Carlson Mktg.'s Peter Moen Moves Mtgs. Model Forward
One year after Carlson Wagonlit Travel and sister company Carlson Marketing Group introduced a procurement-based meetings management and consolidation model to the corporate meetings market, both the meetings and travel agency industries have changed dramatically. Peter Moen, recently promoted to vice president of business development at CMG and head of the initiative, last month spoke with Meetings Today editor Chris Davis about the program's growth and development.
Meetings Today: How has the procurement-based meetings management initiative progressed in the past year?
Peter Moen: It's gone very well. We have access to many more people focused on a broader procurement scope beyond corporate travel. There's leveraging opportunity in all travel spend now, due, in part, to Sept. 11. There's been less meeting spending, so budgets have come down, which has made getting your arms around that spending more doable. Companies are using the Internet more, and the Web is geared to these kinds of solutions both on the corporate side and on the group side.
MT: Have there been any changes in the relationship between CWT and CMG, along with the change in your position?
Moen: The relationship is similar to what it was. The solution is similar, there is the same technology and integration between the two companies. Basically, CWT handles group air and CMG handles meeting fulfillment and procurement.
MT: Where have you found interest for this type of solution?
Moen: We're finding it in existing CWT and CMG clients who are looking at their total spending. It doesn't seem like clients of one are coming in more than the other. These are companies that are looking at more enterprise solutions, instead of looking for a bid for one meeting. From the CMG perspective, these are clients that are looking for meeting procurement and air fulfillment solutions, in addition to normal event bids. We are still fielding normal meeting bids, but the number of bids have increased. Corporate travel clients have enterprise solutions, and now they are looking for those with their group spending.
MT: What were your goals for attracting clients to this solution and have you met them?
Moen: We certainly have met them, and it's been stepped up since Sept. 11. It's still, in large part, due to the economy. These customers have talked about opportunities regarding leveraging and procurement before, but now they know they have to go to another level with savings and Web solutions, due to pressure from senior management.
There are several measures we use to measure the effectiveness of the initiative, including the number of clients, the level of participation in the program, how many are registered with the Web tool, how many transactions are completed online and how many meetings are booked online.
MT: What technology solutions have customers sought, and are you still working with GetThere DirectMeetings as part of this program?
Moen: Some clients are looking for attendee registration solutions, others are looking for a full online procurement solution, and there are many stages in between. The relationship with GetThere DirectMeetings is the same as it was: We utilize their product as the back end of MeetingsLogic—Carlson's online meeting data consolidation tool—and pay them a transaction fee.
MT: Have your clients expressed interest in merging meetings and travel spend?
Moen: That's being done by customers who want an easy way to meet all their needs. Procurement departments want to leverage their total spend through good data traditionally only available on the corporate travel side, and they want to better leverage their suppliers and their own people.
MT: How are companies actually implementing this solution? Are they seeking to consolidate meeting spending companywide, just one department or another method?
Moen: The process is usually enterprisewide but not necessarily all elements of the meeting solution. For example, a client might want to make sure the site selection process is structured in a way to leverage spend first. That's a common approach. Another might be to get group air done first. Companies don't usually do the whole thing just with one department, then one division, and so on.
MT: Has there been any reluctance by your clients to make any large-scale decisions about their meeting programs, given the economic uncertainty and the recent spate of meeting cancellations?
Moen: Some have been careful with any initiatives because of the uncertainty. But others have gone faster. And nobody has said that because of Sept. 11, they are not going to focus on meetings procurement.
MT: Since the debut of this initiative, there have been significant changes in the industry, specifically the acquisition of McGettigan by Maritz and of McCord by WorldTravel BTI. What effect has this had?
Moen: It validates that these types of solutions are what customers want. It's a sign of the times. You have to be in this position, and those that want to be in this position must react accordingly.
MT: How do you see these types of procurement solutions developing in the near future?
Moen: It will be easier and easier to offer these integrated solutions to corporations because we'll have access to better data around total spending. People want global tools and databases, and this will be a continuing trend. Companies are global, meetings are global, spending is global and companies will want to leverage that spending around the globe.