Visit Baltimore, San Antonio CVB and Anaheim/Orange County VCB joined forces this month to create the Synchronicities alliance to help meeting planners save money, save time and share knowledge on many various levels when planning large meetings and conventions.
The three non-competing DMOs are similar in terms of their size, pricing and convention center/hotel package, so they cater to the same type of citywide events happening across America each year. By partnering together, the DMOs can provide companies and associations three events in various years—one at each city—at a discounted package price. They can also extend their marketing reach by sharing event marketing dollars and sales leads about a specific event.
“If you think about it this way, I have 15 salespeople, San Antonio has 15 salespeople, and so does Anaheim, so basically we’ve tripled the size of our sales staff in some regards, because we’re always asking that next question: Where are you going in the future?” says Tom Noonan, president/CEO of Visit Baltimore.
Noonan and the other DMO presidents immediately understood the value for them to join forces, but what about the planner community? Noonan says that’s when they spent a year reaching out to planners to see how this collaboration could assist them. Noonan emphasizes that Synchronicities is as much a robust service platform for meeting professionals as it is an economic and cost-savings solution.
“We all assume meeting planners want a great business deal, but in today’s buyer’s market they’re probably getting a great business deal anyway,” he explains. “So we asked ourselves, what can we do differently? Let’s go out and talk to our customer database, and talk about the three cities, and ask meeting planners questions about what they want. What are they looking for? How about customer engagement, how about attendee engagement? We didn’t want this to just be about price. We wanted it to be, not only can we make you feel like you made a great business decision, we want you to feel like you made a great service decision.”
For example, one of the first groups to sign a three-year deal with Synchronicities was the International Association of Exhibitions & Events (IAEE). When the group meets in Los Angeles in December, representatives from the Baltimore, San Antonio and Anaheim DMOs will all be there to get to know the planners and understand the business objectives of the event.
That way, the collaboration between the destination, hotels, vendors, attendees and meeting planners begins much sooner, and planners don’t have to begin from start every year. One DMO can explain to the two others what worked and didn’t work for them during a specific event, so in essence the program can improve and evolve year over year.
“We said to David Dubois [CEO/president of IAEE], we’re all going to become partner cities of IAEE, the three of us,” explains Noonan. “We’re going to buy an industry asset through your association, which we’ve never done before. So now we’ve got additional marketing dollars for the association across three partner cities. And then on top of that, when we’re rolling out ’15 at the ’14 annual meeting in LA in December, we’re going to go on stage, all three of us together, and talk about how Baltimore, San Antonio and Anaheim are hosting this meeting for the next three years.
The overarching goal is seamless continuity for both stakeholders and attendees.
“So when you’re in Baltimore in 2015, you’re actually going to be hosted by Baltimore, San Antonio and Anaheim, not just Baltimore,” says Noonan. “The signage is going to say that, the way you’re being serviced is going to feel like that. You’re going to feel like you’re being hosted by these three cities for three years in a row, not just one offs.”
Adding to the benefits, meeting planners can source a wider array of attendees and partners through the tri-city coalition. Planners are always asking DMOs for a list of companies in the region that align with their program, who, for example, might want to be a manufacturer exhibitor at a trade show.
Now, planners can source potential manufacturers among a population of 100 million people in the west, central and eastern parts of the country.
There is also talk about building a housing call system where the three DMOs can help attendees book accommodations more conveniently by expanding operating hours.
“Say it’s 8 o’clock in the morning on the East Coast and you’re attending a meeting in Anaheim,” says Noonan. “You call the housing line at 6 am in the western time zone, and the phone is being answered because Baltimore is taking your housing reservation. Or, if you’re calling Baltimore at 8 o’clock on the East Coast, it’s being answered by 5 pm by the Anaheim housing call center. What great service, right?”
Noonan is also excited about the knowledge sharing possibilities among the three cities. Presently, the three DMO teams are learning more about each others’ meeting product and infrastructure.
“The shared knowledge of training for our sales staffs is important, so we’re teaching each other how to sell our sister cities,” sums up Noonan. “So if someone says, ‘I’m not looking at Baltimore, I’m going to California,’ we’re saying, ‘Okay, look at Anaheim. They’re expanding their convention center, there’s a beautiful new garden space for functions, they’re expanding their ballroom space.’ So we’re teaching our sales staff and our leadership about each of the different destinations so we can really create these cohesive teams together.”
We’re going to stay on top of this because it directly aligns with our premise that the city of the future is a knowledge sharing hub. For the first time in the U.S., these three cities are building the network and partnerships to deliver on that premise.