Dr. Elliott B. Jaffa


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Earlier this year I awarded the "Trendys" for the direct mail pieces received for Destinations Showcase. The Trendys will now be awarded for this year's HSMAI's Affordable Meetings. To refresh your memory, the statuette is made out of cheap plastic and called the "Elliott" because it's my awards show. Trendys are given out based on how creatively or poorly a destination or property does to motivate registrants to stop by its booth or solicit a future meeting.

Unfortunately most exhibitors still believe it's the door prize or free gift that is the motivator. Some day they will wake up and realize four things they are doing need major surgery. First, design a more effective direct mail piece... one that works to get a registrant to consider a meeting at its destination or property. Two, devise a more creative city blitz than the dog and pony show luncheon. Third, train staff in relationship marketing rather than the cold call that begins, "Do you plan on having any meetings in...?" and "Can I send you some of our literature?" like anyone is actually going to save it. Fourth, provide staff with trade show training rather than arming them with useless advertising specialties to give away. As a creative marketing consultant, I'll cover these topics in Part II, but now the envelopes please!

I received a total of 145 direct mail pieces to this year's Affordable Meetings held in Baltimore. In this internet-paced world of doing business, only 58% listed a web site address, and many were in a miniscule type size. Twenty-two sites offered a brief stay without air, but two included air fare.

Now for the awards; the envelopes please.

Best mail piece: Tuscon - a colorful can containing a folding cube which included its web site address, toll free phone number, and colorful scenic photos.
Most postage: Tuscon - $2.31 followed by a distant 77 for the sunglasses from the Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza.
Most popular door prize offered: 9 Palm Pilots. Is this an inference that meeting planners are disorganized?
Most relaxing offer: a massage from Rockford, IL.
Coolest prize: a scooter from the St. Paul.
Most majestic scenery: Vail Valley's scenes of mountains, blue skies, evergreens, and wildflowers.
Best post expo party: St Paul (Planet Hollywood) and Las Vegas (ESPNZone)
Tastiest: Memphis (ribs from the Rendezvous), Greater New Haven and Coastal Fairfield County (lobsters), Long Island (clambake), and Kansas City (steaks).
Cheesiest looking mailer: Radisson Orlando
Coolest wearable: Harley-Davidson leather jacket from York County, PA.
Best marketing: Annapolis and Anne Arundel County with five colorful photos along with its web site and phone number on the front.
My personable favorite wearable: San Diego's infamous trademark giveaway of shorts.
Ugliest mailer: Baton Rouge, LA - state capitol and Billings, MT - mug shots of Lewis and Clark.
Most decadent: $100 and Godiva chocolates from Reading and Berks County, PA
Most sensuous for men and intimidating for women: Dallas' Farmers Branch photo of a woman with very sultry lips and bedroom eyes.
Cutest kid: Joey the golfer - Prospect Heights CVB
Fastest telephone follow-up: Hawk's Cay - 4 days later.
Fastest mail follow-up: Toledo - 7 days later.
Last to arrive: Hacienda Hotel-Old Town San Diego - 12 days after the event followed by Lehigh Valley, PA and Snowmass Village at Aspen which also arrived after the event.
Bad timing award: Holiday Inn on Key in Toronto whose mail piece began, "Hello Spring Time in the Park Attendee."

Next week I talk about what exhibitors continually to do wrong and what they could do to get more bang for the buck.

Anyone who is on any of the meetings industry mailing lists is cognizant that some destinations are significantly much more adept than others in creativity, writing dynamic copy, stating attention-getting benefits up front, using color; all to entice a meeting planner to stop by its booth and share some information. I will address four major areas that most destinations need to improve.

The Direct Mail Piece.
Who designs these mailers anyway and how much thought actually goes into its design? Lose the PR or communications firm and think "aggressive marketing." Identify your objective. What do you want the reader to do? Visit your booth? Provide you with meeting information? Visit your web site? Request more information?

You have about two seconds; what message do you want to convey to the reader? Lead with your ace, your strongest benefit. Bloomington does it with the Mall of America; Annapolis & Anne Arundel County do it with a sailboat, steamed crabs, and water; and Denver and Orlando do it with photos of its major attractions. Consider the use of color. Be bold. Mauve and teal remain the hot colors. The word "free" works wonders whether used with free gift, free trip, or better yet, try the phrase, "Free Money!" which gets everyone's attention.

Your destination is not for everyone. Go after your best vertical market segments. If you're a second or third tiered city, go for the smaller meeting, board meeting, or retreat. If you're a family destination, market it as such in that more groups are encouraging the whole family to come along. If you're a golf destination, show your prettiest green.

The City Blitz.
Many destinations and CVBs follow up with potential clients by coming to Washington and other major markets with their dog and pony show luncheon. Each property hands out its materials and is given a few minutes to showcase its fine points. And of course, door prizes. If you've ever sat through one of these - usually boring - presentations, you've probably thought to yourself, "A small price to pay for a free lunch."

CVBs often ask me, "Are there other more creative ways to showcase our destination?" I often recommend education. Attack the personal "greed" factor of the people you want to attend and offer a half-day of some form of personal development. For example, a seminar entitled, "How To Better Market Your Annual Meeting," "The Competitive Edge: Critical Skills to Your Organization's Excellence and Your Own Survival," or "How To Work Smarter,Not Harder" will attract the person with possibly more decision-making authority such as the executive director and the meeting planner. They are committing three hours for personal training and improvement of themselves and their organization.

With an educational program, you now have a captive audience. Hang your posters on the wall behind the presenter so you have your audience looking at them for three hours. Open with a welcoming that highlights your destination. Consult with your educational presenter to "work in" subtle "infomercials" throughout the presentation. Close with a thank you for attending along with even more information. Few people are going to walk out.

Consider your savings and the return on your investment. No need to spring for lunch. Rent the hotel room for the day with a morning and afternoon educational session. You serve coffee, fruit, and danish in the morning and cookies and soft drinks in the afternoon.

Relationship Marketing.
After the trade show, the phone rings with those follow up calls soliciting your business: "Are you planning any upcoming meetings in Timbuktu?" When will destinations and properties first learn how to establish a relationship with the meeting planner? If you're an upscale property, then discuss whether a particular (i.e. board meeting) meeting lends itself to high-end luxury. If you're a destination that can offer numerous hotels in the under $100 a day price range, then open with that carrot.

We tend to do business with people we like. How do you get a potential client to like you? Establish a relationship. Discuss what specifically will make that decision-maker look good to the membership and to the boss. For example, if you find out that the executive director is a fanatic golfer and you've got a premier golf course nearby, then you have a better chance at a sale. If you can get a feel for the membership and discover that they like to party, shop, or soak up culture, then push your nightlife, outlet shopping, or museums, respectively.

Most vendors lack chutzpa (the Yiddish word for guts, nerve) to ask, "What will it take for you to bring a meeting to us?" or "What will it take for us to do business with one another?" You immediately cut to the chase and discover if you 're talking to a viable potential client or simply spinning your wheels.

Trade Show Training
Walk the floor of any trade show and you will hear, "How are you today?" "Would you like to register to win a free trip?" or "Do you ever get to Timbuktu?" Who trains these people? No one! Open with aces: major attractions, low cost housing, first class luxury and pampering, culture, shopping. Get the picture. Say something that will pique the person's attention, "Do your members like to eat?" "Would your members like a free continental breakfast each morning?" "Would your boss look good to your membership if you booked a meeting in a location with some of the lowest airfares anywhere?" Get the picture?

Years ago I had a client who was a first timer at a large trade show. He asked what he should give away at his booth. I said. "Absolutely nothing, and I guarantee I will have everybody at the show visit your booth." He asked what I was going to do. I said, "Rent a baby elephant." He said the president would never approve it. I said, "Ask him." The next morning at 9:00 am the phone rang and the director of marketing said, "The president said to rent the elephant." I rented a baby elephant that was four feet tall so even the shortest person was looking down at him. And true to my word everybody stopped by to see the elephant. The best news was that the elephant did not go to the bathroom the whole day.

Dr. Elliott B. Jaffa
(703) 931-0040