SMMP stands for Strategic Meetings Management Program; In other words, ROI (return on investment). Having spent over a decade in the Meetings and Exhibition business, I have to say that the idea of adding processes and metrics to the business was not an easy thing. I cannot count the number of great events have come to life thanks to sweat, stress, unorganized work and passion, not metrics.
Can SMMP balance passion, lack of bandwidth and unpredictability with metrics and processes? It’s time for planners to recognize that it at least forces you to measure ROI (cost, revenue, profitability, productivity) Boring I know, but it is essential in today’s economy. It forces us to implement processes and when 80% is under control, it is much easier to deal with the unexpected (as opposed to 20% planned). It forces us to deep dive into all the aspects that make an event a reality, not directly from the content/engagement perspective, but mostly from an infrastructure point of view.
What is SMMP’s original goal?
Basically, it is about breaking down all the measurable event aspects to outperform them. It mostly applies to groups, often corporate, that have to manage A) a large budget and B) a large number of events. Event management involves a supply chain, logistics, marketing investment, travel and housing management, sales effectiveness and more. From a meeting planner’s angle it is a lot of layers to deal with. From a large corporate perspective, the investment will get sprayed into multiple responsibilities, teams, and governances – making the exercise incredibly challenging when it gets to controlling the performance better (understanding profitability, cost versus revenue, and the cost of the teams productivity).
SMMP will tell you nothing about the content, the speaker, the colors, taste of the food, or the ugliness/beauty of the venue – barely anything about the attendee experience. It will tell you the average cost per attendee; help you to control hundreds of events from a budget perspective, control the workflow, manage better rooming allotments and travel fares.
Economically speaking, it is great. First, it is room for improvement on many cases – let’s be honest, saving a couple of zeroes on the bottom line doesn’t hurt. Second, it plays a role in better serving your community with more control on your vendors and how your process is executed.
But what SMMP forgets is the very user experience, the final return of investment, which your brand benefits from. Even more, most CMOs have a hard time fully understanding how to fully measure and optimize the event channel.
The classic SMMP field:
- Meeting Design: logistics, cost, workflows, objectives
- Budgeting: forecasting, real negotiated savings, cost per vendor – per meeting – per attendee
- Strategic Sourcing: hotel, venues, airfare, transportation
- Procurement Process: standardized contracts and service agreements management
- Corporate Meetings Calendar: communication, tracking locations and participants/groups within the company
- Business process: rules for approvals, workflows
- Meetings and Attendee Management: attendee registration, travel and housing expenses, PNRs (passenger name records)
- Reconciliation of Expenses: assign specific event costs to specific budget codes
- Measure and Evaluate
In 2015, being procurement driven is necessary for large groups on one condition: SMMP needs to be transitioned into a P&L management, where events become an enterprise within the company that delivers a (great) product. There is no shame to productize events. Isn’t Apple providing great brand emotions? Doesn’t Nike deliver great experiences with products? Can’t people be happy about processed food (not the best example, I know)?
Again, my point is that productizing is okay as long the quality is there. SMMP is not the evil side; it just has to be balanced with what makes an event a success: the content, the interaction, the emotion, the experience. This has a cost, generally leading to success and then to ROI.
Meeting ROI sounds as boring as SMMP. Yes, but…
Unless the ROI definition doesn’t just mean cost optimization, process carved in stone. It means you have designed your event channel with strong goals, and invest a money that is properly managed (thank you SMMP), delivering quality, and customer or attendee satisfaction with a strategy that leads to results, which is being measured separately from classic SMMP KPIs. You are now looking at the bigger picture.
A New Player in SMMP:
The data component: Recently SMMP has transitioned thanks to more integration opportunities within the software (event management software to reporting, budgeting, CRM or marketing automation tools), but one new player is the data layer that goes beyond the SMMP KPIs.
It helps marketers and sales professionals to better perform together, from public profile acquisition to behavioral capture on site. Let’s dig into those two data aspects:
First, the marketing data (sometimes known as big data) helps companies to better market their event channel: it’s not about buying lists, it’s about buying data on your communities. Helping the marketer to better profile his/her audience, be more relevant to them and extend the reach by adding similar profiles to the existing community.
Second is the BI (business intelligence). As a CMO, you need to qualify leads for your sales organization. What if you could capture all the intel going through your events (who attends what, engages with whom, looks at what) with common sense (and the right tool)? Allowing you to directly update your CRM with a preferred list of prospects according to the sales rep distribution rules?
So at the end, what changed?
Events need a P&L owner that ally with IT or Procurement. The essence of the event and its success doesn’t come from SMMP, it comes from the quality and the user experience, as well as a marketing to sales strategy that is properly designed and executed. However, SMMP is undeniably a great tool to better perform the aspects that have to be controlled within a large group that spend millions in events. The business stakeholder should embrace SMMP as long as they have strong goals on event success.
At the end of the day, it is the best reward for this fantastic industry that will prove even further how the event channel delivers ROI – thanks to human interactions.
Written by: Nicola Rossetti