As many destinations and DMCs (Destination Management Companies) gather at #IMEX17 we ask three well-respected names in the industry for their insights into what the future holds.
DMCs have endured a lot of challenges in recent times and every year there seems to be speculation about what we can expect and whether the future is bright or (more often) gloomy. To set the record straight, we asked for the opinions and insights from those in the know. We explored how DMCs are still relevant today, the value they offer, the challenges they are facing and how they are reinventing themselves ready for the future. Big thanks go to these three experts for sharing their esteemed analysis:
Tony Lorenz, CMM, Chief Executive Officer, AlliedPRA, Inc.
Aoife Delaney, Director of Marketing & Sales, The DMC Network
Cindy Y. Lo, DMCP, Owner & Chief Event Strategist, Red Velvet Events, a Global DMC Partner
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The 3 Major Challenges of DMCs Today
We asked our experts what the biggest threats and challenges facing DMCs are today and this is what they shared with us.
Everyone’s an Expert
The Internet means that a wealth of information is available at our fingertips and everyone can Google and research standard packages and solutions. This means that DMCs have to work even harder to offer unique solutions. Cindy suggests that “Every DMC needs to offer creative solutions that are NOT turn-key because most corporate clients want something unique for their event.”
The participant no longer wants the standard when they visit a destination - they want the authentic, the real and the unique. Aoife adds that “Authenticity is the new gold - a DMC knows a destination intimately and can put together an authentic experience in a way that cannot be found on the internet.”
Value and Budgets
All three contributors agreed the price is still a massive driving factor, which makes showing value crucial. Budgets are still being squeezed and clients need to be assured of value against every line item.
Aoife believes that one of the biggest challenges facing DMC's today is on the traditional DMC service offering. Many of these services are becoming commoditized, which means that DMC now need to concentrate on selling where the customer can see the value DMCs bring to a program.
Despite the more buoyant economy, budgets are not always growing year on year. Understandably, transparency in pricing is requested frequently by clients. However, the challenge that this puts upon the DMC is where do you draw the line on reasonable pricing transparency. Cindy explains that “when you shop at Target, you don’t ask them to see the invoices between them and Procter & Gamble… yet corporate clients are continuously asking to see receipts between our suppliers and the DMC offering the service. Instead, I strongly encourage all DMCs to line item their charges vs. putting everything into a package UNLESS the client is asking to see pricing that way.”
Tony confided that one of the most critical challenges DMCs face is the issue of perception. The work of DMCs is so important, however, it isn’t always viewed as integral. The sector and the broader business event community as a whole are not always great at promoting the value of what they achieve. “DMCs provide the mission critical of business events but we are not where we should be in the perceived value chain.”
Tony is also a board member for Meetings Mean Business, which is working to raise standards, measurement and recognition in the events industry. However well you measure and report for your clients, we need to be better at sharing results, learning and best practice. Only by sharing data more widely can we have a bigger voice to get greater recognition.
How Do DMCs Offer Value Today?
DMCs continue to offer value in a number of areas, primarily in five main ways:
Expertise and Local Knowledge
DMCs can offer unrivalled expertise of a destination. As well as local knowledge it means that DMCs can identify uniquely interesting and strong partners to direct the best relationships for the success of the event. This is not easy from another part of the world.
Peace of Mind
Tony explains that “Peace of mind is primary. When an event happens with hundreds or thousands of people, everything needs to happen beautifully - to the extent it is so seamless it isn’t even noticed. Not only that, the DMC is there to create solutions if anything goes wrong.”
Having local relationships and insider information can be crucial in these situations.
Aoife confirmed that the value that a DMC offers hasn't changed, it has always been to provide added value to a client. A DMC knows their destination intimately and can help a client use the destination in a way that supports the goals of their event. What she believes has changed is how we can offer that value to a client.
Great DMCs now realize that clients may not book every single service with them, and that's fine with Aoife. Clients can pick and choose the elements where DMCs can show real value, and to consult on their destination experience as a whole. “Meeting and Incentive planners want unique experiences because that's what the new participant wants. A DMC can create those experiences and make them authentic and real. We are there to bring the destination alive in a way that supports the goal of the client, and to ensure they have the best experience possible.”
Delivering Client Objectives
Cindy points out that the value offered by a DMC needs to start with the objectives of the client and build from there. “I have always trained our team to ask the client first what they are measuring event success by and then to work backwards when putting their custom proposal to ensure that all items being proposed tie back to the success metrics - and of course to the desired budget.”
What New Services Will DMCs Offer?
Our advisors offered four key ways DMCs will change their service offering and are working in new ways.
Non-traditional Spaces and Events
DMCs are not just confined to work within the four walls of a venue. Aoife explains “There are some really fun things being offered to clients right now! We're increasing our use of non-traditional meeting spaces in our programs. ‘Pop-up’ event spaces created exclusively for our clients is an offering which is becoming increasingly popular.”
The services in the future will be all about customization. A DMC can customise an event in a way that only a local expert can, using connections with the very fabric of that destination.
Cindy can see DMCs evolving to offer other creative services and even things like custom fabrication. Although they personally may not be the firm to fabricate they will design and then partner with a local fabricator to produce the said custom item.
There was resounding agreement that event technology is essential to measuring and delivering results. Aoife outlined how powerful it can be: “We are using live tech more and more - gauging the client's reactions to the experiences in real time and adjusting our program on the spot is something that I'm really enjoying in particular - it's exciting to see the innovative ways we can update a program throughout the day based on how our guest's are enjoying the opportunities we are putting in front of them.”
Greater Focus on Business Objectives
Tony urges strategy to drive the creative, in addition to the value of the destination experience, to make it more powerful for clients. DMCs generally tend to deliver strong creative, focused on the destination, however this mindset needs to shift to take into account the business objectives first and foremost. This can then be used to marry the host’s aims, driven by the brand and destination.
How Do You See DMCs and Your Business Changing Over The Next Five Years?
Our experts offered six prominent ways we can expect to see changes in the service offering from DMCs going forward and the direction their respective businesses are taking.
Aoife believes that “DMC's will offer clients a more 'consultative' experience. We are becoming more of an extension of the client's team on every element of their programme, and I see this increasing over the coming years.”
The need for customisation is going to become even more intense, and that's where a DMC's intimate knowledge will become increasingly important. Cindy predicts “more personalization; less packages.”
Turbocharge Core Service Offering
Tony calls for a need to amplify core services and to find innovative ways to turbocharge those elements offered by DMCs, to ensure that DMCs remain integral, relevant and future-proof.
Prove Our Worth
Tony sums up that we all know the value of events, but now is our time to perform. We need to demonstrate ROI collectively as an industry. “A business event is the most powerful medium on the planet. Nothing can compare with the power of face to face experiences to create impactful moments. However, events are also the most expensive and hardest to measure.”
We need to present the return of the events to the organizations that sponsor it to prove that meetings mean business. Indicators suggest that the economy will be strong for the next four years and so this is the perfect opportunity to present our value and ensure that events are recognized as essential, even during financial downturns. “DMCs are an integral part of global business events and we need to step into our role, expand our presence and prove our worth a little more aggressively. Otherwise DMCs will have continued pressure.”
Increasing Exploration of Technology
Technology has a big part to play in elevating the events industry across the board. The advantages eventtech can offer in the planning, execution and continuous measurement of results is the only way we can scientifically prove value and speak the same language of our clients.
Mergers and Acquisitions
Allied PRA, Inc. have recently been acquired by blue chip equity firm and have big plans to build the business and extend their market position in North America. They are driving their business forward in an increasing amount of locations and demonstrating their positive outlook with actions, as well as words. As with the new era of event technology, significant investment into DMCs is a great indicator of the health and potential within the sector.
The outlook from these three industry stalwarts is resoundingly positive. There are plenty of challenges for DMCs, and the event industry as a whole, but these DMCs are ready to press forward and tackle them. Awareness of the changing environment, and recognition and foresight for what clients are demanding, means that they are already adapting their offering to stay ahead of the game.