MediaGrowth Blog

Pivoting to Dramatic Changes in Events

Roberta Muller, SVP, Product Development, Northstar Travel Group

In a recent MediaGrowth Excellorator interview, Roberta Muller shared how Northstar, with 60% of its revenue coming from events, pivoted to recover from the effects of the pandemic and ended 2022 with a 30% year-over-year increase in revenue. Here is some of what she said worked in 2022. In our next MediaGrowth Perspectives email we’ll recount some of what she sees for 2023.

During the pandemic, Northstar’s Retail Travel, Meetings, Travel Technology, Corporate Travel, and Hotel Investment brands began to cross collaborate, rather than operate within silos. Working horizontally allowed the organization to source ideas. The teams began looking for “the success stories that could be leveraged and rolled out elsewhere in an effort to be prepared when the market opened back up and was ready to surge.”

“We stayed close to our customers and our Studio90 team provided marketing solutions including custom research, perception studies, and discovery quizzes that down-sizing clients could not do on their own. Video services increased and custom content went through the roof,” said Roberta. Custom content teams wrote on customer topics and then sales-wrapped distribution packages around them that often included social media, onsite/offsite targeting, email, newsletters, mobile, etc.

Package margins were watched closely and regularly. If margins looked low, packages were reconfigured, or products were discussed for being shelved. Teams asked; Was there too much product in the package? Was it too burdensome for the operations or order processing team to handle? Was greater efficiency possible?

Thinking about events today, there is more pressure on face-to-face versus virtual. Depending on the industry, f2f could still be lagging. The event bar has been set much higher: individuals comfortable working at home, targeting audience is more challenging, expected higher-level experiences – learning components, quality networking, top-notch speakers, venue attractions – more value for their dollar. At the same time, event costs were up due to inflation, and in some industries, sponsors wanted to participate, but may not have been able to invest due to corporate constraints.

Still, Northstar’s surveys showed that meeting planners were sourcing and booking meetings. Cruising was coming back. Destination venues wanted to revitalize customer reservations. Client feedback seemed bullish and generally in a good mood. Roberta said, “We launched four new events in 2022. The Meetings Group US and UK teams worked on a London event for the Sports Travel Industry. Business Travel News launched a successful event for Advancing Traveler Health. We also had two virtual events in Singapore successfully switched back to in-person. Six hundred and fifty participants were delighted to be together at a Hotel Investment Conference in Singapore, and six hundred for our WIT Conference. We created an event for emerging leaders in the meetings industry modeled off the retail travel business group. “

“While we were mindful of yield, we are always committed to working with our partners to recover as well,” said Roberta “The travel industry is resilient. We survived SARS and 911, and through great leadership successfully navigated through the pandemic. We’ve been working to get ahead of what’s next in 2023.” In our next MediaGrowth Perspectives email we’ll recount some of what Roberta sees for 2023.



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