Association planners want total transparency in meeting costs, particularly as they relate to Internet usage and audiovisual charges, and they need to do more with less. So said the 12 association planners on the KSL Customer Advisory Board who gathered recently at KSL’s The Homestead in Hot Springs, Va., to offer feedback on trends and hot topics.
- Do more with less. Association planners are still restricted on budgets, but still need to produce powerful programs, says Michael Erickson, vice president of sales at KSL Resorts, which manages 9 properties throughout the U.S. They are looking for venues that can deliver an attractive environment on a tighter budget. They are also looking for packaged or bundled options that are more cost-efficient, and assistance with marketing or pre-show communications.
- Customized solutions. Associations need customized solutions specific to their unique challenges and industries. For example, medical associations have different challenges and needs than, say, financial associations, so it helps if the venue is familiar with the association and can accommodate them.
- marketing. Associations are using social media to market their meetings, with Facebook and LinkedIn being the two most valuable tools. They are using it before, during, and after the meeting to promote and present educational content.
- Personal relationships and references. National sales representatives who develop deep and comfortable relationships with planners make a difference in the RFP process. And references from peers are hugely important to association planners, Erickson says, more so than among corporate planners.
- Cost transparency. Planners want total transparency related to meeting costs. Audiovisual and Internet costs are under particular scrutiny, they say. Also, Internet is expected to be free in meeting and guest rooms.
The feedback will provide KSL with a better understanding of the needs of association planners and their meetings so it can better serve them, says Erickson. “The ultimate goal is to create a better product for association markets across the KSL brand,” he says, adding that about 50 percent of KSL’s group business comes from associations.