Marketing Tips FAQ
Selling your product or service to the Convention, Meeting & Special Event industry... It's elementary!
The following are some of the most frequently asked questions by Visit Salt Lake members regarding marketing to the convention, meeting, and special event industry through our membership program.
Questions are numbered; answers and suggested actions are lettered. Preceding each lettered answer is a description of the Visit Salt Lake member category to which the suggestion applies.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How do you determine in advance whether a planner needs your particular product or service? How do you qualify your prospects?
- How can you find out if a convention has an optional tour program for all attendees or a separate spouse program, better known today as "significant other" or "accompanying person" program?
- When should you initially contact the planner?
- How should you contact the planner?
- What kind of information should your promotional brochure and/or cover letter include? How can you make it effective?
- What are the differences between "independent meeting planning" companies and "destination management" organizations? What is their relationship to the corporate and association meetings market?
- Where can you find lists of these independent meeting planners and destination management firms?
- Should you market your products and services differently to the independent meeting planner and destination management firm vs. the association meeting planner?
- What are some of the sales techniques that invite potential clients to buy your products and/or services?
- How can you sell your product or service to the individual exhibitors at a convention with a trade show?
- How can you get the meeting planner to distribute your brochure to all attendees at the convention?
1. How do you determine in advance whether a planner needs your particular product or service? How do you qualify your prospects?
A. Check with your original sales office for client history.
B. For Multi-hotel conventions contact SLCVB for historical information on room blocks
C. Cross reference convention and meeting listings (from SLCVB's Convention Calendar) with information on associations that you can gather from various industry directories, such as "The Encyclopedia of Associations." These directories give information on the sponsoring association such as staff size, budget, membership profile, key contracts, meeting history dates, etc.
D. Call the association directly. Often they have information they can easily send you (such as past annual programs, meeting profiles, or current publications) which can help you discover their needs prior to talking with the planner directly.
E. Network. Visit Salt Lake Member Connections, Update Breakfasts, and seminars are great opportunities to network! Talk to your peers to find out what a particular convention planner has done at meetings in other locations. Exhibit and decorating companies are especially knowledgeable about their clients' needs. So are Convention Service Directors from convention bureaus, convention centers and major convention hotels. Network with other important industry organizations. Example: if you are a florist, you should network with caterers as well as meeting planners. Talk to other Visit Salt Lake members. By informing them of your services, you can sometimes become each other's best customers, through reciprocal referrals.
F. Send a survey or sample questionnaire to the planner with a return, self-addressed, stamped envelope.
G. Join other professional organizations (ASAE, MPI, etc.) that will give you opportunities to talk on a social basis with meeting planners, as well as fellow suppliers who are servicing the convention market.
2. How can you find out if a convention has an optional tour program for all attendees or a separate spouse program, better known today as "significant other" or "accompanying person" program?
Destination Management Companies, Special Event Consultants, restaurants, attractions, bus companies, souvenir companies, retail establishments:
A. Contact the meeting planner or a representative from the organization for a program from a past convention to review for optional tours. Request information from the organization's local contact.
B. Write your own itinerary for a special/spouse program and submit it to the organization for consideration.
3. When should you initially contact the planner?
A. It depends on the size, date and the nature of the meeting. For a large meeting, 2-5 years out.
All other members
B. With few exceptions, 1 year prior to the meeting.
4. How should you contact the planner?
A. In writing. Follow up with a phone call.
B. Cold calls are usually not welcomed.
C. When preparing copy for listing or display advertising in Visit Salt Lake publications, focus on the particular needs of this market and make sure you are listed under the appropriate categories.
5. What kind of information should your promotional brochure and/or cover letter include? How can you make it effective?
A. Print your information in a size that can be easily filed.
B. Describe your services/products concisely, directly, and quickly. Bulleted information is more easily read.
C. The design and graphics should convey a professional image.
D. Tell why your service/product is useful, unique and beneficial to the planner. Describe how it is different or better than your competition. In some cases, you must sell the planner on why he needs your type of service or product, before you can begin to sell your company.
E. Focus on the benefits to be derived from your product or service. Example: Hiring a special events firm to plan the final night's banquet will make the convention more memorable and enjoyable to the attendees...and will hopefully result in increased attendance—that's the benefit!—next year.
F. Personalize it. A letter beginning with "Dear Convention Planner" is not as effective as a personal letter.
G. Include an association client list to show the planner you have worked successfully with similar groups. Emphasize your convention experience.
H. Try not to be all things to all people.
I. Prepare a short, clear, concise video describing your products and services. A video is an especially useful tool for companies selling multiple hotel properties or multiple services, such as talent agencies, special events firms, or speakers bureaus.
Restaurants, shops, nightlife, transportation, sightseeing, museums, and attractions:
J. Include a coupon, souvenir, or other incentive so the convention planner will want to promote your product to convention attendees.
Restaurants and off-site party facilities:
K. State price ranges and realistic capacity of banquet rooms or ballrooms for both seated events and/or standing receptions.
6. What are the differences between "independent meeting planning" companies and "destination management" organizations? What is their relationship to the corporate and association meetings market?
A.Both the meeting planner and the "destination management" firm represent a for-profit organization. Many independent meeting planners organize and plan all types and facets of meetings, from program and speaker development to hotel negotiations and registration. Independent planners often target corporations or associations who do not have a meeting planner on staff as their prospective clients. (Some associations schedule conventions every four years or every two years. Therefore, it is very cost effective for them to hire an outside, independent meeting planner only when needed, instead of keeping a full time planner on staff.)
Destination management organizations, on the other hand, can and do serve as full service, independent meeting planners. These firms also target both corporations and associations as clients. However, the destination management firm generally does not organize the entire convention or meeting from start to finish. Instead, they often serve as an on-site "middle-man" or "broker" for part of an association and/or corporation's meeting. They may be hired (by an association planner OR an independent meeting planner) to organize one or more of the following facets of a meeting: site selection, shuttle bus coordination, special event production, hotel negotiations, exhibit coordination, conference promotion, selection of design and printing, or organization of tours and receptions. Destination management firms often market their services to many other types of clients besides the association and corporate market, such as incentive houses and local and national government accounts.
B. Independent meeting planners and destination management firms are BIG BUYERS of convention-related products and services.
7. Where can you find lists of these independent meeting planners and destination management firms?
A. Check Visit Salt Lake's Services Directory under the heading of "Convention Services." Look for listing in other trade publications under "Destination Management Companies" or "Association Management."
B. Look up similar categories in the yellow pages.
C. Check Industry directories published by other organizations such as USAE, MPI. etc.
8. Should you market your products and services differently to the independent meeting planner and destination management firm vs. the association meeting planner?
A. Yes. The independent meeting planners and destination management companies are working continually with clients like associations, national corporations, local companies and government agencies. They may be working on several meetings for different organizations simultaneously. The account executives of these companies need to be kept aware of any products or service that might be needed by their clients. The destination management companies need to know about local restaurants (as they often book private parties or organize dine-arounds), hotels, unusual gift items and souvenirs, printing companies, local attractions, and transportation companies such as limos and bus companies.
B. You, as a potential supplier to these independent meeting planners, must identify the account executives from the firms you wish to target and develop an on-going rapport with them, keeping them aware of your products and services.
9. What are some of the sales techniques that invite potential clients to buy your products and/or services?
A. Know your product or service.
B. Be honest about what you can offer. If your restaurant has a private dining room that seats 40 comfortably for lunch, do not try to book a group of 500.
C. Listen to what your prospects say. Do not sell what you want to sell. Sell what the client wants to buy.
D. Know your city and your fellow Visit Salt Lake members. If you cannot meet the needs of a potential client, please refer them to Visit Salt Lake or another Member (the Salt Lake Services Directory is a valuable resource). If you are hired by a planner, assist them in identifying other companies they may need. This is particularly helpful to planners headquartered outside Salt Lake City.
E. Be timely in your initial solicitation and follow-up response to a client's request for information or proposals. Do not try to sell to a planner a month before the convention. Work within the deadlines requested by the client.
F. Let the planner know that you have worked with other clients whose needs and budgets were similar. (If you have only planned a spouse program for 35 people, it is not automatically assumed you can handle a spouse program for 500.)
G. You probably have vendors calling on you to sell their products to your company. Treat your clients the same way you like to be treated.
10. How can you sell your product or service to the individual exhibitors at a convention with a trade show?
A. To reach these exhibitors, you generally must go through the meeting planner. They will rarely part with their exhibitor list. Sometimes, you may obtain a program from the preceding year's trade show, which should have an exhibitor list included. The SLCVB has a library of such books which you can use in our offices.
B. Network with the decorator who has the contract for the convention. They can be a source of referrals for you. They send out service kits to each exhibitor, with information on how to order things like plants, tables, chairs, signs, etc.
11. How can you get the meeting planner to distribute your brochure to all attendees at the convention?
Restaurants, retail stores, souvenir companies, shops and attractions, and on-site services:
A. Due to the large number of companies wanting to have information included in registration packets, the cost and labor necessary to prepare them, and the awkwardness of packets with hundreds of brochures and flyers, the meeting planners prefer to use Visit Salt Lake's publications. Visit Salt Lake's publications, such as the Salt Lake Visitors Guide, provide a comprehensive list of members in a concise, all-inclusive manner, and also include maps and general information about the city.
If the meeting planner is not interested in using your particular brochure, suggest using one or more of the Visit Salt Lake publications.
Glossary of Acronyms
MPI - Meeting Professionals International
ASAE - American Society of Association Executives
USAE - Utah Society of Association Executives