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.

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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”.

Searching for Attendees?

Word cloudby Tom Baer

More and more associations have realized times have changed, and are now ready to step up marketing efforts to drive annual meeting attendance back to where it needs to be.  But many are not so savvy when it comes to how to spend dollars that have been shifted to marketing.  Instead of exploring new opportunities, some are still just going with what they know – simply sending out more post cards or conference brochures to the same old tired list.

Time to change the mix.  The first place to add?  Online.  Why?  Because that is the world in which we – and more importantly your potential attendees – now all live.  Remember when people used to fill out and mail in registration forms?  How many do that now?  And if they are registering online, ask yourself, which is likely more effective, a post card where they have to get from their mail to their computer, log on, get to your site and register, or an online ad where they simply click right to your registration page?

So assuming you agree you want to promote your event online, then you have another decision – should you invest in display advertising, search engine marketing, or social media?  The best response would be all three, but that implies you have the budget to do so.  If not, you have to prioritize. 

If this is the case, here’s how you should do so:  1. Search, 2. Facebook, 3. Display.  Search should be your first priority because it offers the best ROI and is therefore more effective for lower budget campaigns.  Aaron Goldman, Chief Marketing Officer at Digital Marketing software company Kenshoo, puts it well: “Search is unique in that it reaches people when they’re in the right mindset. When people search, they’re in between activity on the Web (moving from one site to the next) and actively looking for something. This makes them more open to commercial influence. Display just sits on the perimeter begging to be ignored while consumers engage with the content they’re interested in.”  Admittedly this is a bit of an overstatement regarding ineffectiveness of display – otherwise it would not command more than 60% of internet marketing dollars as it does, but it does illustrate the point.

Facebook shares search’s ability to take advantage of consumers being more “tuned in” to content.  Yes, they are more interested in the “social content” of the page they are looking at, but just being on facebook allows the target to feel you are more in tune with their likes and needs than if your ads are found on non-social sites.  One caveat – if you plan on marketing on facebook, make sure you have a facebook page for your event that potential attendees can visit.

Another great benefit of marketing online is that you can monitor and tweak your campaign as you go, and get a great deal of data to learn from through Google analytics, but that will be the subject of another blog.

Bottom line, if you add online to your marketing mix you should see results.  If you can, invest in all three, but at minimum, test a search campaign before your next event…it will likely provide some of the results you are searching for.

Mexico: Fact or Fiction?

by Katie Callahan-Giobbi

Woman hitting pinata in Mexico

Fun in Mexico

In preparation for my recent trip to Mexico, I asked several meeting planner friends of mine what their impression was of Mexico as a meetings destination. I was organizing my thoughts for a speech I was to give to the Mexican tourism and destination marketing community. Not surprising, I heard many positive comments about what a beautiful, hospitable country Mexico is. I heard all about the great food, rich history and outstanding hotels and meeting facilities. At the same time, I heard loud and clear that Mexico’s biggest problem is safety and security.

Is it safety and security? Or is it the perception of safety and security? During my trip I had the good fortune of sitting next to a very smart, accomplished and very successful Mexican hotelier. When we talked about this topic he told me in a very straight-forward way that there are cities in the US that have a higher crime rate per capita than all of Mexico.  Mexicans do not deny there is unrest in certain parts of their country. Even so, it is a mistake to assume the entire country is a battleground. In fact, the most troubled areas are hundreds and hundreds of miles away from almost all of the convention and meeting destinations in the country. It would be like assuming that if the crime rate suddenly went up in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles would be less safe as well.

While doing my homework for this trip, I also learned that 97% of Americans who visit Mexico rate their experience as “extremely satisfied or satisfied.” That’s impressive. I also learned that tourism overall accounts for 9% of Mexico’s GDP compared to 2.7% in the US economy. President Felipe Calderon has declared 2011 as “The Year of Tourism”…and rightfully so. If my economy was that dependent on tourism, I would declare EVERY year the year of tourism. Kudos to President Calderon.

Yes,  Mexico is battling a drug war, but perhaps even more threatening to the livelihood of their people and the meetings industry, they are fighting a bigger war against the public perception of safety and security. This is one battle that can be overcome with facts.

You’ve Come a Long Way……….Baby!

By Max Suzenaar

Can You Guess What year was this photo taken?

Newborn photo

The First Camera Phone Picture

This photo “is credited as the first-ever picture taken and transmitted from a phone, made by technology entrepreneur Phillipe Kahn of his newborn baby daughter Sophie on June 11, 1997, in Santa Cruz, California and sent instantly to 2,000 relations, friends, and associates around the globe. Kahn was a proud papa in more ways than he realized:  not only did the camera phone (and otherwise transmitted digital photography) became an underpinning of the modern phenomenon known as social networking, it became a crucial communication and political tool.”*

It’s hard to believe that it was only 1997! Social Media has taken the business world by storm – ironic in that it is SOCIAL media, not BUSINESS media. Yet, its tentacles have not only crept into corporate America, they have connected the entire world at lightning speed leaving every association and corporation scrambling in its wake feverishly looking for any opportunity to ride the wave.

So how does Social Media pertain to your meetings? Your membership? Yes, Social Media is a necessary channel for your marketing mix – and its future is exciting (albeit difficult to harness with predictability). The bottom line? Social Media does not singularly drive attendance. It can influence and help create a buzz for specific segments of your audience. But with rare exception, it does not drive a call to action to register for your meeting. Yet it is essential to integrate a Social Media Plan into your communications strategy. Learn more about how to link Social Media into your meeting from your friends at MYB.

*Source: “LIFE 100 Photographs That Changed the World” Published by LifeBooks an imprint of Time Home Entertainment, Inc. Copyright 2011

NEW THINK for Fall

by Karen Hamilton

Fall leavesNow that the Labor Day weekend has come and gone I’ve heard a number of friends and industry colleagues bemoan the seemingly shorter days that are ahead and the inevitable end to the carefree Summer routine. While there is undeniably a change in the air, there is something refreshing and invigorating about Fall. I recall that “Back to School” time seemed to signal a time for a fresh start – whether it was a new pair of gym shoes, a new teacher, meeting new friends, signing up for a new activity or trying out for a sport. It was also a natural time to set new goals, start that next chapter and decide “who you were going to be” and what you were going to do in the “year” ahead.

While I no longer have to worry about trying to remember a new locker combination, I still use this time of year to look ahead and refresh goals and reassess project status and progress. Client needs continue to evolve, the dynamic world around us impacts business decisions, and what better opportunity to take a step back and challenge yourself to embrace “NEW THINK” in this “new” year as you refine your goals. What do your stakeholders really need? What value are you providing and how do you deliver that value. Too often we focus on the conference or event and forget that there are 365 days in the year where stakeholders need, want and expect value. A NEW THINK approach will help you uncover these opportunities.

At MYB we believe “NEW THINK” creates bigger possibilities and we hope our mindset resonates with you as you approach upcoming projects.

So take out your No. 2 Ticonderoga and Composition Book, (or iPads or netbooks, as the case may be), and share with us how you’ll get to the head of the class this year.

PS – And don’t forget to take time to make one more trip to the ice cream truck!

Innovation and Jobs

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

by Tom Baer

Within days of Steve Jobs’ departure from Apple, the hard drive on my MacBook crashed, and being a back-up procrastinator, I lost a great deal of data.  If you’ve had this happen, you know it is VERY aggravating.  The kind of aggravation that should make me switch brands.  But I didn’t.

Why?  Because of Steve Jobs.  He built a brand that is so compelling and appealing that I am willing to live with some inconvenience and aggravation to remain in his world.  It turns out I am not alone.  After posting about my computer’s demise on facebook, I got plenty of replies from friends that had the same thing happen, and like me, remained loyal to Apple.

I mention this here because on the occasion of Mr. Jobs departure, rather than letting him just fade into the sunset, I think we should all learn from him.  Many people know him as the creative mind behind Apple and Pixar, two tremendously successful companies.  But he’s more than that.  After he left Apple the first time, the company floundered and almost went under.  When he bought Pixar from George Lucas, it was hardly a blip on the entertainment radar screen.

Steve Jobs saved these two companies and built them into culture-changing phenomenon.  How?  By believing in a simple philosophy: “the way out is not to slash and burn, it is to innovate.”

In today’s economy, “slash and burners” are everywhere.  Corporations are still laying off staff left and right.  Companies and associations are cutting offerings, and even worse charging for services that net them a little profit but at a huge cost in customer dissatisfaction.  If Mr. Jobs had taken the “slash and burn” route with his companies, the world may have never known  the iPod or iPhone, and never seen Toy Story or Finding Nemo.

We’re all faced with challenges in our jobs.  Think about how you handle those challenges.  Next time try the innovation route to the solution.  Yes, it may be more difficult to sell in, but you’ll put a smile on Steve Jobs face as he sits in his rocking chair.

Segment or Not?

Submitted by Sue Castro

Ever wondered what the big deal is about customer segmentation in association meeting marketing?  You sure see it tossed around a lot. But is it really that important?  When done right, YES!

Most associations either avoid it because it’s too complicated, or they don’t know how to identify the segments. 

Identifying your member segments is as simple as analyzing your member database.  I know, that’s easier said than done.  But it provides the basis to communicate appropriately with each of your various member or attendee groups.  Does that matter?  YES!!!  Why? Because it creates a message that is more relevant and thus more likely to be read. 

Group of people

Think of the last time you purchased a book on Amazon.com..  Immediately, Amazon shot back a list of other books that were similar.  By your ordering a particular book, Amazon was able to place you in a segment and marketed to you.  It was likely pertinent to you and you most likely responded positively.  With everyone so taxed for time, it’s simply better to provide information that is relevant to people; not information we think will appeal across a broad audience! 

Segmentation demonstrates you understand your target’s needs and desires.  It also helps you craft a message that is valuable to your audiences; eliminating the need for your target to search around for the information needed.  You are giving it to them in a way that is relevant.  And saving them time. 

Think about what’s in it for your members the next time you communicate to them., They’ll be more responsive because you took the time to communicate to them in their language.  I’ve seen double-digit response rates as a result of segmentation. Try it and you’ll become a believer!

Give It To Me Straight

Submitted by Katie Callahan-Giobbi

In our work with non-profits, I frequently have the chance to talk about member value with our association customers. What value are they creating and delivering to their members? Logic tells me that “member value” is just that…what your members value. How do we know what they value? We ask them. It really is that simple. I suppose human nature makes us hesitant to ask pointed questions, perhaps because we’re afraid of what the answer might be. Maybe we think we know better? Either way, I have come to appreciate that the only right answer…is theirs.

surveyI have been amazed at the number of non-profits who haven’t surveyed their members in years. In some cases, many years. As we change our offerings, re-engineer our conferences or add new services, doesn’t it make sense to ask your membership if it’s something they value (and will pay for)? Our world is changing too quickly and our members have more online education and resources available to them than ever before. Social media is capturing their interactions and allowing for valuable connections to be made seamlessly on a daily basis. What do they really value?

 Surveying your members needs to be done properly but it doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Most important – ask the right questions. Questions that uncover their needs and wants as well as questions that are actionable. Most associations have member contact information at their fingertips. Of course you can outsource your survey, but you can also use an online survey tool like Survey Monkey. If so, you will need to analyze the results on your own. However you choose to go about it and assuming it is done properly, the results will likely pay for themselves in increased member retention, new revenue opportunities and more engaged members.

 Be smart. Ask. And really listen.

Convention Tension

McCormick Place

Chicago's McCormick Place

by John Folks

When it comes to conventions, Chicago has always been “My Kinda Town.”  Just look at the numbers… the convention industry generates $8 billion in annual spending and supports 66,000 jobs in Chicago. It’s big business and McCormick Place is the primary driver.  But in recent years, there have been more and more complaints about the high costs of hosting trade shows at McCormick Place, due in large part to complex, restrictive union work rules. Last year in the wake of a trade-show exodus, the Legislature and the Governor intervened and adopted reforms.

These reforms expanded exhibitors’ rights to put up their own booths; reduced labor crew size requirements, redefined the rules of “straight” time, overtime and double-time, and changed in-house electrical contractor operations. The labor changes prompted five annual trade shows to recommit and several others to choose Chicago. It repositioned the city as more competitive with other convention destinations and a lot easier to do business with.

But a couple of weeks ago, a federal judge ruled that labor reforms enacted at Chicago’s McCormick Place cannot continue.

Without these reforms, Chicago cannot be competitive, and the city will no longer be an attractive destination for these large events. This not only hurts the convention center and hotels, but the taxi drivers, the restaurants, the retail stores, as well as you and me – because the tens of millions of dollars in tax revenues generated through these conventions support city services and infrastructure.

Let your Congressman know that this is important to you and your livelihood – be heard and get their support.  To make it easy, here are two links – the first for Senators, and the second for Representatives:

http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm?State=IL

http://www.house.gov/representatives/#state_id

It will only take 5 minutes to make a call, and our city and industry will be better for it.