Your event planner clients are filled with the passion, creativity, and exceptional organizational skills it takes to excel in this field. That’s exactly what the millennial generation brings to the mix. They’ve entered the business with passion and innovation, but they’re not likely to be influenced by the same factors their GenY and Baby Boomer colleagues respond to. What do you need to know when attempting to attract millennial event planners to your venue?
David Mitroff, Ph.D., a business consultant, marketing expert, and keynote speaker says millennials are eager for opportunities that highlight and challenge their individual talents. When it comes to event planning, that means they’ll appreciate the flexibility to try new things. Being open to those conversations and new ideas can help you start the relationship off on the right foot.
Understanding the Millennial Audience
There’s been plenty written about millennials over the past several years, but not much specific to millennials in the event planning business. Cvent’s recent Planner Loyalty Study took a look at this audience and highlighted some key traits that make them stand out from previous generations:
- They’re tech savvy.
- They’re loyal to hotel brands, but…
- They’re looking for more frequent and immediate incentives.
- They’re into uniqueness, and expect that even large chain venues will have something unique to offer; they’re not into “cookie cutter”.
But what does all of this mean when you’re attempting to connect with millennial event planners and convert them to loyal customers?
Karen Carlough is director of sales at Topgolf Las Vegas, a venue she says has been “insanely popular with a younger demographic and a hotbed for events—standing out in Las Vegas as a unique location.” Why? It’s all about connecting with younger event planners. “They are tech savvy and understand the need to get their attendees out of the hotel for one night.” Connecting with this millennial audience, she says, occurs most effectively via social media—particularly LinkedIn. “That is one of the top social media platforms that Topgolf engages in to connect with those who are not familiar with our venue.”
Millennial planners, says Sarah Crisafulli, area director of marketing and communications at The Embassy Row Hotel in Dupont Circle, aren’t buying on price—they’re buying on value. In addition, she says, “Millennial planners are interested in what our hotel is doing for the community and how we’re authentic and local. From our 24-Hour Chef’s Pantry which sources locally, to our So Others Might Eat partnership, planners are wowed by what we’re doing to make a difference.” Consequently, she says, “We try to continuously curate new experiences that are functional and wow-worthy for this audience.”
Research on Millennial Planners
Interested in learning more about the needs of the millennial event planner audience, The Abbey Resort and Avani Spa in Fontana-On-Geneva Lake, Wisconsin, conducted focus groups to better understand this important group. Marketing director Sara Schmitz says, “Millennials noted several specific items of importance that they expect of business travel. They noted a desire for creativity and variety in regard to food and beverage, and highlighted it as a significant priority. They expressed a great desire to have healthy options available including protein and vegetables.” And, of course, millennials want to be connected. “They explained that quality Wi-Fi availability is key, as are ample charging stations and outlets throughout the property, both in-room and among the meeting areas,” says Schmitz.
The Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, the destination marketing organization for Lake Placid and the Adirondacks in New York, partnered with The Wild Center to conduct a study of the millennial generation that resulted in the collection of crucial data, and the development of a guidebook for marketing to millennials as a resource for their stakeholders. “As a destination marketing organization, we are keenly aware of the need to appeal to this vital demographic that currently spans from young students to individuals in their thirties with families, and understand that the leisure travel experience correlates directly with the meetings and conference experience,” says Mary Jane Lawrence, marketing and sales director for the Conference Center at Lake Placid. “Our strategies are extremely data-driven, and the Wild Center research has provided us with great insight about this diverse generation. We know that millennials generally value experiences, are great sharers, and base a lot of their decisions on recommendations. We also know that only 23 percent of this market considers themselves ‘outdoor people,’ while 62 percent travel for leisure and cultural activities,” said Lawrence.
She continues, “This has informed our strategy to convey the unique experiences available in the Adirondacks. Though our destination offers superb outdoor recreational experiences, for instance, we attempt to highlight activities such as guided stand-up paddling followed by dining with local-sourced foods and craft beers. In addition, we are increasingly engaging online influencers to provide authentic reviews of those experiences, too, utilizing shareable visual content. By implementing these strategies as the DMO, and providing our marketing partners with the tools to attract this market as well, we hope to raise awareness of our destination for this huge demographic.”
Of course, while it’s important to have a solid idea of what matters most to millennials, don’t be swayed by hype and popular wisdom. In reality, millennials aren’t so different from other generations, according to a study conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value and published in the Harvard Business Review.
As Melissa Jakes, CEO of RESCUE Event Planner, and a millennial herself says, “I do not think that we may be different from past generations when it comes to planning an event, I believe that the industry has become more diversified.” Technology and ready access have also become must haves, she says. Venues without websites, ready access to pricing and other venue information simply lose out in this 24/7, always on communication environment. That’s true whether the event planner is a millennial, a Gen Yer, or a Baby Boomer.