In the events world, SMERF groups may need extra guidance from the hotel staff. When you think about new projects you’re tasked with at work, if the task is foreign to your job, it can be a challenge to find the right resources as you approach it with caution. It may require extra guidance or someone to “hold your hand” along the way. SMERF is comprised of Social, Military, Education, Religious, and Fraternal groups (think reunions). While they’re all very different, they’re in one category because it’s a vital piece of hotels’ weekend group business. Small in size, the SMERF group’s “planner” is often an individual tasked with coordinating the family or high school reunion in their spare time. Because the designated SMERF coordinator isn’t an event planner by trade, a hotel sales manager needs to nurture the relationship more, guide and provide reassurance. The best hotel marketing strategies to win SMERF group business involve making the client feel comfortable and secure about the outcome of their event. The BEST strategy for hotels and conference centers with personal conference planning managers on-staff is to include this as a feature/amenity in the hotel marketing. A selling point for SMERF groups is having one liaison who will plan the logistics and ensure the event runs smoothly. The SECOND best strategy to win SMERF group business is having an on-site hotel or conference center audio-visual and business technology team. All groups (including those with little or advanced planning experience) are reassured knowing an audio-visual technician will be on-site during a malfunction or to answer general questions. The International Association of Conference Centers recognizes this as a benefit, so all IACC-certified conference centers include personal conference planning managers and on-site audio visual technicians in their complete meeting package rate. Another way to impress a SMERF client is with 24/7 assistance. FLIK Conference Centers has introduced a new technology app for the communication between their clients and the audio-visual team. If lighting or noise level needs to be adjusted in a room, the client can make a call and the change can be made virtually by the technician with an app. SMERF group business continues to be groups that will fill our room blocks on the weekends. Knowing a group’s “hot buttons” and what entices them to book with a hotel over others will help you win the business. This group can be in our own backyard according to Sherry Cummins in this SMERF article; your hotel may be competing with other local venues - make sure you win the business by implementing these tips! Written by Sarah Vining.