggestions for improving services

Economic indicators
Economic indicators show the attainment of new congresses and events, as well as their economic effects on the destination. They are measured through the percentage of congress guests and their consumption in accommodation. Unfortunately, this is one of the first impediments destinations are met with and it is not regulated and regularly controlled.

To start, destinations can track the following indicators:

– Number of enquiries (RFPs) generating revenue and amounting to a certain amount of EUR
– Number of successfully completed enquiries
– Enquiries not completed (number of unsuccessful enquiries)
– Multiplicative effects of congresses in the form of overnight stays
– Multiplicative effects of congresses in revenue (EUR)
– Measuring seasonality (percentage of occupancy per month – seasonal fluctuations of accommodation occupancy)
– Number of staff employed in the congress industry

Communication indicators
When the strategic goal of a destination is promotional, the indicators are vastly different. We must keep track of social media reach, the website portal and e-marketing. We must measure the recognisability of a trademark, the effectiveness of advertising and the position on individual markets.

The indicators are:

– Number of new B2B contacts in the database
– Segmentation of B2B contacts in the database
– Number of lost B2B contacts in the database
– Number of posted news stories and their digital and direct reach, as well as reach via social media
– Brand recognisability
– Partner loyalty at the destination
– Level of digital campaign conversion

If we look at the website as our virtual sales store, we must also check the following:

– Time on site
– Bounce rate
– Number of index pages
– Number of page visitors
– Position of the webpage in the finder
– Number of clicks vs time

Environmental indicators

A few simple possibilities which can be carried out and followed by the congress bureau:

– Planting at least one tree a year
– Cooperating in at least one local environmental initiative a year
– Environmental activities for employees (e.g. number of seminars or number of hours on environmental education per individual)
– Cooperating in smart water-use initiatives
– Encouraging recycling of congress materials and consequently measuring the savings
– Encouraging the use of public transport and bikes among employees
– Supporting communication on sustainability and environmental awareness among event participants
– Promoting environment-friendly forms of transport

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Photo: Pixabay (Canva Pro)

In an ideal world, we could follow the carbon footprint of events. It is a very complex field of expertise. No destination has established a fully working system so far, and very few event organisers have. The indicator is, in my opinion, the most realistic indicator of environment awareness and would represent a significant advantage for a destination. Carbon footprint is based on the weight of carbon in kilograms or tons per person, or per activity. The carbon footprint indicator would represent the entirety of carbon emissions (in kilograms or tons) per event.

Our recommendation is to find a consensus on the level of the destination. Then, the smart indicators (KPI) have to be followed, regulated, and lastly, regular checking encouraged. There is an array of possibilities. The main indicators have to be set by individual destinations for themselves, in line with their vision and strategy.

GLOSSARY:

AIDAan acronym used in Sales that stands for Attention/Awareness, Interest, Desire, Actionhttp://www.blog.hubspot.com/
benefitthe value of a product or service that a consumer of that product or service experienceshttp://www.blog.hubspot.com/
buyer personaa fictionalized profile of a company’s ideal customer, created based on market research and real data about its existing customershttp://www.autoklose.com/
cold callingmaking an unsolicited call in an attempt to identify prospects and talk to them about their needs and how that company’s solution can resolve themhttp://www.vainu.com/
conversion ratethe percentage of people who take action and complete the desired goal out of the total number of website visitors, email recipients, or those who are shown an adhttp://www.autoklose.com/
cross-sellingwhen a sales rep has more than one type of product to offer consumers that could be beneficial, and s/he successfully sells a consumer more than one item either at the time of purchase or later onhttp://www.blog.hubspot.com/
featurea function of a product that can solve for a potential buyer’s need or pain point; usually a distinguishing characteristic that helps boost appearanceshttp://www.blog.hubspot.com/
lead generationthe process of attracting leads and sparking their interest in your product or service in an attempt to nurture them into paying customershttp://www.autoklose.com/
social sellinga sales approach in which social media networks are used as sales channelshttp://www.autoklose.com/
up-sellingwhen a sales rep sells an existing customer a higher-end version of the product that customer originally boughthttp://www.blog.hubspot.com/

This article was written by Gorazd Čad, a seasoned meeting planner, who has dedicated 25 years of life to the meetings and events industry. He witnessed the fall of Yugoslavia, the establishment of independent Slovenia, adapted to the internet revolution of the ’90s, overcame the economic crisis of 2008, the 2010 eruption of an Icelandic volcano, and the 2019 meetings industry burnout…

The chapter “Sales Without Selling” is part of the POWER TO THE MEETINGS book, set to be published at the end of 2020.