Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio November
BY ELLIOTT MASIE
SOLICITING ATTENDEES ONLINE
The process of marketing an event over the Internet
continues to evolve
The hotel contracts are signed for the big event. The program is
being developed. Now comes the marketing push. Should you replicate
last year's plan, sending out tens of thousands of brochures and a
fax blast to potential attendees? Or can you rely on the power of
the Internet and e-commerce to fill seats and rooms?
E-marketing is the use of e-mail, Web sites and electronic
newsletters to attract attendees. It involves new tools and some
new rules. And it works. Seventy-two percent of the 2,500 who
attended a meeting we produced this fall were there as a result of
our e-marketing efforts. We printed fewer brochures, took fewer
phone calls and had dramatically lower cancellation and no-show
rates. We shrank the marketing budget by 30 percent, even as the
size of the event grew by 40 percent.
The e-marketing of a meeting is becoming easier now that
attendees are more comfortable and experienced with buying goods
and services through the Internet. Attendees are starting to value
online marketing information and transactions in their personal
lives, so e-marketing a meeting is easier to implement. Here are
some tools and strategies to keep in an e-marketing tool kit.
E-mail, but no spam. The term "spam," coined by
the culture of the Internet to refer to digital mass mailings, is
unattractive for a reason: People take their e-mail inboxes very
personally. The challenge for the marketer is to be invited into
the e-mail inboxes of prospective attendees. For the pitch to work,
you must get permission to send the e-mail.
One association sends a 100-word e-mail to members and asks if
they would like to receive updates about the next annual
convention. The association gets permission from these people to
send the biweekly e-mails.
Once invited in, lead with content rather than a marketing
pitch. We send a short e-mail with a free article from a keynote
speaker. At the bottom is a one-line marketing offer, with a link
to the meeting's Web site.
E-newsletters. Launching an e-newsletter with
the same name as your event can extend your brand identity, and it
creates an ongoing digital relationship with potential attendees.
The publication can be as simple as a 300-word e-mail containing a
few short news items and content of interest to the audience.
Invite visitors to your Web site to subscribe to the free
newsletter, then take the opportunity to add a short promotional
pitch at the end of each edition. As the event gets closer, the
e-newsletter can help boost earlier registration and build
excitement about the event.
Our "TechLearn Trends" e-newsletter was started this way. It has
30,000 weekly readers and costs about $3,000 a year to produce.
Web sites with drill-down content. Web sites
can be effective e-marketing tools if you make a commitment to fill
them with content and value. Our meeting site is loaded with
hundreds of articles and presentations from previous events. We
include the names of organizations registered for the upcoming
event, and we have 500 percent more information than a brochure
could hold. Our goal is to keep people coming back to the event Web
site to see what is new. We use the site as a way to close the
circle with attendees and readers by providing an e-mail link and a
way to subscribe to the newsletter online. The Web site does not
have to be flashy. Just load it up with information and value.
E-marketing is a young field, still marked by experimentation
and innovation. Learn from your own reactions as organizations
pitch you to buy products and services online. E-marketing is all
about reaching out and digitally touching the members, customers
and prospects in your world.
ELLIOTT MASIE is president of the Saratoga Springs,
N.Y.-based Masie Center (www.masie.com), an international think
tank focused on learning and technology.
Back to Current Issue indexM&C
| Events Calendar
| Incentive News
| Meetings Market
| CVB Links
| Reader Survey
| Hot Dates
| Contact M&C