Group meetings get consolidated with Knowland

WASHINGTON—Meetings, Incentives, Conventions & Exhibitions/Events (MICE) planners and caterers get their customers the same way other sales people do—with qualified leads. In a move that will consolidate the amount of lead generation, giving hotel staff the upper hand when it comes to getting to know their potential clients better, Knowland entered into an agreement to acquire Meeting Intelligence (formerly known as HIS). The companies are providers of advanced technology solutions for the global travel industry. “We are currently absorbing their operations,” Tim Hart, CEO of Knowland, said of the acquisition.

The company aggregates group activity across markets worldwide. “The way we do that is we have field researchers out in the markets we serve, observing the activities that are happening in hotels for groups and meetings,” said Hart.

Once field researchers gather the information they need on companies, employees, behaviors, etc., they load the information into a database that serves as the content Knowland provides to hotels. Hotel MICE managers and catering companies will, in turn, use the information generated for sales and business leads. “We are helping hotels develop more business at a lead level. That’s the essence of what we’ve been doing,” said Hart.

“What we do is lead generation,” said Hart. “The meeting business is very recurring so various groups and accounts are holding meetings on a regular basis.” For MICE planners, the role of Knowland and its competitors is necessary because they compile collected data and provide it to planners for sales generation. “We give hotels a tool to search and mine data for future business,” he added. “This has been the legacy core capability we’ve offered.”

Knowland packages information so it is easier for users to understand. “We roll up information to an overall performance view. This type of compilation is more typical of performance benchmarks in market,” said Hart. “Now people can see what is happening in a particular market: What are the trends? How does a particular player in the market compare against their competitive set? What share do they have?” he said of the interactive features Knowland offers.

“We call it field research; we essentially crowd-source the data,” said Hart. The feet on the ground take pictures and perform research and then there’s an operation that transcribes the findings into a database. Editors sift through the data and make it more readable. “The way we work is boots on the ground, data collection and cleansing information.”

Knowland derives its information from the leaderboard at a hotel; this gives them all of the information they need to begin the research process. The boots on the ground will go into a hotel, look on the leaderboard, take pictures, go around to the rooms and observe. Hart said the market knows what Knowland and its competitors are doing in collecting the data because that’s how all hotel meeting planners and caterers get their information.

“Historically, there were three companies that encompassed the world that we just bought a piece of,” said Hart. He explained that prior to the acquisition, Knowland stood with New Market and Amadeus, a Madrid-based brand. “This is consolidation on a grand scale,” Hart said of the acquisition. Knowland applies to all of the marketplaces and has a handle on all 140 key marketplaces in existence, according to Hart.

The most significant game changer is the strategic partnership that happens. The data set now combines to be so much bigger, with more value and coverage. It’s an immediate benefit.

“The number one thing is a consolidation of the content. What drives the value of our content is, can we have the most data we can possibly have?” said Hart. “By not having two big players out there doing it and instead have one. They’re embracing us as a strategic partner. We are both getting the best world out of this.”

Hart when on further to say, “Now you can cast the widest net to source business. Then the bigger that dataset is and the more opportunities represented in that data set, the better it is. When we combine our datasets that means everybody has more—more available opportunity to win business.”

Hart compared the acquisition to an analogy, saying, “Can you fish in a pond of potential business that has 7,000 past accounts or more than a million possible accounts?” Hart said he would rather fish in a pond with more accounts as many other business lead generators would.

“It really represents the visibility to the business that is out there. If you can make it bigger you can make it better,” he said.

Additionally, according to Knowland staff, in this move, Amadeus will partner with Knowland to use its meeting intelligence product. This will enable Amadeus’ Delphi sales and catering customers to tap into the most extensive groups and meetings intelligence available to enhance group business.

For catering systems, selling and booking group rooms and space is essential. The acquisition gives these catering systems a way to manage the pipeline of opportunities to manage group business. “It’s how the group and meetings economy works at a hotel level. We help them figure out what is a good business to go after,” Hart said.

Knowland can also help planners with the mechanics of booking a meeting because it’s complex, according to Hart. “I mean you’re going to have 500 people in attendance. Is there going to be catering? Will there be group rooms? What size room? Do you need it cleaned? This is what it takes to actually sell and deliver group meetings. It’s a marketplace and this is how the group meetings economy works,” Hart explained.

“We source data and help them figure out what is the best business to go after. Our world and their world work hand in hand. They take it from there to sell and configure,” Hart said. “It’s what it takes to sell and accrue group business.”

Down the road, Knowland has its sights set on staying the course and developing in the markets it is already used in—while adding a bit more of the international marketplace into the mix when it comes to group meetins. “We invest in gathering data for the key markets we can,” Hart said. “Our biggest footprint is in North America. We are trying. We are investing specifically to cover more of the international marketplace. HB