Remember your first job? It may just have been a miserable summer gig cutting grass or painting fences, but you probably did your best to show people you were more than just a slacker teenager, and at the very least you would be helping them do something they didn’t have the expertise — or, let’s be completely honest, the time and motivation — to do themselves. If you just sat there waiting for people to come to you, you’d never have made the money to buy that rust bucket you called a car. Hanging a flyer on a telephone pole reminding people why they wanted YOU to cut their grass wasn’t high tech or overly flattering, but it worked.
Now that you’re a big shot at a big time (or small time) DMC you may think those days are behind you, but it’s all the same game. You have a skill that can help people, but you can’t expect them to know that. Many of the people who could use your services aren’t full-time event planners, meaning they either haven’t heard of DMCs, or aren’t quite sure what DMCs do.
Many planners these days think DMCs are overkill for their needs, but that’s because they don’t understand that DMCs cater to whatever requirements they may have. You have the ability to negotiate the client’s needs with local vendors through your well-established relationships — you generally do things that your client can’t. You are in the know about new local events and specials that may not be public or “Googleable” knowledge yet. By working with a DMC, clients won’t only be saving money, but they’ll get far better service and likely create a much better event. But lots of potential clients aren’t aware of that.
The proliferation of the search engine has given rise to terrifying legions of pseudo-experts who think they can do anything, but planning group travel events can be daunting, and, quite frankly, it’s easy to unwittingly organize a dud or disaster. It’s up to you as an expert to save these people from themselves while simultaneously winning yourself some business.
Make sure meeting planners, even those who are merely moonlighting, are explicitly aware your expertise is the gateway to organizing the perfect group travel event unencumbered from the avalanche of dead end search results that come from typing something vague like “fly fishing in Colorado.”
The only way to achieve this is by being proactive. DMCs and industry professionals need to reach out to people in new markets through any tactic at their disposal. Social media isn’t just for posting pictures of your dog wearing sunglasses or discreetly keeping tabs on your high school crush, it’s an invaluable tactic for reaching people directly and getting your voice into conversations with the people who need to hear it. Go make a presence at important industry conferences so you can network. Growing your list of connections will increase your value as an asset to your clients.
Take advantage of your best referral resource: the hotel salesperson. These folks can be your ticket to success if you play your cards right. Make sure they are well aware of what sets you apart from the competition. Find some common ground with them and gain their trust by showcasing what you have to offer. This is best accomplished by taking a “field trip” – get them out of the office for a few hours and let them take part in an exclusive experience that only you can provide to clients.
When you speak to potential clients, don’t assume they know the advantages of working with you. Wow them, have a presentation ready, get them a better price, and assure them you aren’t merely working from a list of stock options that you are trying to squeeze their group into. Cater to each client’s individual, specific needs while going above and beyond to show you value customer input and insight to provide a flawless destination and event experience. Make it clear you will help everything run seamlessly and take over the heavy lifting.
DMCs will thrive as long as we continue to offer a better experience for clients. Sometimes it’s easy to rest on our laurels, reputations, or our condescending insider knowledge while assuming people know they need our services. But remember to make the rounds and hang your phone number on some telephone poles now and again. Don’t let people go it alone when organizing group travel events. Let them know we are here to help them, even if they weren’t aware they needed assistance in the first place. Reach out and show clients exactly how DMCs can be their partner for planning the best group travel options. It’s just like succeeding at your first job: you have to consistently prove your worth.