Tuesday, September 15, 2015

All Trends Worthy of Strategy Have Historic Roots

I smiled as I read a report of a new study showing that “advanced” DMOs are leveraging their community’s intellectual capital to draw meetings and conventions.

In my personal experience that strategy has been used for at least 45 years.  Only the terminology is new.

That’s when I signed on with my first destination marketing startup, an office at Brigham Young University, in part for the purpose of marketing the campus for summer youth conferences.

In part, the objective was to keep housing and foodservice staff employed through the summer months as well as to tap into faculty expertise as a means to draw the attention of future students.

It was a part-time job for me,  When I moved on to law school at Gonzaga, which I attended full-time at night while working full time during the day to help start the new Spokane Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

We borrowed an idea from Hartley Krueger and Dave Heinl in Seattle.  They were producing monthly breakfasts called GABFAST which stood for “Get A Boost Fast” in an effort to help Seattle recover from a horrible recession brought on by Boeing layoffs.

Remember the famous billboard near SEATAC with the now iconic message put up by two real estate agents for 15 days in April 1971 that read, “Will the last person leaving SEATTLE – turn out the lights?” 

We called our adaptation “AM Spokane,” but it had the same function.  We would invited business and university talent from a particular sector each month, say medical, and rally their support to help SACVB bring meetings to which they belonged back to meet in Spokane.

Soon we learned that site decision makers were as drawn to the local expertise this approach revealed as they were due to local connections with the association or corporation sponsoring the meeting.

We just didn’t use the terms talent or intellectual capital back then.

Even as more cost effective means of communication evolved, this continued to be a one-on-one group sales strategy I would go on to use in two subsequent startups, a completion in Anchorage and one from scratch in Durham, NC before finishing my career.

The new study by DMAI’s empowerMint initiative finds that it is very important for a DMO’s sales staff to alert a planner of relevant “local knowledge clusters” during the selection process.

Over half considered the existence of this local expertise a “competitive advantage.”

We know now that meetings and conventions as a segment of visitation tipped into a long slow decline back in the early 1980s but it still represents 10% of all person visits nationwide.

Recruiting meetings where attendees will have exposure to local talent is also a good means of drawing the interest of relocation scouts who are seeking areas for businesses, often to expand.

Of course, today, an even more strategic approach is to weave that information into communication to leisure visitors.

More than 8-in-10 executives looking to relocate  or expand a business visit a potential destination as a leisure visitor before making official contact.

I am using this trip down memory lane to show that trends we view as relevant today can almost always be found much earlier by “looking back to see forward” as a means of gleaning strategic intuition.

Hidden in the semantics of today’s trends is “strategic rootedness.”  But a DMO doesn’t need to wait.  Strategic intuition gleaned from looking back to see forward is most fruitful if done before trends become trendy.

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