The buzz today in site-selection-only firms is, “How can we recoup shrinking margins resulting from hotel commission cuts?”
Many third-party planners have relied on site selection as their bread-and-butter for more than a decade. This service was in high demand as corporate planners, short on time and resources, turned to third parties for relief. During a decade of corporate downsizing with the added challenges of a seller’s market, it made sense to outsource to the experts.
Change in the third-party planning landscape
Fast forward to 2018. Hotels are enjoying record occupancy and steady growth in transient demand and group business. Hoteliers have shifted their focus from driving occupancy to driving rates. The recent commission cuts from two major brands are a response to current market trends.
Now, independent planners reliant on commissions find themselves in a tight spot.
"Never let a good crisis go to waste." – Winston Churchill
The great statesman’s words apply in business, too. Challenging times unleash innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit.
One extraordinary thing about meeting planners – they’re resourceful. Many independent planners recognize the seismic shift in our industry. In response, they’re changing their strategy and offering value-added services to make up for shortfalls from the new commission structure.
The fact is, event technology is a fast-changing landscape. Recent innovations enable independent planners to deliver more value than ever before. Agile planners have been quick to adjust and leverage new opportunities. Now, they’re expanding their footprint in two different ways.
1) Growth within their existing customer base
Expanding on the products and services they offer existing customers. These additional services make them more valuable to customers and create “stickiness” to increase retention.
It’s generally quicker, easier and more cost-effective to grow within your existing base. You have an internal referral and lower presentation costs. Plus, you’re already on the approved supplier list.
Package new services with other products for more buying power with your tech provider. Examples include services such as mobile apps, creative design services, content strategy, and others listed below. Then keep the savings or pass them on to your customer through attractive pricing. This further endears you to your clients and strengthens your bottom line.
2) Growth of market share with supplementary products and services
Casting a wider net and gaining customers they didn’t have access to before. Adding products and services creates new revenue streams to protect businesses against economic shifts and industry trends.
Today’s technology offers capabilities to enter new markets you may have shied away from in the past.
Time to reconsider, given today’s marketplace challenges.
Make it easy on yourself with services that integrate with your event tech platform to maximize efficiencies. You’ll be surprised at the opportunities you’ll find in plain sight.
The fact is: It’s time to look beyond site selection. Continue providing this service, of course. But don’t overlook other areas ripe with opportunities to safeguard and expand your business.
Here are just a few examples of how savvy planners are growing market share, providing value-added services before, during and after their events.
- Mobile Apps: New container apps are now cost-justifiable for smaller events. They enable planners to upgrade their customer’s brand experience for smaller events, using tools previously reserved just for the larger events. Not only are apps more affordable today; they also provide savings through labor efficiencies and reduced printing costs.
- Smart Tags & Analytics: Skyrocket attendee satisfaction and grow events with robust onsite engagement and analytics tools. Wearable devices not only help participants capture leads and find their best prospects. They also give planners data to drive more value with event content. What’s more, they deliver robust ROI reports to measure event impact. AND they drive revenue through increased sponsorship opportunities.
- Strategic Sourcing: Drive more savings in hotel negotiations. Newer solutions eliminate all the time spent on aggregating hotel bids and chasing down hotels for missing information. They even quantify concession values to help your customers clearly understand the value of your bids. Planners can focus on negotiations and buying strategy. Ultimately, they manage more meetings with the same size staff because these solutions crank up efficiency by 50% or more.
- Registration & Logistics: This is the most in-demand event technology, used by 85% of event professionals, according to a 2018 survey by Event Manager Blog. Event registration sets the stage for the entire event. And so it’s a great opportunity to provide a seamless experience with consistent branding for your customers.
- Event Marketing: Look big, operate small and compete successfully in areas you may not be winning today. Using the latest tools, you create pixel-perfect, customized communications that win over attendees. Invest in templates for a website, emails, surveys and reports. Then re-purpose them for different events and clients. New solutions simplify digital marketing, so you don’t have to worry about technology and focus on delivering exceptional service.
Providing value-add services is key to surviving and thriving in today’s marketplace
This is a critical time for planners to be selective about where to invest. It’s like gaining more shelf space in a grocery store. Third parties who offer more services broaden their opportunities to gain market share and make up for shortfalls from the new commission models.
In recent years, events have become more complex, expectations have risen, and competition has gotten fierce. Planners who leverage tech tools to streamline operations and drive more value will look back at 2018 as a turning point. Those who prosper will seize new opportunities to play a larger, more strategic role as a trusted advisor driving event success.
To explore opportunities to grow your business in today’s market, download the guide: Beyond Site Selection. This free business-building guide highlights:
- Today’s most in-demand planner services
- 3 proven ways to avoid hidden costs
- 10 event tech shortcuts every planner should know
- How to handle more business with the same staff