by Leo Jakobson | May 20, 2015
Hotel sourcing and strategic meetings management firm Zentila will announce a new technology platform aimed specifically at third-party and independent planners this week.

The Orlando-based firm's new tool, illuminate3P, combines the most important elements of Zentila's sourcing technology with comprehensive analytics and strategic meetings management (SMM) tools. (Successful Meetings' parent company, Northstar Travel Media, is a partner of Zentila.)

"Third-party and independent planners have been forced to use existing technologies that are not necessarily built for them," Mike Mason, ZEO of Zentila, told Successful Meetings. "With Illuminate3P, we really focus on the third parties specifically -- the need to communicate effectively with their planner [clients] and, more importantly, understand their own business."

It's important to note, Mason adds, that Zentila is not in the business of generating the most electronic requests for proposals (eRFP) from hotels. 

"We are not an e-RFP engine," he says. "We're interested in getting the meeting booked. Certainly an RFP is part of it, but when you look at the entire lifecycle of booking, there's technology that's required to help you manage all the changes that happen as the meeting evolves. That's where our technology hums."

One part of this is ensuring the technology is simple and user-friendly, Mason says. "From day one, we knew if we didn't make this super fun and easy and engaging for the user, we had no shot," he adds. "We focused on the user experience first -- making sure it did everything it needed to do and became a valuable resource to the planner. Only then did we drop the analytics engine on top of it."

Another is focusing on the pain points in the process, from both the third party's and independent planner's perspective. One of these is the time-consuming back-and-forth with hotels as they respond to the RFP, and the second is the many hours of work it takes to create a summary of the results for the customer in an Excel spreadsheet, Mason says. 

"Our technology "aggregates all that data ... to create a very slick interactive bid summary," Mason says. The technology automatically compiles all hotel bids, enabling planners to create an accurate, updateable bid summary. "Planners can send a link to that [online] bid summary directly to their planner, and work on it together," he adds. 

The technology also allows third party planners to give their clients direct access to the hotel's bids as they come in. Illuminate3P "enables third party planners' customers to see the hotels that were sourced, and see the hotels' [bids] as they come in, in real time," Mason says. "Basically, giving them access to the third party's entire sourcing process. That level of visibility creates a big trust factor, and works to strengthen and deepen the relationship."

Illuminate3P also provides data and analytics for both the clients and the third-party planners themselves. On the client side, the technology creates easy-to-read reports showing data points like meeting spend, negotiated savings, brand spend, and spend by month. Internally, planners have tools to help them automate tasks including tracking commissions, tailoring commission agreements by customer, forecasting future income, and reconciling past invoices.

A former senior vice president of sales and marketing for Gaylord Hotels, Mason says. "I know how this needs to work so we've focused on making it super easy for planners and hotels to connect," he adds. "We've done research on Illuminate 3P, and what we've gotten back is that we're saving between three and five business days work on every meeting," as opposed to doing it manually. 

A three month free trial of Illuminate3P will be available to planners who sign up by June 30.