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Strategy vs. Tactics for Third Parties

Posted on May 21, 2007

By Elizabeth Zielinski, CMP, CMM

We often hear that the path to success in the meetings industry, particularly for third parties, is to become more strategic.  There are courses, certifications, books, degree programs, etc – all focused on “strategy” as the great white hope for planners that want to ensure they will have work beyond the next blip of the economy.  Is the future really that dire for the coffee cup-counters out there?

First, let me point out that there is nothing wrong with aspiring to be a tactical planner – in spite of what much of the available industry documentation would have us believe.  I know many people who love and are successful at their work because they are so good at making events happen smoothly and professionally.  They don’t have aspirations to occupy the CEO’s office one day, and they are already acknowledged – even rewarded – for their skills as a tactical planner.  And, it’s fair to wonder how any event will come to pass if everyone is looking at the bigger strategic picture and not paying the closest attention to organizing and planning.

Many third parties have found an effective niche by selling tactical planning services to teams that want to focus on business strategies.  And yet, there is definitely cause for concern for those who choose to remain tactical in their focus.  Simply stated, it’s proving your value to your client.

My recommendation to those of you who prefer being tactical is to understand why you are good at those tactics, and then know how being good affects your client’s bottom line.  Why did you count those coffee cups?  Certainly, it was because you didn’t want your client to pay for something that wasn’t used.  Translate that to actual dollars, apply the same method to the many other things you do well with their meetings, and then tally up the money your client saved by utilizing such a talented “cup counter”.  Negotiating solid room rates by itself will likely amount to thousands of dollars, and many times a client has never calculated the actual business cost of non-negotiated rates.

Whether you realize it or not, when you do this one thing you have been strategic about your tactics.  And although strategy can go much further, it can also be as simple as I just described.


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