A Picture is Worth a Thousand Attendees: How Visuals Impact a Planner’s Decision Making Process
Leonardo has partnered with Social Tables, the award-winning provider of hospitality software to bring you a blog highlighting what event planners look for in digital marketing. This week, we are speaking with Patrick Crosson, CMP, about the influence online media has on an event professional’s venue choices.
How can hotels use visual storytelling to stand out to meeting planners online?
Hotels should start incorporating multiple visuals with reviews from actual events into their web content. It’s standard to see room dimensions and generic photos of a space, but it would be helpful to see exactly how that space has been used in the past.
It’s always difficult to feel confident about a layout when all you have for reference is a 2D diagram. If a hotel were to provide an archive of event photos, a planner could peruse through the examples to visualize how their event could fit – and possibly gain inspiration from it. That will get you a lot farther than a pdf and a static stock photo.
Additionally, creating a page for event professionals to review their peer’s work would give you a distinct advantage. Don’t be scared by this. If there is a poor review, embrace that opportunity to showcase your commitment to correcting insufficiencies.
Which types of media are event planners most interested in seeing (photos, virtual tours, video)?
All of the above. The more assets you can present up front, the higher your chances are of retaining the buyer’s interest (and future business). This is a lame but accurate analogy: Why offer me a taste of your venue when you can present me with a buffet long before I pick up the phone?
There are times when a buyer just needs a picture to use for marketing purposes, but if they’ve never been to the venue, maybe a virtual tour would be preferable. Or, if they can’t get to the property for a site visit, a video would be helpful. That doesn’t mean the buyer can’t make a decision, it means they are doing their due diligence based on their current needs. Give a buyer all of these options to navigate by themselves, and you leave them feeling empowered – and feel appreciative of you for making me feel that way.
What is the main mistake hotels make when attempting to appeal to meeting and event planners?
The biggest mistake is assuming all events fall under the same category, and that they will always be structured in the same, tired format. Luckily, that error is easily corrected by remembering that a good event won’t repeat itself; it will recreate itself.
What that means for your venue is that there is never time for complacency. A successful conference in 2013 will come back in 2014 with different objectives. Engagement is a hot trend in meetings, while standard sessions are less popular, so perhaps 2014 means an educational scavenger hunt as opposed to 2013’s roundtable.
A thought to tie it all together: What if you presented me with a menu of innovative ways to use your venue? If a CSM showed genuine interest in helping a buyer create a successful event, they will be more inclined to consider their partnership over that of a hotel just looking for another sale.
How do planners research and shop for hotel options?
It depends on the planner, but for many, finding the right venue is based upon feedback from their network. Questions like “Have you ever been to this location? What property did you use? How was your experience? Would you go back?” will lead to a handful of recommendations. By ensuring your venue has great customer service before, during and post-event, you will be generating positive word-of-mouth that no marketing campaign can emulate.
Once an event professional has compiled a list of suggested properties, they will inevitably head to the internet to do some research. That’s when having a great visual and educational presence will help your site stand out from the competition. An easily navigated site, with colorful, updated photographs, virtual tours, and accurate diagramming will go a lot further than an event page asking the inquirer to call you for details.
Is it important for hotels to be mobile optimized to appeal to this customer segment?
What happens when four DC-based planners are discussing venues in Austin over lunch, and they each pull up a different property on their phone. Three venues are mobile optimized, but one isn’t. When the planners realize one property is not as technologically advanced as the other sites, that screen is getting closed – and with it your potential sale.
We live in a world where our mobile devices do everything from tracking calories to checking in attendees – which goes to say that these devices are an extension of our person. In fact, according to Fast Company, “25% of smartphone owners can’t remember the last time their smartphone wasn’t next to them.” Unless you’re only targeting that 25%, it’s imperative that you are mobile optimized.
Understanding the importance of being relevant in this technologically driven society is crucial for hotels – frankly, it’s a modern necessity to survive.