An education association planner in need of a Washington-area site for two-day staff retreat turned to ConventionPlanit.com’s RFP Valet to streamline her search.
First, her RFP was reviewed by David Markham, cofounder of ConventionPlanit.com, a commission-free search directory. He followed up by e-mail with a few questions, then sent the planner a list of ConventionPlanit.com members that fit her needs.
After she narrowed the search, ConventionPlanit.com’s automated system sent her RFP to the three properties she had chosen. Information was also faxed to each, and each property was reminded that if it didn’t reply to the planner within a day, a ConventionPlanit.com representative would call to find out if the property planned to bid on the business.
“Our team follows up with the member hotel or convention and visitors bureau to make sure they have seen the RFP and to find out if they are going to respond,” said Markham.
That follow up is one of the most appreciated aspects of RFP Valet.
Barry Zidel is president of Meeting Connections, a meeting-planning firm in Delray Beach, Fla. His six-person firm plans meetings for small to medium multi-international firms. He and his staff often use RFP Valet.
“If I was to do this on my own, I’d be blowing a gasket with people not getting back with me,” he said. “As an independent planning company working not only domestically but worldwide, you take all the help you can get.
System’s akin to adding staff
“To me, it (RFP Valet) is like having a few other people working for me,” said Zidel. “The immediacy is really important to me and this company.”
Markham uses a parking valet as an analogy for RFP Valet. Instead of a car “meeting planners drop their RFP off with us,” he said. “We put buyers and sellers together, but we don’t wedge ourselves between the buyer and seller.”
The automated system allows an RFP to be sent to as many of the website’s members as desired. One planner, in search of a site for an annual meeting, sent RFPs to nine cities and got 166 proposals, which were easily narrowed to several strong contenders.
Hotels, conference centers, convention and visitors bureaus and other suppliers pay an annual membership. There are no commissions or hidden fees.
The service also ensures that third-party meeting planners who use the service retain the commissions they earn from hotels and other meeting venues.
About one-third of the meeting planners who use ConventionPlanit.com research the website’s members themselves using its search tools, and follow up with meeting venues themselves. Many say they use ConventionPlanit.com because unlike similar services, it does not require registration.
ConventionPlanit.com continues to add to its membership, and although many of its early members were in first-tier cities, venues in smaller cities are also getting on board, especially through the membership of major chain hotels.
The majority of the 45,000 meeting planners who receive ConventionPlanit.com’s emails work for national corporations and associations. About 10 percent plan meetings for the SMERF markets.