Segmented for Success

Planners can achieve event excellence by choosing a venue that specializes in their vertical

segmented meetings

There are certain things that every meeting needs in order to be successful, regardless of size or sector. Every meeting needs a venue, of course, and food and beverage and usually some A/V support. After those basic needs are taken care of, there are the specific things that your meeting needs. Many hotels are courting meetings and conventions by embracing a segmented sales-and-marketing strategy; instead of having something for every meeting, hotels are positioning themselves to have everything for some types of meetings.

One such hotel is the Hilton Chicago, which two years ago introduced dedicated web pages for each of the industry verticals to which it caters: finance, pharma, union, technology, and athletic. Each sector-specific landing page includes targeted messaging highlighting services and resources that are relevant to the industry in question. For insurance and finance meetings, for example, the Hilton Chicago highlights attributes such as meeting room privacy and the availability of 24/7 security. For pharmaceutical and medical meetings, the Hilton Chicago emphasizes benefits such as elastic menu pricing, fast RFP responses, and the ability to sort bills by attendee in order to identify per-person expenditures. For union meetings, it stresses the availability of different suites for union leaders. And for athletic groups, members of which often share rooms, it highlights its large inventory of rooms with two beds.

"The primal need for people to connect with people is the same across industries, but the way it's talked about is different," explains Gene Hare, area director of sales and marketing at the Hilton Chicago. "The pharmaceutical market, for example, talks about health-specific pharma menus that need to be approved, whereas the tech market talks much more about bandwidth and the ability to handle thousands of devices at one time on a property's network. Each market segment has its own vocabulary; understanding that allows us to communicate with our clients in their own language and, when we share that vocabulary with our onsite teams, makes it easier for us to meet the planners' needs so we can have successful programs."

Of course, hotels have long staffed their sales teams with segment-specific experts, such as sales reps who specialize in association or corporate meetings. What's different in the modern meetings economy, Hare suggests, is that sales reps aren't merely selling to their assigned verticals -- they're engaging with them in order to understand their needs and refine their offerings.

"Because of technology, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that successful meetings require a dialogue between the meeting planner and the hotel," continues Hare, who says digital and social media have persuaded many hotels to broadcast shallower messages to wider audiences; instead, his hotel wants to have deep conversations with individual customers. "What we're trying to do with our segment-specific pages is create that one-to-one dialogue."

The Conrad Miami is another hotel engaging in strategic segmentation. 

"The hotel is primarily solicited by financial or insurance companies wanting to gather team members for a strategic meeting," explains Director of Sales & Marketing Philippe Thevenet. "In order to create loyalty with those financial and insurance companies present in our neighborhood, we make sure to customize our offerings to their specific needs. For instance, it is common for certain financial or accounting companies to engage in large-scale recruiting sessions during which those companies will organize one-on-one meetings between potential recruits and their executives in an efforts to lure those talents into their teams. Those one-on-one meetings usually require up to 20 small concurrent meeting rooms for which our hotel offers guest rooms transformed into comfortable meeting space for the occasion. Conrad Miami's ability to offer these turnkey solutions is essential in showing the financial companies that we are experts in delivering on their specific needs."

The film industry offers yet another example. 

"The filming and production companies that come to Miami to shoot movie segments often have very specific needs related to the unique nature of their work. The staff that works for those production companies often spend long hours on the different film sets and come back to the hotel at unconventional times compared to a regular business person. Knowing that they will be able to still have a healthy and satisfying meal even if they return to the hotel at midnight is critical," says Thevenet. "Our role in this case is to adjust our operations to ensure that our restaurant will be able to serve those late meals. It is the kind of accommodation that we are willing to extend to our customers in order to win their business."

Because of its location, the Hilton San Francisco Union Square works hard to distinguish itself for tech meeting planners. 

"Due to the sheer volume of startups and established companies in the Bay Area paired with tech conferences, we've implemented programs that meet specific needs and interests for these groups," says Frank Manchen, area director of sales and marketing for Hilton San Francisco Union Square and Parc 55. Manchen says the hotel provides high-speed Internet with 1 Gbps of bandwidth in all of its meeting and conference areas -- burstable to 2 Gbps upon request -- as well as a robust FedEx Business Center; device charging stations throughout the lobby and meeting spaces; and an onsite A/V provider and technical engineer. "The strategy is a win-win, as planners can rest assured we're familiar with their particular needs, like large Internet infrastructure to support multiple connected devices."

Indeed, planners and hotels alike benefit from segmentation -- the latter by securing more group business, and the former by securing tailor-made solutions, which will stimulate attendance and increase attendee satisfaction.

Along with size, location, and cost, meeting professionals should therefore consider adding "segment specialty" to their site-selection checklist. 

"The most significant benefit to the planner is time: When you know the hotel you're dealing with is an expert in your field, you don't have to spend your valuable time explaining to them, for example, what an investigator meeting is in the life sciences sector," Hare concludes. "We want you, as a planner, to be able to spend your time focusing on the content of your meeting rather than worrying about the infrastructure of it."