The first commandment in the business development bible: Listen to your customers. GEP, a rep firm for 72 destination management companies around the world, took the good book to heart when it devised its first major U.S. sales blitz for its member companies.
But don’t call it a sales blitz—GEP President Chris White considered the event more of a listening tour. And, indeed, the traveling teams worked hard at their client meetings to steer clear of the usual dog-and-pony-show in favor of conversation on issues of concern to clients.
Split into three groups—West Coast, Midwest, and East Coast—the 30 DMCs that participated in GEP Week traveled to 12 cities during a four-day period at the end of April. The East Coast contingent, which visited Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston for client meetings and receptions, included DMCs from Bermuda, Morocco, Austria, Italy, Denmark, Toronto, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Nashville, Boston, and New York, as well as two GEP representatives, Beth Hamiroune and Karen Lovell, both vice presidents of sales.
The Meetings Group caught up with the East Coast tour’s final leg: a meeting at The Castle Group, an incentive travel and events management company based in downtown Boston, and a reception at Nine Zero, one of the city’s newest boutique properties.
Among the hot topics at The Castle Group and at other GEP Week discussions:
pricing. Package pricing was available from many of the DMCs, but line-item pricing appeared to be a clear trend, driven by the increased focus on corporate accountability.
Lead times. Because lead times have gotten so short, says GEP’s Lovell, “it’s impossible to forecast your business these days.” She says that with pharmaceutical company meetings (which represent 65 percent to 70 percent of GEP’s business), it’s typically a month or less prior to the meeting before they see the RFP.
Creativity. Getting back RFPs with tired theme party ideas was a concern expressed by clients, and one that GEP members were eager to address. They stressed that creativity was their stock in trade, but that clients needed to clearly communicate their goals, budgets, and history. The more information, the better, and the more time, the better, as well. “Give us the time, and you’d be amazed at what we can do for you,” said one of the DMCs. “So often we find ourselves fighting fires.”