24 Jul 2012

Avoid Being an E-RFP Spammer!

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Entry:
I sat in on a webinar today titled ‘Electronic-RFP’s, The Good, The Bad & The Ugly’ – sponsored by Successful Meetings. What an insightful perspective from the hoteliers side-of-the-house! With the evolution of E-RFP technology, I think event planners are in some respects, like a new kid with a toy. With the simple click of a button, we can command dozens of RFP’s across multiple hotel brands in a myriad of cities, all within a few minutes. It’s almost like a magic wand!

Allllmost…until we start to listen to the well-founded complaints that have begun to saturate event industry peer-to-peer conversations. Automation, has made the process SO accessible and SO easy, that in our ‘over-zealous’ rush to embrace this awesome tool – we have earned our own pet name inside the hotel world, fondly known as ‘RFP Spam’.

What should be an efficient tool on all sides, is quickly becoming an industry nightmare for everyone, and after hearing the hoteliers insight today, it’s easy to see why.

Simply put – we are hearing that planners have a tendency to ‘Over-RFP’ (example: choosing 20 properties over 20 states) and then getting disgruntled when they don’t receive responses in a timely manner (if at all) – or they are incomplete.

On the flip side, those same 20 properties over 20 states have RFP’s pouring in from all directions, and as reported on today’s webinar – there is no easy, time-efficient way to respond to them (45-60 minutes per response is average) and many hotel sales staff are struggling to keep up with the demand.

You would think all these leads dropping from the sky would translate into a hotel’s ‘pleasant-dream’ (I did, before today’s revelations) but clearly the reality is different. The more properties included on a single RFP, the odds go down dramatically for each property bidding. Consequently, these property-heavy requests are often de-prioritized against others that have better odds for a multitude of reasons, and in the interest of time.

Here are some tips from directly from the hotel pro’s on how to make your RFP’s stand out to them:

  1. Don’t include more than 6 hotels per RFP AND make note of this up-front in the comments so that each property knows their odds are very good.
  2. Share the competitor hotel names right in the RFP comments; when it comes down to their own backyard or knowing the brands they are competing against – the bottom line is that they want to win that bid (IF it’s a fit).
  3. Don’t lead with a kitchen-sink full of concession & negotiation requests on the first pass of the RFP (I’m SO guilty of this!). Save these as a leveraging tool in your final rounds, when the selection has been narrowed down to your top tier choices.
  4. Outline your decision process clearly so properties know what to expect, and then send status updates to the hotel contenders often; stay in touch. This indicates to the hotel that your program is a serious & qualified lead.
  5. Don’t leave them hanging; contact each hotel that was NOT chosen and communicate the decision, as well as the reason why they were not the fit this time around (this definitely helps build the relationship for future RFP’s).

Ok, and now for a heavy dose of perspective (from one planner to another) on how to make your RFP submission more effective.

  1. Understand your client (or program) intimately. I truly believe effective RFP’s start here. If you clearly understand your client’s culture & style as well as their event objectives, program history & flow – consulting on the properties that are the right fit is an easy task, and you can start with a fairly short, but qualified list.
  2. Nurture CVB & property relationships (also reiterated on today’s webinar). Ok, so it’s impossible to meet every property out there that might fall under consideration, however it IS highly feasible to secure a great relationship with National Reps for different brands or (my personal favorite) get to know your CVB’s – they are an awesome (unbiased), entirely free resource. Nothing will bring your qualified RFP to the top of the pile quicker!
  3. Take advantage of the venue ‘dating’ conferences that are plentiful; it is a GREAT way to meet, sample & get to know properties all across the country in a single day.
  4. Stay ahead of the curve – always try to schedule site visits to new properties every time you travel. As a general practice, I personally try to schedule 2-3 site visits each time I’m in a city for ANY reason (client, conference, tradeshow, or even vacation). Having the exact right properties ‘up-my-sleeve’ helps me to be ready with guidance on top matches, which narrows the RFP process considerably.
  5. Follow all five tips from the hotel side-of-the-house mentioned above; they are giving us great information on how to ‘date’ them successfully.

We are all partners in this amazing industry, and I truly believe that if we find a way to listen to all sides involved, we can alleviate some of the ‘RFP Spam’ we are generating and in return, get great & on-time RFP responses. It’s up to all of us to nurture healthy competition, but ultimately place highly successful programs, without becoming adversaries in the process!

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