Going Postal

By Max Suzenaar

If anyone would have told me that I would be citing the United States Post Office as an innovative example of “new think”, my retort would have been that they were moreTime Post Office Article likely that I would “go postal” first. However, I was struck by a recent article in Time Magazine that exemplifies MYB’s philosophy of “new think” and involved the US Post Office. Entitled “Reinventing the Post Office”, TIME gathered outside-the-mailbox ideas from economists, bloggers, overseas postal workers and more and surfaced six surprising ways to survive in today’s age of digital communications.

Not unlike associations and DMOs, even longstanding corporations are finding it imperative to look at their business model with a fresh and innovative perspective in this era of “new normal”. According to recent press, the best idea generated internally at the USPS was to eliminate weekend service. That’s cost containment, not innovation – like cutting a coffee break at your Annual Meeting vs. identifying new ways to engage your members and increase value. However, widening the lens and inviting “outside” perspectives resulted in incredibly innovative and viable solutions such as turning postal trucks into roving labs to gather vital information on weather patterns and air pollution levels and offering basic financial services like credit cards and mortgages thru the USPS (as is done in Europe).

Sometimes it just takes a different perspective to cultivate “new think”. So reach out to your members, create a dialogue with your sponsors or engage an agency like MYB and don’t be afraid to let someone from outside put their stamp on your business.

“I feel the music in my soul”… Lady Tambourine on New Orleans

By Max Suzenaar

I recently participated in PCMA’s inaugural “Independent Planner Think Tank” in New Orleans. Designed as a forum for meeting planning firms, conversations focused on the business of Lady Tambourinemeetings with nary a word spoken about tactics or logistics. The strategic level of the conversation was inspiring – as was the passion and energy with which this group of entrepreneurs shared insights, challenges, and solutions. So it was only fitting that we met in a city that abounds in passion for food, music and individuality. I was especially taken by “Lady Tambourine”, whose talent for bringing music to life took the form of gyrating hips, trancelike rhythms, and hypnotic performance that pulled you into her personal vortex of passion. While there was no gyrating happening in the meeting room, the passion expressed was still comparable to Lady Tambourine’s. Taking creative license with her mantra, “I feel the meeting in my soul” perhaps is après pro for this group of professionals navigating in the new normal of meetings.

Stop Showing Them What They Don’t Want to See

Exasperated manby Tom Baer

Bob Garfield, long-time marketing and media reporter for Advertising Age magazine recently wrote an article about the commonly mistaken mindset many marketers have about using social media.  His article was really geared toward consumer marketers, but the idea behind it is extremely relevant for those of us who market meetings and events as well, so it seems well worth noting here.

The key message is clearly stated in his headline, “Social Media is About Cultivating Community, not Corralling Cattle.”  He feels, and I agree that while most marketers these days are smart enough to realize they need to include social media in their marketing mix, they still view it the same as any other media they use to help drive sales to the bottom line.

While the ultimate goal of any marketing is to drive sales, social media MUST be looked upon and handled differently if it is to help with that bottom line goal.  Too many marketers fall into the trap of approaching social media with the “advertiser” mindset – talk enough about my features, benefits, and brand to get the target to buy.  So their social media efforts are full of features, benefits and brand.  What happens?  Their target gets quickly turned off and wants nothing to do with them anymore.

The goal of your social media effort needs to be building a community, not selling a product, service, or meeting.  They already know you and are interested in you or they would not be following you.  Provide content that is valuable, engaging and interesting to them.  Content they want to share with others – that’s how you build community.  Content like relevant news, polls, contests, pictures and videos.

Then you won’t have to use your social media to sell, because your followers will do it for you.

Time to Get Email Smart

By Tom Baer

Computer with hand sticking outMost associations who market their annual meetings use email as the primary method of reaching out to potential attendees. This is logical, since email is generally much more affordable than other media, and offers a higher ROI than most. But if you are one of these associations, it’s time to ask yourself if that ROI is as good as it could be.
A recent article by Chad White, Research Director at email marketing solutions provider Responsys, suggests email marketers can be divided into two groups: the “Haves” and the “Have-Nots.” What do the “Haves” have? The knowledge, experience, and marketing sense to use the many tools that are available to email marketers to refine their efforts. The “Have-Nots” ignore these helpful tools and send out basic broadcast emails.
White finds that the gap in effectiveness of the two types of emailers is quickly widening. And the annual Email Marketing Industry Census put out by Econsultancy agrees, showing that marketers who use more sophisticated email programs are 32% more likely to see “excellent” or “good” results for their efforts than those who send out broadcast messages.
What are these magic “tools” that can boost your email effectiveness? Techniques like segmentation, personalization, dynamic content, and trigger-based emails. Smart marketers also test subject lines, body copy, images and other elements to learn what their target will respond to best.
Associations often fall into the trap of assuming that emails they send will be effective simply because their email list consists of members who have typically opted-in for communications. But opt-ins still have spam filters, and even if your email gets to their inbox, they are BUSY, so the subject line and the email itself both need to be truly compelling to make sure your message gets through.
Think about how many emails you get each day. How many do you trash without even opening? It’s a safe bet that the marketing-based ones that you read have used some more sophisticated tools to make it past your screen. It’s time your emails did the same.

Where have all the international attendees gone?

Us border signby John Folks

It wasn’t that long ago that those of us in the business travel and convention industries were cringing at comments from our government officials and negative press around meetings and incentives. “Boondoggles,” “unnecessary extravagances,” and “shameful wasted spending” were common adjectives, and our industry felt the pressure as organizations pulled back on meetings.

However, over the last several years, President Obama has changed his position, at least in part due to the meetings industry economic impact study that was released a year ago. The Travel Promotion Act was enacted this past year, and last week, at Walt Disney World, President Obama announced the need for a national travel strategy that would include making the visa process easier for international visitors.

Why is this important? Estimates are that our cumbersome visa process kept over 70 million international visitors from entering the US over the last 10 years, which translated into over $600 billion in lost revenue. Yes, we all want to stay safe, but most western countries have an easier visa process and requirements than we do, and we need to be more competitive to show the international business community they are welcome at conventions on American soil. A travel strategy is a good start, but a strategy is merely a roadmap until someone takes the wheel and drives. Help spread the word that more needs to be done, and let’s hope there’s plenty of gas in the car.

Learn from a Teenager

Teenager multitaskingby Tom Baer

OK, everyone in the workforce, no matter what the industry, knows the value of experience.  As you grow in your career you continue to learn, and that experience makes you a more valuable employee.  It’s why as we grow older we move into more senior positions.

But there’s at least one skill where teenagers outperform seasoned veterans hands down: multitasking.   

At an MIP Junior panel discussion this past October, Donna Friedman Meir, Chief Innovation Officer at InsightKids, highlighted that teenagers spend an average of 218 minutes a day watching television, 169 minutes online, 128 minutes using mobile phones and 57 minutes playing games. 113 minutes are spent on books, magazines and other forms of media, for a total of 8 hours and 19 minutes of media consumption a day.  And that doesn’t even include non-media tasks they are performing, such as eating, driving, shopping, hanging out with friends, going to classes and maybe even doing a little homework.  How do they have time to do all this?  Simple, they do the majority of these things at the same time.

With the economy forcing many companies to cut back workforces, time management has now become an essential skill in the workplace. Think about your workload.  Is it more demanding than is was a few years back? Chances are the answer is yes.  If so, how do you deal with it?  My suggestion, learn to multitask. You may think you already do this…but do you do it well?  The key is organization and prioritization.  You have to know which tasks demand your full attention, and which are less demanding ones or ones with down time that allow you to deal with others at the same time.

Think of learning to multitask well as job survival, because there are millions of teenagers who are experts at it who will be in the workforce soon.

C-h-i- What?

smart phoneby Mark Adamski

Being that this is my very first contribution to the venerable Heads Up blog, I figured it would be appropriate to talk about finding my way in marketing.

Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with a flowery narrative about my career path. Rather, I want to talk about the nearly microscopic GPS receiver in your smartphone that has the potential to revolutionize the world of marketing and meetings.

Last week I when I landed in Seattle, I opened up my Safari browser while the plane was still taxiing to the gate (yes, the flight attendant said it was okay to use cell phones at that point, and yes, I have an iPhone; Steve Jobs is “the man”…or rather was). As I started to type the name of the restaurant I intended to visit that evening, it only took three fingerprint smudges to jump to a recommendation for “Chisou Seattle.” Ta-da! That’s where I had planned to eat. At the moment I didn’t think this was anything unusual, but then it occurred to me that my domicile is a city that begins with the same letters, c-h-i, and there was not one mention of a place with 3 million+ people! (Perhaps you can guess the city.)

That Chicago-something didn’t appear under the recommendations, or “c-h-i-anything else” for that matter, was somewhat shocking because Chisou is a tiny little restaurant in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, not a sprawling metropolis, or even the world’s most populated country, which also happens to begin with “c-h-i.” Of course, it was no mistake that happened. As soon as I powered up my iPhone, it launched a relentless search for its whereabouts on planet Earth, unbeknownst to me.

The need to satiate my belly’s craving for mediocre Japanese food is just the tip of this iceberg.  GPS technology now offers a new world (loose pun intended) of possibilities when a meeting or conference comes to town:  there are thousands of new people who roam the host city (some might even call them tourists), exploring a place that’s to them mostly unknown.  Applications abound for GPS to be used to enhance the event for attendees, pre, during, and post, and even as ways to drive new sponsorship revenue.

Of course the gaming industry has been leading the charge for a while now with location based smart-phone games like Four Square and others, but it’s time to look into how GPS technology can add to your meetings.  “C-h-i-me” in with your thoughts on how to best use it by commenting below!

Not the Rubber Glove!

Security Personelby Tom Baer

Being in an industry with a great deal of travel, the hassles of airport security are a constant thorn in my side.  Why are there always at least 4 or 5 screening stations, but only 1 or 2 are open?  Why do they insist on using body scanners when I am going through but only metal detectors when I am not?  Why do I always end up in line behind a family with two kids in separate strollers and a grandmother trying to carry on 3 giant cans of hair spray?

On my most recent trip however, I noticed a glimmer of hope.  After 20 minutes in line I made it to a sign which read “Children under 12 no longer need to remove shoes.”  Hallelujah. While I am sure it won’t be long before Al Qaeda will begin training 9 year olds in the art of shoe bomb making, for now this change will shave 90 seconds or so off my wait for an embarrassing pat-down and cavity search.

Actually, there is more realistic hope.  In case you haven’t heard, there is a pilot (pun intended) program going on right now in airports in Dallas, Atlanta, Detroit, and Miami, in which frequent fliers on Delta and American airlines are being ushered to shorter lines with a streamlined security process.  In order to participate, the fliers had to submit detailed profiles and go through government background checks.  TSA Assistant Administrator Chris McLaughlin says this system “expedites the process for people we know a lot about, and frees up resources for us to apply to individuals that we know less about who potentially pose a greater risk to aviation.”  In a day and age when none of us have any privacy anyway, the profile and background checks seem like a small price to pay for an express pass to the gate.

This test program is an initiative of the Obama administration, so kudos to them.  Whether politically motivated or not, anything that will help to shorten the lines through TSA-land can only help all of us who work in travel-related industries.  Unfortunately, it will be a while before the program is available to all of us.

In the mean time, how about at least opening up that 3rd lane!

It’s a Small World After All

International dolls

By John Folks

As I flew back from IMEX America last week (http://www.imexamerica.com), I was reminded of what a great industry we work in – not only because of the community of outgoing and fun people we get to work with every day, but because we also get to meet so many interesting people from around the world at events like IMEX. I couldn’t help but be energized by the variety of languages I heard, regional costumes I saw, and interesting snacks I sampled as I made my way though the bevy of booths and international pavilions in the Sands Expo Center. Certainly it’s a vibrant trade show experience, but what makes it truly successful is that business is getting done there. The “hosted buyer” model of IMEX requires us (the buyers) to make (and keep) a minimum number of appointments with our choice of exhibitors over the course of the 3 day show. In exchange for that one-on-one time, the exhibitors bear the cost for our travel to and accommodations in Las Vegas. The benefit to the buyer is the opportunity to learn about new places and spaces, as well as to expand our Rolodex of reliable destination experts, global partners that are critical to planning and executing successful events outside the US.  

Over the years, attending shows like IMEX, I’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of wonderful people from many different countries and destinations. Cultivating and growing this network has become a passion, and rarely do I travel somewhere and not know someone there. What I find that binds us all together in this industry is our love of travel and discovery, and the joy we get from bringing the world and the people in it a little bit closer, face to face.  And with so many global issues effecting all of us these days, a little face to face time with new international friends helps remind us that despite the news, there are a lot of good things going on in the world, too!  

So, if you haven’t attended (or planned) an international meeting, make a point of doing so soon. But I will warn you, your world will get a little bit smaller.

To grieve is human, to post-it is, too.

by Max Suzenaar

Steve Jobs Post-it MemorialTributes honoring the passing of visionary Steve Jobs have organically popped up throughout the country – like this makeshift Post-it® memorial at an Apple Store. As the founder of revolutionary technological innovations such as Iphones, Ipods, and Ipads, it seem ironic that even in today’s uber-digital culture, it is the penned word that speaks the loudest volume and projects personal human emotion. Proof positive that even the coolest in “I” technology is nothing without the sensibility of the human behind the “I”.