MeetingPackage CEO Joonas Ahola was on stage in FVW Congress in Cologne Germany presenting the benefits of setting your meetings & events facilities and services to online sales. Check out what he had to say or alternatively you can read the transcript of the video from this blog posting.
How meeting rooms were sold ten years ago:
- salesperson in a hotel or a venue contacts the potential customer or,
- the potential customer sends a RFP through e-mail or the RFP is generated through the hotels own website as an email.
- For the third party channels, the same logic applies there.
So nevertheless from which communication channel the RFP comes from, it comes as an e-mail to some inbox which is taken by a salesperson. And now when we fast forward 10 years to-date. Nothing has changed! That's where the industry is still today on Meetings and Events side. Everything is done manually and offline generated.
One of the reasons is this is still how hotels are selling Meetings & Events on their own website today. The webforms on hotel websites are long and time consuming to fill-up even on websites that have tens of millions of website visitors a month. This process could be much more commercialised with the right tools in place. But today, you're asking the customer to do a lot of things on your website without them knowing the availability or the price. What this means is that the salesperson in the hotel goes to check their operational software, which are often outdated and hard to use, for function space information, price and availability for the customer. This takes a lot of time and drops the conversion significantly.
When we started off MeetingPackage in 2014-2015. We were starting to create a marketplace that anyone could easily search for and book meeting rooms world wide. But quickly we noticed that just being an additional extranet, an additional RFP channel for the hotels, didn't actually solve the issue. Because when we look at hotel sales there's "layers" inside the organisation. Meaning,
- first priority goes to the ones that have a personal relationship with the customer. I send it to person X and that person might even reply in time.
- Second priority goes to hotels own channels which are the webforms which go to a centralised e-mail box which are then taken, in 9 a.m. when the employee comes to work, to check what is coming from there.
- And, then comes the high priority, and low priority, third party channels.
And that's what we are here to solve. So we help venues and hotels to increase sales revenue from their own channels and decrease costs with integrations. We enable hotels and venues customers that they can actually book meeting rooms, and group accommodation, as easy as booking independent hotel rooms online. First of all for bigger brands and corporates we offer customised solution through API's or a white label approach. But also for independent smaller properties we offer ready made snippet code so they don't need to use development hours and can use more simplified approach to facilitate online meeting booking to their own website. As well as the own sales from the hotel's perspective we take care of the global distribution. Meaning that they can actually control the distribution strategy of their meeting & event room inventory. We're developing new technology to connect new channels locally and globally. Which means that the hotels have one point of contact where they need to update their content, price and availability. Whereas, today it's done so that you go to tens of different channels. You need to teach every salesperson to understand how different channels work. Everyone has different commercial model and try to keep that under control. It's impossible. This also leads to outdated content online because the person Y registered in the website Z is not anymore working in the hotel.
For examples to CWT or Venuedirectory in the UK we provide them an API or White Label approach to increase their ancillary revenues / giving them the possibility to get live content from venues. Because, Venuedirectory for example doesn't have access to the operational software of the hotels that we do. So we provide them the live content, and for the hotels we provide one point of contact again. Through us they get access to Venuedirectory without being there separately. How to make this happen? First of all you have three things in place. You have your property management software, where you have your bedroom information etc. but typically you have also an additional module which is a Sales and Catering module that caters the meeting room content and the price. And then you have your content management software where you have your pictures, visual content, and so forth. From these systems we fetch the information direct to our cloud based events and sales management software where we can then distribute that content to the booking engine in the brand's own website as well as our distribution network. And now if you look at it from a customer's perspective the customer can land in either of these channels, see the availability, see the pricing, make the meeting booking request and once they make the transaction it flows back to the hotel's/venue's operational software. Which means that the salespeople in the hotel or venue don't need to use an additional extranet. They can use their Opera or any other software that they currently use where an event is created automatically.
Here is something that typically players who entered the market have failed. They think that Meetings and Events are booked as a "one stop shop". That's not true. So if you look at meetings and events they are booked 44 days in advance. 20 days from the initial transaction date, the biggest up-sell and cross-sell and modifications to the event is happening. So if you let the customer to believe that you're actually booking online and after customer makes the transaction ask them to call or e-mail to do any change that's not online. That brakes the customer experience for the user. So you need to have a customer portal where you can interact between the customer and the hotel in real time two-ways. As well as still communicate back to the operational software which means that whatever is changed, up-sell, cross-sell, it's visible in the customer portal but it's also visible in the sales and catering solution or whatever software the venue uses. So we're talking about two-ways all the way. We're not even allowing one-way integrations because there's more harm than good in that sense. How we sit in the ecosystem is first of all the booking engine is the number one priority. Fix your own operations from a hotel's perspective and then take care of distribution. There's a lot of things already like with hotels are fighting OTA's on bedrooms and so on. So why would you want to go there on the meetings & events sector? First fix your own sales channels. Take care of that, increase the efficiency and then open the distribution not the other way around. And that's the main point that we always talk to hotels and other venues that there is so much potential in your own channels. There's so much volume already that you could commercialise much better. The Booking Engine for meeting rooms that we offer is a licence fee model. Mainly to the fact again that we don't want the venues to pay commission from their own sales. It needs to be a software that they buy. And the more you do marketing to get more revenue the better profit margins you have. And then the Channel Manager and GDS side are more on a transactional basis. With the integrations the "bottom line" is all about reducing costs. Whether it is a PMS, Sales & catering, etc. we have over 70 integrations today with different software like payment gateways, property management softwares, revenue management softwares, and so on to help the hotels to actually use the tools that they have already in place.
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