Top 10 Digital Strategies to Reach Meeting Planners

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When it comes to digital marketing and social media tools, reaching meeting planners and tour operators can often be compared to trying to find bigfoot, or searching for that ever-so elusive unicorn (I'm still waiting for my first sighting). This rings especially true for destination organizations as we all try and understand what, where and how these groups prefer to be communicated to.

Mya Surrency of Smith & Surrency Digital Marketing stopped by and we asked her what would be her top ten tips for reaching meeting planners using digital and social methods?

10. Use Social Media Effectively 

The same study mentioned during the presentation previously reported that meeting planners rated social media less than 5% as the preferred method of communication.  Don’t waste your time managing Facebook and Twitter accounts focused on meetings messaging. 

If planners are going to consult your social media accounts, they will be just as interested in your leisure messaging as it will help inform them about the destination, what there is to do and what the experience will be like for their groups.

When it comes to social media, focus your destination’s time on LinkedIn.  Make sure your sales team’s profiles are complete and branded with the destination’s messaging.  Teach your sales team how to utilize relationship marketing via LinkedIn to cultivate relationships with planners. 

9. Guide Planners to the Content You Want Them to See

When you create your digital marketing campaigns to reach planners, make sure you drive the advertising to a landing page that complements the messaging and asks for an online RFP.   Don’t send planners to the home page of your website or the home page of your main site where they will have to search for what they are interested in.  Guide the planners by using a mobile responsive landing page.

8. Use Retargeting to Maximize Your Digital Spend

As marketers, we have been leveraging retargeting for leisure campaigns for quite some time, but Im astonished by how many destinations don’t use retargeting for their meetings campaigns.  Especially, when we can actually convert meetings business via an online RFP submission. 

Retargeting gives you the opportunity to keep your message in front of planners as they continue their search across the web.  We utilize retargeting that is managed at the element level with search terms, behavioral search and contextual search to reach our targeted audience.  When you take your meetings campaigns digital, complement the campaigns with a retargeting program to keep your messaging in front of planners and maximize your spend.

7.  Take Your Meetings Campaigns Digital

73% of meeting planners said online advertising is the most effective form of marketing to them.  We see many of our clients are still relying on traditional advertising to reach meeting planners.  For some reason, the destinations industry knows that most people are looking and booking online, but we still rely on traditional media to reach meeting planners. Destinations should start to transition your meetings media spend to be 70% digital and 30% traditional as clearly that is the split planners’ follow.

There are many great sites and tools you can use to reach planners online.  Another digital marketing option is to utilize the marketing opportunities available at the tradeshows your team is attending. Review your sales team’s travel schedule and invest in the opportunities available to your destination.  This is another way to maximize your presence and return on investment.

6. Only Send Responsive Emails

It is imperative that you make sure your emails are mobile responsive.  We are seeing upwards of 50% of emails being opened on a mobile device.  If you aren’t sending your emails mobile responsive, then don’t send them until you can make them responsive.

5. Follow Planners Preferences for Outreach

Email is such a big tool for planners, as 80% of planners said it is their preferred method of communication with your organization.  Seeing your team at an event or conference is the second preferred method of communication at 39%.

San Francisco Travel uses our services to bridge the gap between the Marketing and Sales Teams.  In the today’s typical destination organization world, Marketing Teams need to focus on marketing the destination and managing their brand and therefore cannot execute the large volume of marketing messages needed to communicate to meeting planners.  By utilizing our digital marketing techniques to communicate the sales team’s travel & tradeshow activities, client events and promotional opportunities to planners, San Francisco Travel Association’s sales team is now strategically communicating to 3,500 to 10,000 planners per month.

4. Create Online Forms From the Planners Perspective

Is your destination's meetings site easy to submit an RFP?  Too many destinations make the RFP submittal process cumbersome.  The online RFP form should be short, easy and to the point.  Allow planners to upload the full RFP if they like and use the online RFP to open the door for the lead.

Don’t force planners to use every field your sales team uses in the CRM system to send you an opportunity for business. Always approach the development of your online RFP from the meeting planner’s perspective and what their needs are.

Think about how you can convert the 27% of planners visiting your website to submitting an RFP.  The same study reported 95% of planners submit online RFPs.  Take advantage of this opportunity and make it easy for planners to send you business.

3. Be a Part of the Sales Process

Your sales team is working directly with planners and clients.  They know what planners are saying, they know what they want and they are positioning the destination to planners.  As a destination marketer, make sure you are a part of this process and know how the team sells your destination. 

This is a great opportunity to incorporate your brand and see the messaging come to life in the sales process.  When you know what planners are asking and you know what their objectives are, you will also be able to craft better messaging on your website and in your printed materials.

2. Spend Time Focusing on Your Sales Team 

61% of all meeting planners speak to or email destination organization staff and 27% visit a destination’s website, while only 2% rely on a destination’s printed materials, according to Development Counselors International’s October 2012 Study “Winning Strategies in Destination Marketing.” 

There is a huge gap between how many planners are talking to your sales team vs. the time they are spending with your marketing materials.  If you are part of a destination organization’s marketing team, are you spending as much time focused on working with your sales team as you do on your website and on your printed materials?

1. Integrated Sales & Marketing 

The best digital strategy for reaching meeting planners requires an integrated approach that incorporates your marketing team, sales team and your sales team’s activities.

It is imperative that all the sales and marketing teams perform in unison to market effectively to planners and to ensure your organization is managing your brand vision along the way.  Our agency focuses on bridging the gap between a destination’s sales and marketing teams to effectively reach planners and drive new business for destinations.