A New Currency for DMO Relationship Capital (Part One)

How many times have you heard during the course of your career that the tourism and meetings industries are built on personal relationships?

As DMOs the core of our business development strategy was to build relationship capital for our destination: find qualified client-opportunities, tell our story, build trusted relationships and then monetize those relationships into business transactions for our destination partners. DMO folklore stories of barroom deals sketched out on cocktail napkins are legendary. We made our client pitches. We drank. We ate. We golfed. We assembled partnerships. Repeat as needed. We got the deal done. All in an effort to build enough trusted relationships to secure business transactions.

Some of that has changed…with the advent of transparency policies and corporate purchasing compliance regulations, the likelihood of using that relationship capital to carve out a deal over a tequila shot or a spa appointment is exponentially lower. The other part that has changed is that neither clients nor our destination partners are exclusively dependent on DMO relationship capital to cultivate transaction-producing relationships for themselves. The marketplace has figured out how to go direct and build their own relationship capital.

So then…what’s the new currency for DMO relationship capital?

One possible answer can be found in Wednesday’s Apple-IBM new partnership announcement. In a nutshell, the new partnership is about creating industry-specific Apple iOS apps for IBM’s enterprise clientele to leverage IBM’s big-data capabilities…in effect making Apple’s iOS devices the platform of first resort for enterprise big-data analytics. Of course, Apple will sell a boatload of iOS devices and IBM will introduce new iOS big-data consulting services. Apple, in effect, is using IBM’s corporate relationship capital to access enterprise level opportunities (which Apple currently lacks), expanding its consumer-focused iOS footprint into the enterprise space. That flushing sound you just heard was Blackberry leaving the building.

The irony of the deal is that these new partners were once the fiercest of competitors in the battle for personal computer supremacy…and now neither of these pioneer brands have personal computers as a major business line (today only Apple sells personal computers, representing less than 10% of its total revenue). Instead they chose to use their brand equity and relationship capital to redefine their core business when the personal computer marketplace became over-crowded and less profitable. Are you listening Dell?

And they are doing it again here with Apple entering the enterprise space and IBM providing new big data services in the exploding mobile space.

Which brings us back to the value of DMO relationship capital in the world of Destination Marketing 3.0.  As has been shared in this blogspace, with the destination sales channel now overcrowded, DMOs need to pursue new high value opportunities that benefit BOTH their marketplace clients and their destination partners.

Here’s what DMOs can learn from the Apple-IBM partnership approach: find a partner with complementary competencies that allow the DMO to leverage its established relationship capital to establish a new offering in an uncontested, high-value space.

So the challenge for DMO leaders is, just as it was for Apple and IBM leaders then and now, what could that new reality look like?

“Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.” – Mark Twain

I’ll share further thoughts next week from the DMAI conference in Las Vegas but in the interim I would love to hear yours.

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