How can MICE tourism recover from COVID-19?
- Build relationships
- Become a trusted advisor
- Do things differently
A plenary session for MICEConline 2020 entitled “How to Sell During a Crisis” was headed by Ciara Feely, a sales strategist and consultant. Many of those who attended may have been asking themselves “How can MICE tourism recover from COVID-19?”
It appears that the industry would find it difficult to sell under these circumstances. The pandemic has brought a stop to a lot of the activities that are done in the MICE sector. Live events were canceled, venue spaces were emptied out, and there was also the need to overcome the obstacles faced in transitioning to virtual platforms.
These disruptions have definitely affected the way things are done in the industry. For one, there is a big learning curve with regard to the switch from live events towards virtual/hybrid events. It’s important that the industry brings something new to the table. The usual sales talk will simply not cut it. What is more important instead is to take things on a more personal level by making discussions more personal.
Selling during a crisis is difficult, but it’s not altogether impossible. Key players in the MICE sector should begin looking into the way they do their sales and marketing activities in the past and adapting them for the present to make an opportunity out of the current situation. By fostering genuine relationships with MICE clients and customers, it’s certainly possible.
As mentioned before, Ciara Feely is a strategist and consultant that has been working in the MICE industry for several decades now. More than that, she is also the author of a book called “Steps To WIN”, which outlines important steps that MICE businesses can make use of to help them in pandemic recovery.
The first of these steps greatly focuses on the importance of listening and building relationships with clients. People are having apprehensions when it comes to buying — even so much as a hint of a sales tactic might not be well-received. Keeping this in mind, the sector should instead put a renewed focus on honing the two client interaction skills mentioned above.
Since the start of the pandemic and up until now, most of the lead generation for the MICE sector has been done through email marketing. Automated emails were sent out to hundreds and thousands of clients and customers, hoping that a great percentage of these would eventually generate sales.
If companies really want to thrive and generate more leads, media and online marketing should serve only as strategies and not as the end goal in a COVID-19 industry recovery roadmap. While sales emails may work for some time, they won’t really be effective in the long run. Clients don’t want to be bombarded with non-personalized messages that are trying to get them to buy a product or spend money on a service.
There should be a departure away from in-your-face sales conversations and the development of a more conscious effort for businesses to put themselves in their clients’ shoes. Being proactive in initiating tailored and personalized dialogues and conversations is far more effective.
For example, if you’re the manager of a company and you feel like you’re doing most of the talking, try stepping back and let them talk for a change. You’d certainly get more value out of listening more to your clients.
Become a Trusted Advisor
During a situation where uncertainty washes over everyone, you certainly want to be the business or person that your clients would want to turn to when they need help with something. Aside from personal relationships, you should also work towards developing a sense of trust between you and your clients.
Think about it: there is no single strategy that can pull the MICE sector from the rubble and start anew. There’s a good chance that most of your clients don’t really know who to turn to for advice.
What you should aspire for is to be that person that your clients will put their whole trust in. While having the acumen and expertise is essential, it’s also crucial that you provide your clients with a sense of hope and optimism for the future. Be that senior advisor that your juniors will look towards for professional advice, reassurance, and trust.
People will remember what you did for them during this crisis. This is not to say that you’re expecting something in return from them in the future, but being proactive in expanding your networks and reaching out will certainly benefit you in the long run.
Do Things Differently
The challenge with digital marketing during COVID-19 is finding the balance between keeping your personal branding alive, while also ensuring that your clients will be safe once they use your product or service. It’s all about approaching things from another perspective.
Feely shares an encounter that she had in her hometown of Ireland wherein the Red Cow Moran Hotel implemented a unique marketing strategy. What they did was to put on a facemask on one of their mascots that will greet the hotel visitors entering the establishment.
For Feely, the accommodation provider put a charming spin on following health and safety guidelines in the hotel space. This is a far more creative and innovative way of going about the situation. Compare this to the usual move of putting up signage and telling people to wear masks — which most people won’t really find to be inviting.
If you’re too upfront about what you’re telling your customers, they may not really be welcoming of your tactics. Your actions may even come off as fear-mongering that won’t really be palatable to the general public.
Put your attention to availability. Let’s take the example of the World Trade Center Metro Manila. They could’ve just canceled all events altogether until COVID-19 was completely eliminated.
Instead of instilling fear and skepticism among their investors and stakeholders, they gave them optimism. They came up with the BE (Business Events) SAFE program to ensure that the events space will be coordinating closely with government bodies and officials to hold socially-distanced events safely.
In many ways, doing things in a different manner is effective in bringing your clients further towards you. You don’t want to drive them away by staying functional about the pandemic situation — get creative and learn about what will attract your customers better while adapting to the situation.
In Ciara Feely’s plenary session, she aimed to provide a solution for industry leaders and players on “How can MICE tourism recover from COVID-19?” According to her, the most important action to take is to proactively build connections and relationships.
During these times, your business is not the only one struggling. Your clients are also experiencing difficulties in managing the challenges and disruptions brought about by the pandemic. They certainly wouldn’t warm up to you if you’re aggressively trying to sell them something. What you would want to do instead is to genuinely cultivate personal relationships through listening, providing useful advice, and innovating.
The challenge for the MICE industry is to ultimately explore new options and introduce creative methods to grow their revenue streams during the pandemic. They have all the sales tools that they need to do so — they only need to look into their current processes and utilize them to develop lasting innovations even long after the pandemic has ended.