Monday, December 13, 2010

More on Trends…Customer Loyalty

As an addendum to our Trends issue that hit your mailboxes this week, we thought you’d be interested in what Loyalty 360 has to say about customer loyalty trends for 2011. You’ll see a lot of familiar words, like “engage,” “relevancy,” and “experience” — concepts that we’ve been talking about for the past two issues. Social gaming makes the list as well. Let us know how you plan to integrate these concepts into your meetings and events in 2011 and we’ll spread the word!

1.  Marketers will increasingly understand that loyalty is not a program – it is a journey and a strategic business goal. True loyalty is based on a total customer experience. Loyalty initiatives will focus on engagement and building long-term relationships

2.  Loyalty will focus more on emotions than on rational, incentive-based initiatives. Behavioral economists tell us that economic decision-making is 70 percent emotional and 30 percent rational. The emotional side of the decision making process creates connected, passionate, engaged customers.

3.  Companies will increasingly look at how customer engagement and employee engagement work together to drive bottom line results.
A 2009 Gallup poll found that those in the upper half on customer engagement get a 70 percent boost in bottom-line results.

4.  Voice of the customer programs are an important strategy for brands and Loyalty 360 expects to see greater focus on them in 2011. “Getting closer to the customer” is a top business strategy and area of focus.

5.  Relevancy will be a key driving force of customer loyalty, engagement. Today’s customers want loyalty programs to be “about me” – individual, relevant, meaningful, etc. Brands need to use the information they collect strategically to show customers they’re listening and give them what they’re asking for.

6.  Marketers will take a more strategic look at in-the-moment marketing, looking at how best to use all the customer touchpoints including mobile.

7.  Goal of customer loyalty initiatives will be to engage customers.
Marketers now realize that although spend and number of transactions are important, customer engagement is the holy grail for loyalty initiatives. Because with engagement comes loyalty, advocacy, trust, passion – the soft side of the customer relationships that directly impacts the bottom line.

8.  Cause-related marketing/corporate social responsibility programs that are aligned with strategic corporate goals will effectively drive loyalty – especially with Millennials.

9.  Marketers will integrate social gaming into their loyalty initiatives. Traditional incentive-based marketing does not drive the level of consumer participation that can be achieved via gaming – and it’s this sought-after participation that builds lasting relationships, engagement, brand affinity, and brand loyalty.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My “Enhanced” TSA Experience

I didn’t really know what to expect when I stood in line at the airport last week. I had read about the new security procedures, but wasn’t particularly worried about getting though them. I have a pretty laid back approach when I travel – go with the flow.

Stepping into the full body scanner was surreal. These science-fictiony contraptions kind of reminded me of the “beamer” on Star Trek. You stand in a round glass tube with your arms above your head and the walls swirl around you as some guy in another room sees you naked. As discomfiting as this was, I endured it without too much trouble. But then, for some reason, I got the pat-down.

A female TSA agent motioned me out of the scanner and pointed to two of those foot stickers on the floor. I assumed the position, wondering what was going on. The agent, who didn’t say one word to me through the entire procedure, played with her walkie talkie while I stood for perhaps 2-3 minutes, waiting for who knows what. Then she abruptly stepped over to me, motioned that I should extend my arms and then began running her hands over my body – in places only my doctor and husband have ever touched. I was shocked speechless. I couldn’t even think to tell her to not touch my junk.

Oh, and by the way, I had an audience for the whole thing. Judging by the way they stared, it must have been quite a show.

Maybe it would have been better if the TSA employee had explained to me what was happening, why I was subjected to a pat-down in addition to the scanner. Or let me know that I had the right to a private pat-down away from all the eyes. But I doubt that even these actions would make this a tolerable experience. It was too humiliating, too invasive, too dehumanizing.

I dread my next trip.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Insight with POP

Today I attended our local ISES meeting, held at the Minneapolis Hilton. A good-sized crowd turned out to see Ken Kristoffersen of POP, formerly known as Experiential Events, with three locations in Canada. Ken was just off a flight from India so was experiencing some jet lag, but he managed to keep the ISES folks engaged with stories and photos.

His main point was that we need to get away from the “pretty party” mentality and see events as strategic communication tools for conveying messages. He’s not so interested in décor (decorations) as much as design—the thought processes that goes into crafting your client’s message. And, he says that the force now driving industry innovation is evolving from experiential to “stimulating your guests to think.”

Intriguing idea. Anyone else have some thoughts on this?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The New Reality: ROI Matters

I wasn’t able to make the Motivation Show in Chicago last week for a bunch of reasons, but I’ve been studying the Tweets and news releases that have been pouring out of the show doors and into my email box. One of the more intriguing announcements came from the group ROI of Engagement, which is an initiative led by the Catalyst Performance Group. These folks are in the business of helping businesses measure ROI and building successful employee investment programs, with a focus on meetings and events. Their methodology, they say, has been used in “thousands of programs every year in more than 50 countries.”

Those kinds of statements usually make me leery, but the announcement caught my eye for another reason. They just launched a New ROI Resource Center on their website that looks to be a pretty good primer for planners who are just getting into the nuts and bolts of ROI. (And if you aren’t at least considering doing this, think hard because very shortly it will probably become a vital part of your job.)

The Resource Center seems comprehensive, containing white papers, a decent blog, and lots of case studies. It also has sections for training opportunities and software tools to measure ROI. At the very least, I think it’s a good starting point if you’re not sure how to tackle the whole ROI thing. Take a look at and let us know what you think.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Facebook Withdrawal?

It was fascinating to see the fallout when Facebook went down for a few hours last week. Some people actually panicked when they were cut off for a brief time from their hundreds of “friends.” These lost souls took to Twitter with their angst, many of them half-joking that now they’d have to do some real work—or horrors!—talk to real people with voices.

Equally amusing was the reaction to the hysteria, ranging from my favorite (@TheDollSays: “Facebook users are roaming the streets in tears, shoving photos of themselves in people’s faces and screaming, ‘DO YOU LIKE THIS? DO YOU?) to the laconic: (@Randy-412733: Who cares!).

Although I usually check my FB account once or twice a day, I didn’t even notice it was down. I mainly use it to keep up on family news, and a few business-related sites. The fact is, that the Social-Facebook I signed up for a few years ago has been overtaken by Marketing-Facebook and Stupid-Game-Facebook (apologies to my loved ones who actually play that stuff). It’s evolved into another way for people to sell stuff to you, and indulge in inane activities that benefit no one. Who needs it?

So will I give up Facebooking anytime soon? Probably not. It’s part of the social mainstream and as a member of the media I need to know what’s going on, and participate. (I also *blush* like the discount codes from Coldwater Creek.)

But it’s intriguing to wonder what would happen if both Facebook and Twitter went down at the same time, along with MySpace, Linkedin and all the groups you belong to. What kind of withdrawal would you suffer?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Travel Tax Alert!

The National Business Travel Association Foundation recently released its latest report on the best and worst cities for travel taxes—a subject that can inspire wrath in a great many travelers (and planners). Sticking it to travelers for projects that may or may not have anything to do with travelers is a popular way to raise revenue, especially for cities like Chicago, New York, Boston, Seattle and Minneapolis, which have the highest total travel tax rate in the U.S. If you want to avoid meeting in a city that imposes the highest taxes specifically on travel services, be aware that Portland, OR, Boston, Minneapolis, Indianapolis and New York will make you pay through the nose.

On the other hand, if you’re watching your budget you may want to consider holding your event in a city with lowest overall taxes: Fort Lauderdale, Fort Meyers, Portland OR, Detroit or (surprise!) Honolulu. Cities with the lowest taxes on travel-related services are all located in sunny California: Orange County, San Jose, Burbank, San Diego and Ontario. Hmmmm, makes you wonder if those cities will see a little more meeting action when the word gets out.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tasting Tidbits

Attended the local NACE (National Association of Catering Executives) meeting last night to connect with friends and learn more about tasting events. The meet-up was at the Embassy Suites Minneapolis Airport, and the room was packed—hot topic, it appears. Here are a few take-aways that event planners may find helpful.

Will I need to pay for the tasting? Every venue and caterer has a different policy. Most of the speakers (and the people I talked to) allow a certain number of people (two to four) pro bono, and charge for any extras. But there are exceptions to every rule, especially for events that are being managed by large committees.

Do I need to book my event space before my client gets a tasting?
Generally, you book the space, and then get the tasting. Again, there are exceptions. If you’re bringing in a big chunk of business, the caterer may be willing to give you a tasting to help win the deal. But don’t expect this—it’s usually not done. To minimize the risk in case you r client isn’t happy with the tasting, request a second tasting and let the chef (or salesperson) know exactly what your client expects. They want happy customers, so they’ll listen.

What can I expect at the tasting?
A sampling of two-to-three items in each food category, served in a variety of styles. Some caterers arrange to have the tasting in the same space where the event will happen, and will dress out the tablescape just as it will be at the event.

Bon appétit!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Brighter Days Ahead?

After the trials and tribulations of the past few years, it’s nice to finally hear some encouraging news. The meetings industry appears to be on an upswing—a minor one, to be sure, but the momentum seems to building a bit.

A new survey commissioned by the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), the PCMA Education Foundation and American Express queried 505 meeting planners throughout the U.S. about their intentions regarding off-site meetings for 2010 and 2011. Respondents indicated that they booked an increase of 15 percent more meetings in 2010 compared to 2009, and expect an increase of 24 percent more bookings for 2011 as compared to 2009.

Attendance forecasts are equally encouraging, with a net increase of 23 percent in 2010 and 38 percent increase compared to 2009.

Some more positive news: In 2009, 54 percent of the respondents postponed, canceled or re-booked meetings at a cost of $81,000 per planner. This year, only six percent plan to take these actions and expect to pay only $7,600 in cancellation fees in 2010 and $3,500 for meetings booked in 2011.

Venue selection is also affected by the economy over the next few years, with resorts and cruise ships on the decline (still those perception issues!) while hotels are forecast to begin recovery with an increase in bookings of 25 percent. Upscale and luxury properties are still being avoided.

So it seems that we should keep our seat belts fastened—the road is still going to be bumpy. But we may have seen the worst.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Vampires and Parties

We weren’t actually there, but were still pretty close to the premiere screening of the new film Twilight Saga: Eclipse last week. It was kind of fun, looking at the publicity shots of the oh-so-young and gorgeous stars schmoozing it up with their fans. But what we really wanted to know was: what was the party like?

It was a production by Chad Hudson Events, based out of Beverly Hills. And it was true to the theme of blood-dripping fangs, eerie, haunted scenes and Hollywood glam.

The venue was the Event Deck at the L.A. Live Complex in downtown L.A. The rooftop space was 106,000 square feet, which included a 42,000-square-foot tent, an outdoor party area and a special VIP arrivals spot.

After the screening at the Nokia Theatre, 3,000 guests were invited to the after-party, a re-creation of the setting of the film which is set in the state of Washington. Enjoy the photos—they’re bloody good!

Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner arrive for the party.

Chad Hudson Events brought Twilight Saga: Eclipse’s wintery Pacific Northwest setting
to life so that guests felt as if they were actually stepping inside a scene from the movie.
Twilight-themed desserts included crisp Washington apples with assorted toppings.
Inside the giant tent, Chad Hudson and his team created a wintery wilderness,
complete with a hauntingly realistic full moon perched high overhead,
mountains and silhouettes of evergreen trees projected against the tent sides.

A central point in the film is a foggy lake from which the vampires emerge.

Hello, Friends!

Greetings, Event Solutions readers, from your new editor. I’m thrilled to join the ES team and have buckled up my seat belt, anticipating a wild and glorious ride through the wonders and challenges of the events and meetings industry.
I have an idea what to expect, since my last gig was editor of another industry publication, albeit a regional one. That incredibly fun run helped remind me how much I love the business, beginning from my own days as a corporate event planner and meeting manager. (At the time, I had no idea what I was doing, but I learned fast.)

I plan to learn fast in this job as well, by drinking in the national and international buzz and communicating what I find to all of you. I also plan to learn from you. I have nothing but awe and respect for the industry people I’ve met over the years. The folks at my local ISES, MPI, ASAE and NACE chapters have been a great resource to me, and now I’ll be expanding that reach to chapters worldwide. Most of all, I want to get some good discussion going between Event Solutions and our readers, and build new and lasting relationships. You can’t succeed in this business without making contacts and connections, from suppliers to planners to venues and organizations. And that’s what I enjoy the most.

I’m really excited about this new challenge. And I think we’ll have a lot of fun together— hang on tight!