Demonstrating that there are always lessons that can be learned Business Events Victoria has undertaken some fundamental reforms in the past year.
BY GRAEME KEMLO
And, while anecdotally at least some representative organisations in business are losing members in tight times, BEV has managed to expand its membership base and include more small to medium businesses in its marketing plans.
BEV Chair, Andrew Hiebl, explained how important it was for the organisation to listen, not only to the target market, but also to identify what stakeholders wanted… and that may not be what popular opinion suggests.
Take the recently published Regional Victorian Planners’ Guide as an example: Andrew explained that this hard copy publication that lists members, destinations and their business event offerings across the 10 regions, was not a ‘given’ to be published in the light of a general move to online marketing.
“Two years ago when we commenced our partnership with the state government we looked at how we had done things over the past 10 years – it was the same thing over and over. Among the questions we asked was whether people wanted a hard copy planners’ guide when online was so popular…well we discovered that the hard copy was still just as important. So this and other information we got back challenged how we did a lot of things,” he said.
He explained that instead of selling space in the guide and giving away a two year membership, ”we turned it on its head” and sold the benefits of BEV membership then sold the idea of cooperative marketing through the guide. “Membership grew, probably at a similar rate to our advertising revenues, which were up 45 per cent and over 90 per cent of members chose to advertise,” Mr Hiebl said.
A two-tier membership structure removed the barriers to entry for small to medium players who paid the same or a little less, while the larger members paid a little more.
Mr Hiebl said it was a difficult decision to get the board to agree to such a change. And also challenging was a decision to allow non-BEV members to be featured on the BEV website
www.businesseventsvictoria.com at no cost “but this was part of our partnership with the state government”.
“The website is there to provide updates to our guide, which has a two-year print life…and a lot of things can change over that period,” he said.
Wayne Lee, business development manager for BEV said the guide had been very well received since its launch in July by the Minister for Tourism and Major Events, Louise Asher.
He cited one sales call with a PCO who, when flicking through the guide, found a competitor property to the one he had originally chosen, and has since requested two proposals from the one property for 150+ delegate events.
Buyers have commented positively on the explanation of the regions of Victoria, including maps and a table showing fly/drive times between major cities. They also like the quick reference guide listing conference room capacities and accommodation at the start of each region, and in-house event planners like to keep a copy in a product library for staff to use.
Feedback from tradeshows, where printed material competes for space in your tote bag, was also positive on having one guide for the whole of the state’s regions with the ability to see features and capabilities rather than having to collect and then wade through separate guides for each region.