YOUR VENUE MATTERS
Issue 1 Highlights
FROM THE EDITOR:
The meetings market is clearly changing and in this issue of Venue Matters we cover some of the significant aspects of this change by looking at the increasing role of CRM and the evolution of Virtual Meetings.
We also have some exciting information about recent implementations of our Rendezvous solution in many leading venues, including how the solution is helping our clients to better manage their venues and generate more new business.
I hope you find this issue of Venue Matters informative, and ask you to please provide feedback on topics you would find relevant for us to include in future issues. My email address is email@example.com.
Because Your Venue Matters.
Graham Barker, CRM Expert, on the Role of CRM Software In Modern Venues
Graham Barker is CRM Product Manager for Fusion5, a CRM Business Application specialist. In an exclusive interview for Venue Matters he discusses the leading role of CRM solutions in today’s Event & Meetings industry.
Q. In your view, why has CRM grown to be such an important component within the events industry?
GB: In all industries, understanding and engaging with your customers is key to building and retaining business, and this is no different in the events industry. However, systems in the events industry have traditionally focused on the inbound process of taking an enquiry and following through to make a booking, and ultimately billing. While valuable information is collected about a customer it has been difficult to use that information to proactively engage with them.
CRM best practices are about unlocking that information and being able to use it to strengthen communications and relationships with customers, for example, being able to know a customer’s previous bookings and preferences when they call up; never missing an opportunity by forgetting a follow-up; or being able to select a group of customers that booked a corporate function in the past two years, and emailing them a special rate offer during a quiet period.
Q. For venues looking at new CRM solutions, what would you suggest as a checklist of topics / issues they should consider, in terms of ‘Best Practice for CRM in the Events Market’?
The most important and quite often misunderstood fact about CRM is that it is not just a case of installing the system and then being ready to go. CRM is a strategy comprising people, process and technology. If you overlook any aspect of these, the success of your CRM initiative will be impaired.
Ensure that you have commitment to your CRM strategy from the outset. This means endorsement from senior management and approval to commit the necessary time, budget and focus within the organisation to ensure success of the CRM strategy. Form a key team of people to drive the initial project, and ideally identify someone who can be the CRM champion for both the initial project and the ongoing strategy.
Start by understanding and reviewing your current processes in sales, marketing and customer services. Identify key initiatives that need to be supported to drive new business or efficiencies. Determine what is preventing these initiatives from being realised. Is it people? Quite often existing systems may support what you are trying to achieve, but staff need training. Is it your current technology?
Once you have identified what you need from a system to support your people and processes then you are ready to start selecting technology. Below are a few aspects that you should consider in your selection; however there are many more, and it may be useful to get assistance from an independent CRM specialist to help you select the best solution.
To get buy-in from your people, a system must be easy to operate and intuitive. Check how many clicks it takes to get to common information. Does the layout support your processes and workflow?
Most systems support the ability to easily add and change what information gets stored, as well as screen layouts to reflect your unique requirements. Some go further and allow you to also build your own business processes into the system.
3. Email Marketing
This is a key part of keeping in contact with your customers and prospects. Ensure that you have a convenient way of generating formatted emails, selecting a target group, and managing subscriptions and bouncebacks.
4. Web Interface
This can be as simple as allowing web enquiries to come directly into the system without having to re-enter them, through to more advanced customer portals which allow customers to update their information and submit booking requests online.
5. Outlook Integration
Most organisations use Microsoft Outlook as their primary communication tool so if yours does, it is important that your CRM system is well integrated with Outlook for email, calendar, contact and activity management.
6. Reporting and Analysis Tools
Customer data is of limited use to you unless you can turn it into meaningful information. Look for tools that allow you to visually summarise your customer information and allow management to ‘slice and dice’, in order to really understand where your business is coming from and any trends that are happening in the market.
To get the most out of your CRM system you need to ensure that you have a reliable vendor or reseller, and that they understand your needs, can provide useful advice and ongoing training and support.
Q. How should CRM integrate to venue management systems? Given your experience of setting up channels for Rendezvous, and also of running CRM/Events businesses – how are CRM and Venue Management connected?
A CRM system will draw on and augment existing customer knowledge held within your venue management system, and support processes for proactively engaging with your customers. It works across the full customer lifecycle including marketing and lead generation, sales management and customer service. An important part CRM plays is to provide management with the necessary tools to quickly summarise and analyse their customer information and sales staff activity to ensure that all efforts are being directed in the appropriate areas.
Q. Looking three years ahead, do you believe CRM solutions will be the hub of a venue management solution, rather than diaries or billing systems today? If so, why?
The importance of diaries and billing systems is absolutely fundamental in supporting the efficient operation of a venue, however by themselves they do not generate new business. Up until now the focus has primarily been on efficient internal systems, but this is changing rapidly with the new generation of information technology. In order to survive in a competitive market it is critical that an organisation can manage customer information, automate key sales and marketing processes, provide the ability to interact online, and take advantage of every opportunity to build ‘stickiness’ (loyalty and customer retention).
If you don’t, you can be sure your competitors will.
Generate More Sales Leads and Increase ROI with Virtual Events
Unisfair, provider of Virtual Event services, believe that lead generation and marketing intelligence are great benefits of virtual events, and that all face-to-face events will have a virtual component in the future.
As budgets continue to be cut industry-wide, the traditional trade show is evidently suffering. However businesses still need to meet, learn and interact with others. A solution to this problem is for companies to create and host virtual events, which can be done by hiring service providers such as Unisfair. Brett Arslaner, Unisfair’s VP of Marketing, believes virtual shows offer unprecedented leads, and that all face-to-face events will have a virtual component in the future.
A key metric in virtual events is cost in relation to leads, he notes. For example, a recent one-day virtual marketing event generated 1,701 leads. These events yield powerful marketing intelligence, so hosts and sponsors are able to pinpoint attendees’ interests by tracking the booths they frequent. They also deliver some of the richest marketing data available, because the anonymity of prospects evaporates. “Sales reps receive detailed marketing data about attendees, including what presentations they attended, what booths they visited and what questions they asked. It’s a real glimpse into their needs and challenges,” says Arslaner.
For attendees, virtual events can make gathering information a more pleasurable experience, as they are not pounced on by booth staff. They are also more likely to interact with an exhibitor, speaker or another attendee online than in person, because a different set of social rules apply. “New technology, including the most business-applicable elements of Web 2.0 and social networking, make it easy for professional networking to occur in virtual events,” continues Arslaner. “Adoption of these technologies is accelerating rapidly, and the the use of blogging, wikis and social networks has become second nature for most corporate cultures.“
For marketers, virtual environments enable online communities that deliver higher levels of brand engagement. By creating customisable, interactive and repeatable experiences, as well as tangible metrics, virtual environments are a step on from other Web 2.0 technologies, and even some physical meetings.
“We predict that all face-to-face events will have a virtual component in the future, and that virtual events will morph into year-round collaborative environments or business communities,” states Arslaner. He says Virtual Events are already starting to turn into virtual communities, or persistent environments that are available 24/7, all year round. “Companies are leveraging these ongoing environments to create collaborative communities centred on their prospects, customers and partners.“
Benefits of Virtual Events:
– The costs associated with hosting virtual events can be less then total shipping costs for physical events
– The ability to create your own agenda
– They are free and convenient and attendees gain access to valuable information before, during and after an event
– Improved job satisfaction and employee morale through reduced air travel and time away from home
– Fewer headaches and frustrations and no productivity losses
– Employees are able to learn and network from their PC
Unisfair environments can be stand-alone events or designed to extend a live meeting. They typically recreate the architecture of a traditional conference, with such virtual elements as a booth-filled exhibit hall, a general session hall for keynotes, meeting spaces for breakouts, opportunities to network and a resource area. The technology allows a show organiser to capture visitors’ demographics as well as metrics on what sessions they attended, how long they stayed, and what materials they downloaded.
The recently announced ‘Virtual Engagement Suite’ is a collaboration between Unisfair and Carlson Marketing. The suite combines Unisfair’s virtual conference technology with Carlson’s experience of meeting management. The collaboration will see Carlson provide clients with strategy, content, event marketing and ROI-tracking around the virtual events, and Unisfair will create customised, web-based virtual conference environments, where attendees can choose among webinar sessions or videos, download documents or interact with other attendees.
The Carlson-Unisfair liaison is the latest in a string of new partnerships between major face-to-face meeting companies and players in the virtual event space. In spring 2009, InXpo Inc. announced a preferred provider relationship with both Maritz and marketing and events agency George P. Johnson. Other virtual conference providers include ON24 and 6Connex.
Rendezvous Installed At A Range Of Meeting And Events Venues
NFSannounces installation of Rendezvous, our Scheduling and Event Management solution, in some leading organisations around the world. The versatility of this software means it can be applied to a range of venue types, including conference centres, libraries, museums and catering companies.
LIBRARY AND CONFERENCE CENTRE
The British Library is the UK’s national library, and with its central location opposite London’s Kings Cross Station and the Eurostar, is at the heart of the national and European transportation network. The Library recently selected Rendezvous, our web-based Conference, F&B and Meeting Room Booking system, to drive its meeting room and conference business.
The British Library’s Business & IP Centre offers library resources and holds regular workshops and events, as well as advice sessions and e-Courses. Since launching in March 2006, over 32,000 entrepreneurs have used the Centre every year.
George Hanna, Project Manager at the British Library, comments that the implementation of Rendezvous has allowed the organisation to replace many legacy systems, streamline and simplify their booking process and improve self-service booking. “We looked at the functionality of the software and listened to the recommendations of our catering company, Peyton & Byrne, about how improved processes could help with better management of the Library’s facilities and catering,” comments Hanna.
Prior to deployment of Rendezvous, British Library staff were using many different solutions to run the conference centre and internal meeting rooms, and as some facilities within their organisation are shared, they wanted to bring together Meeting Room, Conference and F&B management in one integrated system. This has been made possible with our powerful browser-based solution, Rendezvous, a meeting room booking solution with a strong self-service module, Outlook integration and fully integrated functionality for conference venue management. including CRM, Calendar Management and Conference Billing.
Peyton & Byrne is the prestigious London-based caterer operating cafes and bakeries at high-profile locations such as St Pancras, The National Gallery, Heals and The British Library. In 2009 Peyton & Byrne deployed the Rendezvous hosted solution, from NFS Hospitality, to manage their Catering and Events business, Peyton Events.
The business requires a lot of coordination and often involves distributing details by email or by printed documents; but when event details change, this paper-based system is not efficient or reliable. Sales people based in each location do not always have visibility of what is happening at other venues. Peyton & Byrne have now centralised their diary management using the Rendezvous booking system, making it easy for both venue staff and Head Office staff to keep up to date on events as well as new clients, which will contribute to greater efficiency and better customer service.
Having a multi-location system will also allow Peyton & Byrne to maximise revenue opportunities by quickly identifying alternate venues when the first choice of the client is not available. Having an integrated CRM solution also enables sales personnel to up-sell and maximise future business opportunities.
“In the event management sector you have to respond and react quickly,” comments Caitriona Peyton of Peyton & Byrne. “Having a solution that allows us to provide up-to-date information to our staff at each location, as well as the tools to generate more revenue and control costs, will help us with the long-term growth of our business.“
MUSEUM AND EVENTS VENUE
At the heart of Roanoke, Virginia, the new 81,000 square foot Taubman Museum of Art is an arresting landmark as the city’s most contemporary structure. The new museum required a streamlined, user-friendly solution to schedule upcoming events. After evaluating multiple scheduling solutions, the Taubman team chose Rendezvous. The web-based solution offered Taubman the ability to easily schedule a variety of events, including gallery showings, educational and corporate events and even weddings. With all the event details in a centralised location, Rendezvous has been integral to the success of the new Taubman Museum of Art.
From intimate receptions to elaborate dinners, and corporate meetings to presentations, the museum offers various unique settings to make any event an unforgettable, extraordinary experience. The award-winning building features flexible spaces for nearly any size and type of occasion.
In addition to managing event details, Taubman is also taking advantage of Rendezvous’ comprehensive CRM module. This new tool allows the Taubman team to track enquiries and manage contact details through to billing and even repeat business. Rendezvous also offers Taubman the ability to use its Room Block and Work Order functionality to ensure a smooth transition as the galleries change, which they do from time to time.
Rendezvous offers features that allow the Taubman Museum of Art to successfully host a range of different events and offer a seamless service that enhances the overall visitor experience.
For more information about how our solution can help your business, please contact us at
Looking Ahead – Luis De Souza’s Closing Comments
I hope you have found the topics in this issue of Venue Matters of interest. Our aim is to regularly update you on issues that are important in running a successful venue and also to provide news of new clients for which NFS have implemented solutions recently. We believe that the experience of users is invaluable as a reference point in understanding how technology can work for your business.
Most of our businesses have experienced the impact of the global downturn, so in the last 12 months we have been very active in helping our clients with the important task of developing new business. This topic has a vast scope but in essence embraces three important components: developing more business from existing customers, attracting new customers, and working hard on client retention strategies. There are many examples of NFS clients using technology, outbound activity like email marketing and improved online marketing strategies (mainly website-based) to minimise the impact of the current downturn, so if you would like to find out more, please email me email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Rendezvous website.
In the next issue of Venue Matters we will be looking at some important new topics, including the key business drivers for success in venue management and the role of software delivered as a service – the SaaS model. This model enables venues to secure the benefits of a fully integrated platform based on an affordable rental model, without the need for significant IT investment or in-house expertise.
I would welcome feedback on topics you believe we should cover in future issues of Venue Matters and also feedback on the items covered in this issue.
Thank you for taking the time to read the material included in this issue of Venue Matters. I wish you well in your efforts to develop your business in very difficult market conditions.