Market Focus: Meeting & Event Planners
If you want to market your product or service to thousands of people, you can take the path of intense advertising to reach those people one by one—or you can reach out to those whose jobs give them the buying power of thousands. Meeting and event planners have influence far beyond their numbers, and if you can make the right connections, they’ll make the sales for you.
Meeting the Meeting Planners
The U.S. had 51,000 meeting and convention planners in 2006, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and that number is projected to grow by 20 percent over the next decade, reaching 61,000 by 2016.
But those figures are misleading, according to Melissa Fromento, group publisher of MeetingsNet—which has five specialty publications for the industry, including Corporate Meetings & Incentives and Medical Meetings magazines—because the nature of event planning has changed. “The size of the planning universe is unknown. Years ago, most companies had meeting planners within the company, so the size of the market was more definable,” she says. Many of these companies have transferred planning responsibilities to someone like the marketing director or the VP of sales. “We don’t know who those people are, and it’s a huge effort on our part or anyone’s part to find them.”
Michael Bagg, senior marketing adviser for Meeting Professionals International, says that MPI’s 23,000 members are divided equally between planners and suppliers.
John LoGiudice, a senior list manager with Edith Roman Associates, which manages the lists for MeetingNews, Successful Meetings, Business Travel News and Nielsen Business Media Meeting Planners Database, points out that these high-level business executives represent “billions of dollars in purchasing power” given that their decisions will affect dozens, if not hundreds, of their companies’ employees and customers. The Center for Exhibition Industry Research reports that the exhibition industry grew by 3.2 percent in 2007, the fifth straight year of growth, with quarterly revenues of between $2.5 billion and $3 billion.