The partnership of site selection firm HelmsBriscoe and online meeting management firm StarCite pairs two fast companies to create a new business model--"bricks and clicks," in the words of Roger Helms, HB president and CEO. "We are the bricks," Helms says. "We're building the relationships. We're the market makers. StarCite is providing the technology to support us."
Here's what the deal offers each side: * For StarCite, HB is like a giant company with 209 meeting planners (HB associates who last year booked groups into 4,300 hotels)--a ready-made group of users, and eyes for the site's advertisers.
* For HelmsBriscoe, StarCite offers sophisticated "back-end" technology to track client activity, store RFPs, create reports, and do budgeting at a private, customized site. StarCite makes this data easily shared among HB associates.
* HelmsBriscoe is now the preferred site selection resource at the StarCite site. For HB, that means exposure to potential new clients. For StarCite, it's a way to offer users immediate access to HB's expertise and buying power. Hotel commissions generated from meetings booked by HB associates through StarCite leads will be shared by StarCite and HB.
HB associates may also use StarCite's online auction capability. When a meeting is booked that way for an existing HB client, HB receives its usual 10 percent commission. StarCite, which usually receives up to $3.90 per room night from the "winning" hotel, in this case will waive that fee for hotels with which it has a marketing agreement, according to Tom Flanagan, vice president of marketing. "All hotels participating in StarCite auctions agree in advance to the terms," he notes. "If they don't feel the terms are economically feasible, they can decide not to participate."