The events industry has sprung back to life, but not without growing pains. Planners and destinations alike are in a rush to keep pace with surging demand, and unfortunately it seems the personal touch that so many people crave has fallen by the wayside.
“Post-COVID, I think a lot of people are so busy, whether they’re making up for lost time or picking up slack from staffing shortages. In general, the events industry has become very last-minute,” said Anna Derry, director of sales with Experience Sioux Falls in South Dakota. “This has led to more of a transactional relationship between destinations and event professionals.”
Because of this, Derry said, planners tend to focus only on destinations they’re already familiar with and might miss out on a less obvious choice that could be a winner for attendees. When destination marketing organizations (DMOs) are transactional, they run the risk of going through the motions with a one-size-fits-all bid that falls flat.
Experience Sioux Falls broke out of this rut years ago by taking a personalized, service-forward approach to the sales process.
“We really slow down and try to get to know our groups,” Derry said. One association might encourage delegates to bring their families while another is strictly business, and each group will get a tailored submission.
“Whatever it is,” she said, “we’re able to really listen to what their needs are, customize our offerings to that specific group, and make each one feel special.”
Associations can take a cue from Experience Sioux Falls and reassess their approach to marketing in this rare moment. Here are four insights.
Strive for Quality Feedback From Members
Surveys can be a valuable tool in understanding the wants and needs of your members, especially after a tumultuous few years. But surveys may not capture the nuances you’re looking for, and they lack personalization. Instead, put a finger firmly on the pulse of your membership by assembling a panel of member volunteers.
Listen (really listen) to what they’re telling you. Going through this extra effort and finding out what challenges they’re facing will yield more meaningful feedback that can inform and direct how you market to them.
Create a Can’t-Miss Event—and Promote It
Your members need to know that your event is worthwhile if they’re going to take time out of their busy schedules to attend. Studies show that attendees want to experience something unique.
By hosting the event at an unforgettable location—bonus points for discovering somewhere new—and strategically marketing it to your members, you’ll leave little doubt that they should sign up.
To know what makes a destination special, who better to ask than the DMO? Again, it comes back to the value of strong relationships. “If we have information about your group and what your interests are,” Derry said, “we can recommend something that you maybe wouldn’t have considered for your event. It’s an opportunity for a more customized and personal experience for you and your attendees.”