DMCs – Where Next?

DMCs – Where Next?

The evolution of the DMC – local expert or strategic creative partner?

“The typical DMC model is broken.” Or so believes one successful DMC founder and owner. At a recent events industry executive summit, he argued that DMCs now need to offer live marketing and digital skills alongside traditional services such as logistics and destination expertise to add more value for the end client.

That sounds a lot like the services that most event agencies offer. Which was kind of his point – that DMCs should evolve into event agencies, albeit at a local level. Not to compete with international agencies, but so they can be elevated to a more strategic level and gain insight into the client’s overall objectives.

It’s an interesting point of view, and one that is likely to divide opinions among both DMCs and agencies. But you can understand why he feels DMCs have no choice but to evolve.

One of the key challenges faced by many DMCs is that they are not where they should be in the perceived value chain, which can make it difficult to justify their fees. A report this time last year by American Express Global Business Travel certainly seemed to back this up. Its 2017 Meetings and Events Report forecast that that event planners could cut their use of DMCs due to budget constraints, suggesting that their services are viewed as an optional extra and not essential.

Despite this, most agencies report they have used DMCs as much in 2017 as previous years. Budgets will always be tight, but that doesn’t mean DMCs are needed any less. It’s impossible for agencies to have intimate knowledge of every single destination we pitch and deliver events in – particularly with new destinations emerging all the time.

Having a good DMC can be invaluable. At proposal stage, it can mean the difference between winning and losing a pitch, and further down the line at event delivery stage, the right DMC can help elevate a good event into an unforgettable event.

As a small agency, we have found that we rely on DMCs even more than before, we push them and forge a genuine partnership philosophy – we need them and do not take their worth for granted. But finding a good DMC is getting harder, there seems to be as many ’boutique’ DMCs out there now as there are agencies; many bigger groups have either broken up or stakeholders have left to start up their own. We want to give these smaller DMCs a chance, but when we have, we have found they can often be actually less detailed, less focussed and less tailored than we’d hoped and unfortunately, we have been let down on several occasions. So it appears that the larger DMCs might have a point with their ‘evolve and stay relevant’ strategies.

That we need DMCs to provide unrivalled expertise of the local destination goes without saying. We also need DMCs to be nimble, creative and to provide a personal and tailored approach to the briefs we give them. But do we really need them to provide digital and marketing skills as well?

As more and more events are now ‘mixed’, not being just a conference or an incentive; even product launches will often include destination specific experiences, so it is all about providing authentic and personalised programmes.  This is where a DMC’s intimate knowledge will become increasingly important, rather than diluting their offerings and spreading themselves even thinner on the ground trying to cover off even more services. Most agencies have the live marketing and digital expertise already, but what we don’t have is the knowledge and contacts to tailor an event in a way that only a local expert can, using connections within the very fabric of that destination.

Having digital skills and an understanding of live marketing certainly won’t do DMCs any harm. It could give them the edge over their competitors and a better understanding of how to align the destination with the client’s brand and bring it alive in a way that supports their business objectives. But many DMCs need to focus on getting the core services right first, and proving their value, before they can earn a seat at the strategic table.