Dr. Elliott B. Jaffa

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Destinations... So Many Destinations

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Last week I awarded the Trendys for Destinations Showcase, Washington direct mail pieces. As promised, let's look at how a cross section of 25 destinations responded to the $64,000 question, "What are the two best reasons to hold a meeting in...?"

No 50-50, no poll the audience, no phone a friend. I talked to first and second tier destinations from both coasts, middle America, the deep South; destinations with beaches, mountains, and even those landlocked. The responses of this small yet representative 12% sample yielded some good news and some bad news.

First the good news. CVB representatives were enthusiastic and proud of where they live and work. They were excellent ambassadors for their destinations and value your business no matter how large or small your meeting may be. They projected themselves as extremely customer service oriented and zealous about working with you to best meet your group's needs. Affordability and a specific activity or attraction were the top two responses to my question followed distantly by location and hospitality.

Now for the bad news. Where did these people get their trade show training? Few knew how to "sell" their destination. Although they smiled and were approachable, few had a strong opening or "sound bite." The pros stood out. A few examples of what I observed: Joe Zion of Cleveland - one of the hardest working guys in the business - was simultaneously working two planners, giving each equal eye contact and attention. Little Ms. Dynamite, Julie Dodds of Anchorage was asking key questions and spouting off benefits while putting together a packet of materials in the few minutes she had with each planner. Lenay Gore of Washington, DC and her crew literally had a waiting line and were aggressively collecting information and promising follow up.

Unfortunately with only minutes to qualify a potential customer, "Have you ever been to...?" or "How are you today?" are not the questions to ask. Exhibitors failed to pique a planner's curiosity by working their destination's best asset into their opening question. For example, since so many destinations mentioned affordability, why wouldn't they ask, "Would your members appreciate staying at quality hotels for under x dollars a night?" or "How many of your members would personally thank you for holding a meeting at x overlooking the beautiful beach and ocean?"

If I were writing a prescription for destinations to fill before Destinations Showcase, New York, Chicago, and Europe, my Rx would be: think like your customer not like a salesperson. Be cognizant of the fact that these people are continuously cold-called and direct mailed. Become more entrepreneurial and creative to cultivate the business you want to bring to your destination.




Dr. Elliott B. Jaffa
(703) 931-0040
ejaffa@mindspring.com