Planning an RFP for your corporate travel programme? Get to know the players before the big game.
Finding the best travel management company (TMC) for your business can seem like a challenge.
Getting the right outcome is crucial for managing your second-largest controllable expense and looking after your employees when they travel. Which is why it is surprising that there is still a large number of companies who invite TMCs to a business travel RFP without having built a prior relationship or having knowledge of their solutions, service and products.
Whether this is the result of a lack of preparation or simply a way of ‘making up the numbers’ is unclear. What is clear, is that the investment in time and effort involved in conducting (and participating in) an RFP warrants a more strategic approach.
Researching and engaging with travel management companies shouldn’t start the day you go out to tender. There are many ways to improve your knowledge of the TMC sector, including:
Meet them - Ideally, you should meet every TMC you are inviting to bid over the previous 18 months, both at your offices and theirs.
Attend business travel exhibitions and conferences - There are a rich array of industry organisations and events where you can meet and network with travel management professionals (and upskill yourself at the same time). Here are a few examples:
- The Business Travel Show (BTS) – held in London in February each year, this event offers a prime opportunity to meet with TMCs. You can pre-arrange appointments; it’s neutral ground and there are numerous additional benefits to attending, including a comprehensive conference programme. Next event: 20th/21st February 2019
- The Business Travel Conference (TBTC) – another London-based event which operates on a more intimate scale than the BTS. It also offers qualified buyers an opportunity to meet with TMCs and industry experts as well as taking advantage of an excellent programme of speakers and workshops. Next event: 17th/18st September 2019
- Institute of Travel Management (ITM) – as well as offering members a wealth of resources, the ITM runs numerous events throughout the year in key locations throughout the UK. The largest of these is the annual ITM Conference. Again, the event offers an extremely diverse educational programme as well as networking opportunities. Next event: 30th April/1st May 2019 If you are planning on going out to tender, the TMC Showcase held towards the end of the year is an ideal forum to hear from potential travel management companies. Next event: 28th October 2019
Read the business travel press - As well as industry associations, there are websites and publications where you can research TMCs. The Business Travel Magazine and Buying Business Travel are just two such resources.
Subscriptions and social media - A great way to get to know a TMC without the pressure of a sales situation is to subscribe to their newsletter or magazine, and to follow them on social media.
LinkedIn and Twitter are the prime B2B channels where you can gather knowledge, not only about products and services, but also in relation to their culture, their vision and their approach to travel management.
Should could also consider staging a pre-RFP open day to update prospective TMCs on what you are looking for, so they can learn about you.
Want to find out more? Download our comprehensive step-by-step guide to choosing a travel management company.