Meeting Professionals International launched its new Global Marketplace September 11, with the intention of opening up the supplier directory to nonmembers for a nominal annual fee. Within 24 hours, that plan had been changed, after an outcry from members.
The Global Marketplace, created to replace MPI’s Supplier Showcase, was developed “to deliver a more robust tool to facilitate comprehensive supplier connections by creating the definitive global listing of meeting industry suppliers,” said Elaine Conrad, CAE, vice president of membership for MPI, in a statement.
However, many members expressed concern that the decision would undercut the value of their membership while simultaneously going against the association’s longtime mantra of “Buy MPI,” which encourages members to purchase the goods and services of fellow MPI members.
“I was puzzled [by the decision],” says Joan Eisenstodt, chief strategist, Eisenstodt Associates LLC, Washington D.C. “What is the incentive for anyone to join [MPI] if the cost to reach members [via the Global Marketplace] is much less than the cost of a membership?”
In addition to membership concerns, users also experienced problems navigating the product’s search functionality, one of the issues Jim Louis, moderator of the MeCo listserv and chief information officer at Bloomington, Minn.–based Best Meetings Inc., brought to the attention of MPI staff. Louis also posted a message on MPI’s member blog voicing his concerns. “What is with the MPI Global Marketplace allowing non-members to buy a listing that places them before MPI members who do not?” wrote Louis. “In my personal opinion, someone did not think this through.” Within 24 hours, his entry had received nine comments.
MPI was certainly paying attention. In just 24 hours, the decision to include nonmembers was lifted. “Our community has co-created with us, and we have acted fast on your comments and suggestions regarding the new MPI Global Marketplace,” Conrad wrote in an online response to Louis’ post. “One change we are making right away is to remove non-members so that only MPI supplier members will be listed.”
“We sent out an e-mail to members announcing this product and asked for their feedback,” says Kathryn Goldstein, director of communication for MPI. “They responded, and we listened and took action. It is a good thing, and it makes us all stronger in the long run.”
Goldstein says that technical issues regarding the search functionality have also been addressed and MultiView, the vendor with which MPI is partnering for the directory, is working to resolve those glitches.
“Anytime you have 1,600 people [finding out about an issue] on the list, things can move pretty fast,” says Louis about MeCo’s involvement in bringing the issue to light. “I was amazed at how fast MPI responded.”