Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

October 20 2015

3 Lessons To Strengthen Your Meeting Marketing Strategy

By Mary Reynolds Kane

Does direct mail still matter? What’s a respectable open and click-thru rate for emails? How can an organization increase its fans and followers? There is no shortage of questions facing meeting planners when it comes to promoting the on-site experience to prospective attendees. At the Skift Global Forum in Brooklyn, some of the brightest minds in marketing offered answers with practical insights into how to reach today’s consumers. As you work to create a campaign that captures attention and spreads the word about your meeting, here are three lessons to keep in mind.

1) Give up control.

Fred Dixon, President and CEO of NYC & Company, faces an issue when thinking about his company’s description: “the official marketing, tourism and partnership organization for the City of New York.”

“What does it mean to be official?” Dixon asked attendees in Brooklyn. “Instead of trying to be official, we should strive to be authentic.”

Dixon highlighted that there is a very defined border between “official” and “authentic.” Authenticity means letting everyone see the city from all angles — even the ones where the city may not look perfect. However, that’s okay with Dixon. In today’s world of peer-to-peer reviews, Facebook posts, Tweets and Instagram images, Dixon knows that control is out of the question.

“As destination marketers, we have to learn to let go of control,” Dixon said. “You cannot be in charge of all the messages all the time.”

Meeting planners and marketers share plenty of similarities with Dixon. Sure, The Society of American _____ or The Association for _____ Professionals sound like authoritative bodies, but the members and attendees are the ones with the real control. They’re the ones whose opinions can convince their colleagues to register for the meeting or skip it. Rather than trying to control their messages, it’s important to for an organization to play role in the conversation.

SEE ALSO: 4 Marketing Lessons Every Meeting Planner Should Take From TED’s Content Strategy

2) Recognize the power in every attendee’s pocket.

While Dixon works to promote an iconic city brand, Issam Kazim is focused on shaping the chatter around a much younger destination: Dubai. Kazim, the CEO of the Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, told the Skift audience that his organization has been aiming to shift the focus away from the superlatives of Dubai — the massive skyscrapers, the elite-level luxury and the next-generation architecture — toward a more compelling narrative that highlights the wide range of experiences that people can enjoy in the city.

To create a more well-rounded perspective of Dubai, Kazim launched the #MyDubai campaign with the objective of inspiring individuals and residents to tell their stories. Across social media, the campaign has been a massive success. In 20 months, #MyDubai has collected nearly 2 billion impressions on Twitter and Facebook. A marketing staff cannot fuel those numbers. That kind of massive reach only happens by working toward a critical mass. How do you get there? Smartphones.

“If you take advantage of mobile phones, you’re creating the world’s biggest marketing department,” Kazim said.

SEE ALSO: 4 Reasons Why Meetings Fail At Social Media

3) Be a student.

When Jonathan Mildenhall, the CMO of Airbnb, arrives at work, he faces a huge task: figuring out how to create a value proposition and marketing strategy around a brand that offers millions of different experiences. With more than 1.5 million unique properties around the world, marketing Airbnb is very different than marketing a hotel brand where the beds, the lobbies and the lounges feel the same from city to city. So what does he do? He studies. Mildenhall says he spends time researching companies like Disney, Nike and Apple to figure out how they manage to create brands to which consumers are “unfairly loyal.”

Meeting planners and marketers can borrow some inspiration from Mildenhall’s focus on learning from established brands. Think about some of the household-name brands: Microsoft, Google, Coca-Cola, IBM, Starbucks. What feelings do mentions of their names elicit in consumers? How have they handled ups, downs and crises? How have they evolved to remain relevant in today’s fast-paced, tech-driven world? These answers involve much more than effective tag lines and strong logo designs. These companies all succeed because their values strike chords with consumers. If you can apply some of the findings from these brands to your own organization, you can move from having members, attendees or customers into having champions, advocates and evangelists.

Interested in more takeaways from the biggest names in travel? Click here for some of the most inspiring quotes from the Skift Global Forum.

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