Recent research confirms value is the number one thing on the mind of most business travelers and planners. The use of telecommunications is on the rise, but face-to-face, in-person meetings are not going the way of the 8-track player any time soon. So don’t see this as a damning indictment of the meetings and events industry, because with a little foresight and planning there is increasing potential for great returns.

Economy Has Changed Business Travel Behavior, Survey Shows

Economy Has Changed Business Travel Behavior, Survey Shows,-Survey-Shows/

The significant takeaway here is you must distinguish between planners seeking value vs. being cheap. Travelers still want luxury, convenience, and generally pleasant experiences; they just demand to see a decent ROI so people from the finance department don’t jump out of their chairs wielding slide rules like sabers. One way planners are responding to these demands is by setting up Strategic Meetings Management Programs (SMMPs). SMMPs help planners see where money is going during meetings and events, where it is being effective, and where it is being wasted. SMMPs are being used by planners across the board, not just for tracking massive corporate events. Planners aren’t simply cutting corners in the name of frugality, but instead want to see where it is wise to spend their money. So it’s important to familiarize yourself with SMMPs and how planners are using them. Here is a very useful article on how planners might set up a successful SMMP that will help you get an idea of how SMMPs are being used.

SMMP: An Entry- to Mid-Level Planner's Guide

SMMP: An Entry- to Mid-Level Planner’s Guide–An-Entry–to-Mid-Level-Planner-s-Guide/

Smarter spending by clients isn’t necessarily bad news for DMCs and other providers. Providers need to be aware of how people are behaving in the business, but not at the expense of what they do best. Understand that planners and travelers increasingly demand a customer centric experience, so be responsive to their needs and wants. If someone wants to put together an entire program for $30, it’s probably not a client DMCs need to worry about keeping. However, DMCs need to be aware of providing value, and that may mean offering more options or packages to choose from. If it means people aren’t going to splurge for the platinum level package with crystal and diamond everything, be sure to have some more modestly priced arrangements available. Also DMCs need to do research to show where their higher-level offerings are bringing value. If DMCs can articulate a tangible return to a client, clients will be far more likely to choose a higher-level package. It’s not enough to say, “The platinum package is the best. It has the most sparkles.” What about the platinum package adds value to the attendees’ experience? Get creative, put yourself in your clients’ shoes, and ask the question “Do I believe in the ROI for the platinum package?”

Don’t fear the future. Adapt to it and be ready to give clients what they are looking for. If you are able to accommodate what people really want, you will win more business. Not everyone needs the Rolls Royce, so have a fleet of Cadillacs waiting. But show people the tangible return on the Rolls, and there’s no reason for them not to live like royalty for a day.