MAR 2018

ConventionSouth magazine is the leading resource for meeting planners who book all types of events, conventions, conferences and group travel in the south.

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⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ M A R C H 2 0 1 8 w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 18 ANNUAL CVB ISSUE Relationship Building 101 Relationships are a fundamental compo- nent to client retention. Destination pro- fessionals offer tips on building the kind of rapport that keeps meeting planners coming back. "I believe learning as much as you can about an organization is critical. Meeting professionals and organizations appre- ciate us doing our research. Building rapport is not an overnight process but finding areas of common interests can help the process along initially." — Donna Allen, vice president of sales and marketing, VisitNorfolk "Find ways to connect with meeting planners and groups outside of tradi- tional meeting settings. Figure out what they're most interested in and then set up a lunch or invite them to a relevant event. The shared connections and experiences will create a more trusting, comfortable bond between you and the planner. If you can't find a time to connect in person, get creative and let planners know how important they are to you. One time, we had pizza delivered to a planner's entire office for lunch with a note saying that we 'Would love a piece of your pie.'" — April Ellerbe, director of sales and services, Durham CVB "Pal up at trade shows. I give love and gratitude stones. Planners appreciate the small things like being thanked for their business or that happy-hour time we spend getting to know them. Build a conversation at the breakfast table that involves the entire table. Bring up a topic of interest and share opinions." — Debi DeBenedetto, group sales and marketing manager, Naples, Marco Island & Everglades CVB through and communicating clearly," she said. "Our staff has credibility, with some who have maintained relationships that are 10-plus years old and continue to bring groups back to Durham time and time again, even after relocating or switching jobs." Level of Service One of the greatest pitfalls to relationship building, according to DeBenedetto, is a busy sched- ule. Communication is critical to offering the highest level of service and when destination professionals lack time to focus on group needs, service can fall short. "We sometimes forget the pleasantries and go in for the big sell," DeBenedetto said. "It's about how we treat people and we have to remember that." Ellerbe said that the Durham CVB prefers a personal touch, choosing to have one-on-one meetings with group and meeting planners. "If people can put a face to a name and feel com- fortable from the beginning, it makes them feel special, allows us to be more attentive and knowledgeable, and minimizes potential mis- communications," she said, adding that lack of follow-up after meetings or to emails can be detrimental to building relationships. Low Staff Turnover The familiarity of an estab- lished relationship can be a great destination asset that draws groups back to a location, Allen said. "At a CVB, staff turnover can disrupt the flow of information between the meeting professional and the hospitality part- ners within a destination, which can ultimately impact destination selection or the success of the meeting," she said. Janicki agreed, adding that "once you es- tablish credibility and a working relationship, new staff can potentially hurt that relation- ship." DeBenedetto noted that many of the hotel staff in the Naples-Marco Island region have been at the same property for 10 to 25 years, a destination quality that helps gener- ate return business. "Planners want consisten- cy and to know they are in good hands," she said. n 4 5 Destination Appeal: groups participate in drum circle at NGALA Wildlife Preserve in Naples, Fla. Hospitality Partner: Meeting goers enjoy Luna Maya restaurant, a local favorite in Norfolk, Va.

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