Travel/procurement managers and marketing managers typically look at meetings and events from opposing perspectives. Travel and procurement departments look to consolidate processes and reduce total costs. On the flip side, marketers aim to create the best attendee experience to maximise the success of the event, which often translates into spending more money. On the surface, these groups appear to be at cross-purposes with each other. But is that necessarily the case?
As you look across the industry, the collaboration between travel and marketing is a hot topic that after years of discussion is starting to see traction and adoption in the industry. From research reports to real-life case study examples, the time for travel and marketing to work together has never been better.
Cross-departmental collaboration: when event planning meets marketing
The GBTA Foundation recently released a research report that examined the collaboration of travel and meetings with marketing. One of the results they found was that while over 90% of respondents feel like its valuable for travel/meetings/procurement to collaborate with marketing, less than 50% of respondents collaborate on a regular basis.
Through a series of interviews, the research was able to uncover a number of consistent barriers to collaboration across organisations:
- Lack of communication
- Budget constraints
- Control issues between departments
- Organisational structure
- Fears of timeline delays
- Dis-alignment of goals
In addition to barriers to collaboration, the research also identified some best practices to overcome these barriers and achieve collaboration, including
- Identifying a primary point of contact in each department
- Securing buy-in of collaboration from company leadership
- Agreement on realistic timelines from the beginning of the programme
The bottom-line conclusions from the report encourages organisations to open the lines of communication, be open to try new things and, most importantly, track data through a technology solution.
Re-defining programme goals
As the research confirmed, the dis-alignment of goals is often a barrier to collaboration between travel and marketing. But when you remove the lens of opposing viewpoints, ultimately both sides' goal is the same — to optimise meetings and events for the company and demonstrate ROI. Procurement and marketing just define ROI in different terms.Further collaboration can benefit both sides ©AzmanL/iStock
In actuality, they are really talking about two sides of the same coin. Upon closer examination, the cost savings goals of travel and procurement combined with the marketing team's goals of event optimisation aimed at increasing the return on the event lead to an even greater ROI.
To bring these two sides together, organisations should reexamine the goals of their meetings and events programmes. Potential new goals to examine include creating operational efficiencies, engaging event attendees and collecting actionable data. Achieving these three goals provides the information needed to achieve business insights and prove an even higher ROI on an events programme.
Actionable items to implement in order to achieve these collaborative results include:
- Centrally track meeting and event approvals to capture all activity, including upfront budgetary alignment
- Strategically source meeting locations to leverage supplier negotiations and lower costs
- Implement technology tools to automate processes
- Track event attendees within marketing tools to show sales pipeline generated by events and improved client retention
- Track increases in employees satisfaction and engagement after internal events
Ultimately, cost savings and risk mitigation alone are not always strong enough business drivers of success. But by realigning goals to encourage collaboration between marketing, travel and programme leads to business insights that drive a higher level of ROI.
Examples of successful collaboration
While the re-defining of meeting and event programme goals and the opening of communication channels across departments may sound easier said than done, a number of organisations have achieved this alignment, allowing them to operate their meetings programmes at a higher level. Below are just two examples.
Example 1 — Computer software company
The travel manager for a multi-national computer software company was tasked with putting a strategic meetings management (SMM) programme in place at the organisation. The goals of the programme focused on the cost savings opportunities from leveraging travel supplier relationships and more productive negotiations. As the travel manager took scope of the meeting and event landscape at the organisation, marketing bubbled to the top of the priority list as the owner of the majority of the company events, including all of its customer events.
Rather than put a mandate in place to require marketing work with travel, the travel manager met with the marketing team to provide them with a value proposition such as 'share with me your last hotel contract and I will go through and show you the areas where I could have saved you money or gotten you additional concessions'.
This approach demonstrated the value of the strategic meetings management programme without disrupting the marketing team's planning and execution processes. Now, there is a strong relationship between the marketing team and the SMM programme managers. The SMM programme is able to demonstrate its value through demonstrated cost savings and the marketing department is able to use the pounds saved towards revenue-generating activities.
Example 2 — Biotechnology company
While more frequently travel and procurement managers are being tasked with getting control of meetings and event, a high-growth biotechnology company exemplifies the value of travel managers working with marketing when the marketing team is running the strategic meetings management programme.
As a growing biotech company, events had proven themselves as a strong revenue-generating programme, but the company needed to maximise the pounds invested into the programme. The marketing manager turned to a SMM programme as the answer. But to truly maximise the efforts, the marketing manager also recognised the value of partnering with the travel department.
In working with the travel team, the two groups recognised the value of integrating their online booking tool with their event management software to increase their duty of care oversite and provide their travelers with a consistent booking process for all internal travel.
Like most meetings management programme implementations, there is no one size fits all
But these examples show that collaboration between travel and marketing is a successful alignment. As you look across the industry today, technology tools are enabling collaboration between departments that previously seemed daunting. No longer is the marketing department a group that should be excluded from the development of a meetings management programme but rather a key stakeholder that can help to redefine and increase the value proposition, leading to great ROI and long-term business impact.