Comment: Digital MICE

Martin Kubler says preparation is key to using social and digital media to attract a higher share of MICE business

Opinion, Comment & analysis

This column is about digital MICE. Not the little grey creatures, which stubbornly refuse to enter the digital age, but Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Events. Preparation is key to using social & digital media to attract a higher share of MICE business when it comes back to our cities after the summer break.

MICE business is nice business — it’s potentially more profitable, because it’s not just room nights, but also meeting facilities, F&B, activities. Sure, competition is high, much like for straightforward rooms business, but the booking journey is different. Price does play an important role, of course, but MICE bookers have many other factors to consider, too, which means the booking process is often longer and more geared towards liaising between providers and bookers than accommodation-only bookings.

What isn’t different, though, is that MICE bookers, much like regular guests, increasingly expect you to come to them pro-actively and with an answer to the age-old question of “WIFM” (What’s in it for me?). A MICE booker’s life is a busy one — we’re not talking about a leisure guest quickly booking a stopover stay in Dubai, but proposals, calculations, DDRs, etc. Savvy hoteliers know this and do everything to make booking MICE business easier and less painful.

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Digital and social media has an important role to play in this process and it usually starts with “Lead Generation”. Business doesn’t come to you anymore, you’re expected to take your business to the right people, at the right time, and in the right manner. Alas, what’s right to you, might be wrong to others. Hence the importance of generating good leads that are applicable to your business. Much like the cheese aisle at your local supermarket, digital lead generation also offers you many options.

Yes, you could go for Google Adwords, but unless you have dedicated & knowledgeable in-house resources or a switched-on agency partner, Google Adwords can be somewhat of a nightmare. There’s got to be an easier solution. There is and it’s called “Facebook Lead Generation Adverts”. They’re relatively easy and fast to set up and deliver leads straight to your desktop or laptop. They also work far better for MICE business than for accommodation-only bookings.

Consider this: We recently spent AED 1,500 on Facebook lead generation adverts on behalf of a client looking to target a very specific (and highly profitable) regional MICE niche. For that amount, we generated close to 120 qualifying leads. Not every lead will convert, but if you’re looking at a conservative conversion rate of, say, 3%, that’s 3.6 conversions. Let’s remain conservative and round it down to three. The average piece of business in this niche is probably worth AED 15-20,000. You do the math.

The main advantages of Facebook Lead Generation Adverts are the relatively low cost, the platform’s extensive audience targeting features, and the fact that you can connect your Facebook Advertising Manager directly to your CRM and have new leads pushed into it.

There are other options, of course. LinkedIn is a pretty good lead generation advertising platform, but costs per lead are much higher than on Facebook, so you need to make sure you know how to target correctly or you’ll waste your money. If you are looking at LinkedIn, don’t forget Slideshare, the online presentation sharing service, which was acquired by LinkedIn a few years ago. Why? It offers good lead generation features and it’s easy to create visually appealing content for your MICE facilities in the form of a PowerPoint presentation.

You could also use Twitter, which offers lead generation features, too, but the targeting options aren’t as good as Facebook’s or LinkedIn’s.

I recommend to keep your lead generation adverts and forms highly visual and to only collect data you’re actually going to use. Nobody wants to have to fill in overly long lead capture forms that ask for everything from email address to show size. Also, as with everything social and digital advertising-related, starting small and growing bigger based on audience insights is key. It can take 2-3 weeks to fully optimise a lead generation campaign, which brings us back to why this column appears in the summer and not the autumn.

Whatever you do: Keep it social!

MICE Lead Generation — Five things to keep in mind

1. Your privacy policy: To run lead generation adverts on most social and digital platforms, you need to have your company’s privacy and data collection policy clearly displayed on your website. It’s best if this info is on a separate page with a unique URL that clearly mentions “privacy policy” or “data collection policy”. Many platforms will ask for a link to this before they allow you to go live with your adverts.

2. Data handling: Some platforms allow you to connect your CRM to your lead generation adverts. This can be a huge timesaver, though not all platforms support this and those that do don’t support all CRMs. You can also usually receive leads by email or simply download them as Excel files. They key is to act on them while they’re still fresh!

3. Form length: Keep your lead generation forms short. Forms with 2-3 fields work best, although you may feel the need to include extra fields to capture additional data — only do so if the data you’re capturing actually lets you provide better service or a speedier proposal. Do not collect data just for the sake of collecting data.

4. Fine-tuning: Like all other social and digital advertising, lead generation campaigns require fine-tuning. Keep a watchful eye on the quantity and quality of the leads you receive to make sure they’re in line with your expectations and industry averages.

5. Combinations & targeting: The better your targeting, the better the leads you’ll receive. Study your target audiences and try to build as detailed audience profiles as possible. Also consider retargeting from the MICE section of your website or from your MICE database.

About the Author: Martin Kubler is the founder of Iconsulthotels and the CEO of sps:affinity. Iconsulthotels is now sps:hotels — a leading hotel management consultancy that provides its clients forward-looking business strategies, keeping them ahead of the market. Email: hello@spsaffinity.com.

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