Mike Mason

Recent Posts

How to book space-only meetings without breaking out in an itchy rash.

Posted by Mike Mason

Jun 4, 2012 11:54:00 AM

Let’s face it, nothing brings out more redness, puffiness, and scratchiness than trying to book a space-only meeting. Whether it’s a one-day employee rally, a dinner meeting, or a 14-city roadshow, it’s pretty much always painful to try to rent meeting space when you have little or no sleeping rooms.

I bet that many of you have resorted to completely eliminating hotels from the mix – opting for restaurants, theaters, and club houses instead. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Hotels want your business. It’s how your business affects them that makes all the difference.

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Topics: Event Marketing

A Tale of 2 Cities, part deux

Posted by Mike Mason

May 29, 2012 11:55:00 AM

Timmy's Story pt. 2, or "How to Fix the RFP Spam Problem"

Last week, I introduced you to the story of Timmy, the hotel sales manager whose big dreams were dashed on the rocky shoreline of online RFPs.

Timmy's problem was that he couldn't figure out which eRFPs he should invest his time on, because most eRFPs are sent to large numbers of hotels and ask a lot of questions. Timmy knew that, as a result, he had no shot at booking these, so he went into autopilot and just responded without much thought. The result on the meeting planner’s side is late or incomplete bids, or in some cases, no bids at all.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Here's the key: Think of your site selection process in terms of steps, where each step narrows the field of hotels and at the same time, asks the hotels to work harder. By taking this tiered approach and asking more of hotels as their chances grow (each cut reducing the number of hotels, and increasing the remaining hotels’ chance of booking), you’re telling sales managers, “Hey, you’re part of the in-crowd -- the chosen few," which dramatically shifts their attention span and directs it right at you. The result is that you will be far more likely to get their best because they know they have a real chance at booking your meeting.

Here’s a suggested path you might consider for your next meeting.

Step 1: Search broadly. Get room rates, F&B minimums, room rental and a yes or no to the question of sleeping room and meeting space availability. Send to 10 – 12 hotels. (This is not the time to get them to respond to your concessions, agree to your addendum, or assign meeting room names. I promise, if you wait, you’ll get far more value later on.)

Step 2: Narrow your search. Based on the first pass of availability and rates, reduce the number of hotels down to five – seven.

Step 3: Inform the hotels. Sales Managers, start your engines! This is where you begin to energize those salespeople. Tell the hotels that made the cut and also let them know who else is on the short-list. Be sure to notify the others that they didn’t make the cut.

Step 4: Put your chosen hotels to work. Open up the dialogue and connect. It’s also time to give your “chosen few” more information on your meeting, to include your concession requests, addendums, etc.

Step 5: Narrow again. Yes, that’s right. One more cut down to your top three is critical to getting the most out of your hotel relationships. Imagine the excitement of those three salespeople when they hear they’ve made it. I’ve been there, and I can tell you by that point I was driven to win the business.

Once you’ve completed this five-step process, you’ll have all the information you need to select the best offer. Make your decision with confidence, pop champagne with the winner, and let the others down quickly so they can move on.

This path will save you time and it will ensure that you get the right information and the best offers from the right hotels at the right time along the path.. And that, in turn, will ensure that you get the best possible outcome, because the effort at each step – both yours and the hotel salespeople’s – is equal to the opportunity.

Plus, remember Timmy? He’s a real person, and a really good guy. You’ll help him make his dreams come true. Now that’s some good karma.

Zen On.


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Download our FREE Meeting Planner Guide To GREAT Meeting RFPs

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Topics: Event Marketing

A tale of 2 Cities ... no ... 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 cities!

Posted by Mike Mason

May 25, 2012 11:57:00 AM

When searching for hotel availability, less is more.

I have a sad story to share. It’s about a little boy named Timmy, his puppy named “Skipper,” and a dream. Rather, a dream gone bad. You see, Timmy wanted to be a hotel salesperson – not just any hotel salesperson, but the best hotel salesperson ever.

Timmy grew up and studied hotel sales in college. He even started out washing dishes in hotels just to get in the door. When he finally made it into sales, he proclaimed, “Awesome, dudes. I’m gonna be the best dang salesperson ever.”

But alas, what started as a dream quickly faded into harsh reality as he found his day being spent responding to mountains of online RFPs. That wouldn’t have been so bad if they booked every once in a while, but these rarely did. Timmy’s dreams had been dashed on the rocky shoreline of RFP Spam.

(OK, I should note that what I’m describing actually did happen, but I’ve paraphrased it to keep it as short as possible. Also, I made up the puppy.)

I had an opportunity to chat with Timmy recently as he was responding to one of those many online RFPs. He reported that this was a pretty typical lead. I asked, “How many hotels are you competing against?” He said he didn’t know exactly – but he knew the RFP was sent to seven different cities.

“That’s a lot of cities,” I exclaimed. Timmy agreed. And it took him roughly 40 minutes to complete the online RFP. Let’s assume that the lead went to just four or five hotels in each city. That meant there could be as many as 35 sales managers, each spending 35-45 minutes, on a meeting that had no better than a 3% chance of booking at any given hotel. Overall, that’s about 25 hours of labor.

The sad thing is, for the planner who sent this out, all of the Timmies at all of those hotels have no choice but to switch to auto-pilot as they fill in the answers to the questions. They can’t give you their best thinking and most personalized offers, specifically because they know they have virtually no shot at booking it. I’ve talked with many planners who are frustrated by the fact that on many occasions bids are coming back incomplete or late, or sometimes not coming back at all. It’s not because Timmy is a bad sales manager. It’s because he’s drowning in low-converting RFPs.

So, how does this story end? Stay tuned! On Monday, I’ll share with you the path we recommend you take – a path that will actually take less of your time and deliver you more benefit from Timmy’s hard work than you would have thought possible.

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Topics: Event Marketing

Pressed meat (yuck) and your meeting RFP

Posted by Mike Mason

Apr 16, 2012 2:22:00 PM

For your meeting request, less is more.

There’s an interesting trend occurring within hotel sales and meeting planner offices across the country. It’s one that, quite honestly, defies logic. Hotel group sales offices are receiving more meeting leads than ever before. They should be happy about this, right? Wrong. Because they’re actually closing far fewer of those leads than at any time in history. And for you, the planner, it means incomplete and late bids, if you receive any bids at all. So what’s up?

Two words: RFP Spam.

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Topics: Event Marketing

A little flexibility can help save money on your meetings.

Posted by Mike Mason

Apr 9, 2012 4:18:00 PM

Using flexibility after you've signed the contract

Last week, I told you the one sentence you should never, ever put in your meeting request. This week we’re going to continue flexing with a unique idea that could have a dramatic impact on your bottom line, after you’ve signed the contract.

Hotels are constantly working to complete their “occupancy puzzle.” After they’ve booked your meeting, they’re out to find other business that will neatly fit on top of, at the back end of, or before your meeting, on their quest to maximize their occupancy and profitability. But as we know, most things in life aren’t so “neat,” and finding that perfect-fitting group is all but impossible. That’s when this phone call is made.

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Topics: Event Marketing

The one sentence you should never, ever put in your meeting RFP

Posted by Mike Mason

Apr 2, 2012 4:19:00 PM

"These dates are not flexible!"


If I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen this sentence on a meeting RFP, I could buy a gumball for every Zentila user and still have enough left over to open my own candy store.

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Topics: Event Marketing

What is a Second Option?

Posted by Mike Mason

Mar 19, 2012 4:20:00 PM

Hotels receive many inquiries for meetings, some of which may fall over the same dates. The first group to inquire over a set of dates has the 'First Option' hold on those dates. If another group comes along and is interested in the same dates, they can request a second option contract and, once signed, the hotel will approach the first option group and give them a short window (typically 48 hours) to either:

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Topics: Event Marketing

Tips to help take some of the pain out of the attrition conversation

Posted by Mike Mason

Mar 12, 2012 4:23:00 PM

Over the next few weeks I’m going to explore the wild and wooly world of hotel contracts, with the goal of giving you the additional insight and confidence to successfully navigate through your negotiations.

This isn’t a “How to Negotiate” series – there are 1.3 million books written for that purpose. Instead, we’ll be taking the most contentious hotel contract clauses and diving right into middle of your sales manager’s brain to better understand what they’re thinking when they’re working through the negotiations with you. By understanding their perspective, you’ll find your confidence growing, which will lead to solid negotiations that form the foundation for a successful hotel relationship and meeting.

 

The Contract Clause That Swallowed the World

During my hotel sales days, of all the contract clauses I would negotiate with my customers, none created more tension than that hairy attrition clause. I could even go further and say that of all the industry events I’ve attended (MPI, PCMA, etc.) this little attrition clause has garnered more time in breakout sessions than any single topic ever. Yes, this baby has been beaten, battered, and stomped on. But before I jump into the briar patch, let’s start out with a short definition.

Attrition is the difference between your contracted rooms (your room block) and what actually checks in (your pick-up).

So what gives?  Why has so much time been centered on attrition? It comes down to 3 simple words: Out-Of-Control. And no outcome is more out of our control – both for planners and hotels – than trying to predict attrition. Here are just a couple examples.

Scenarios:


    1. Your company sells a division: Bummer. Eastern region doesn't show up. Subtract 65 rooms.
    2. Flu hits Chicago: Throw-up central. Midwest sales team is down for the count. Subtract 25 rooms.

So what can you do to mitigate your risk while providing the hotel with the revenue assurances that they need in order to seal the deal?

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Topics: Event Marketing

A typical attrition clause

Posted by Mike Mason

Mar 12, 2012 4:15:00 PM

Here’s a typical attrition clause (with some artistic freedom sprinkled in).

“OK, so we all agree that if you don’t pick up your rooms, the hotel will be left with empty rooms. Empty rooms are bad and make us no money. But we also know that bad things happen to you too, so we’ve come up with a nifty way that will allow you to drop some rooms without penalty as long as you give us enough time to try and fill them through other means. Here’s how:


    • From 90 – 60 days prior to arrival: you can drop 10% of your room block without paying us a single dime.
    • From  59 – 30 days prior to arrival: Go ahead and drop another 5% and we won’t say a word.
    • Within 30 days: No more give-backs. If you happen to slip below the revised block, there’s going to be a penalty equal to the room rate times the total rooms not picked up.”
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Topics: Event Marketing

How to make hotel food and beverage minimums work for you

Posted by Mike Mason

Feb 20, 2012 3:47:00 PM

Banquet events (i.e., catered breakfast, lunch, and dinner) are kind of the glue that binds the entire meeting together. They provide the opportunity for attendees to take a break, come together, and create bonds. It’s here where much of the day’s sessions are put in perspective, discussed and debated, and where the real value of the event often begins to take shape for each attendee.

It’s also where a fair portion of your meeting budget is spent and where hotels make a fair amount of their profit. In order to protect this other revenue stream, hotels include a minimum food and beverage spend in their contracts. This is simply the minimum amount of catered food and beverage that you’re required to spend during your meeting. (Sorry, no restaurant or bar spend applies toward the amount.)

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Topics: Event Marketing

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