Meet the Planners
Although technology has long threatened to do away with face-to-face communication, the availability of video and phone conferencing has yet to curb the need for professionals to gather with peers to exchange ideas, introduce new products or share business best practices. Meeting and event planners are the key to making those face-to-face meetings happen, whether in the shape of large industry trade shows, small-scale seminars or even coordinating that technical wonder, the webinar. In fact, according to Corporate Meetings & Incentives magazine, a trade publication targeting the decision makers involved in planning meetings, incentives and conventions, this is a growing market. In 2004, 82 percent of companies included event marketing as part of their overall marketing mix, which is an increase of 6 percent from 2003.
Profiling the Professionals
Meeting and event planners can be outsourced professionals hired to coordinate your association's annual meeting a year in advance, or in-house staff whose task it is to plan everything from the corporation's signature conference to presentations to staff training sessions. And they may not all hold the title of "meeting planner," says Corporate Meetings & Incentives' group publisher Melissa Fromento. "For example, at Pfizer, there may be multiple people involved in planning meetings, from the VP of sales, to the HR director, to a training director," she says. List brokerage and management company Edith Roman Associates manages the lists for a number of VNU Business Media events industry publications such as Successful Meetings. "More of the subscribers to these publications are actually in-house people who are taking care of that [event planning] for a particular company," points out John LoGiudice, senior list manager at Edith Roman. "Or for a smaller company, it could be the owner who also takes care of that."
LoGiudice places the spending power of event planners in the B-to-B world at more than $500 billion. This money is applied to a host of needs. Michelle Glicksman, editor-in-chief of Event Solutions magazine, a trade publication catering to the special events industry, points out that caterers, venues, audio visual equipment, lighting, linens, chairs, entertainment, tents, take-aways and transportation are just some of the products and services that meeting and event planning professionals source. Hotel accommodations and travel expenses also are a top priority. Other requirements may include arranging and compensating guest speakers, and designing and printing collateral information, says LoGiudice.
One marketer has carved a niche with a software application designed to help manage enterprise conferencing and events. Joe Hnilo, vice president of marketing for Mountain View, Calif.-based enterprise conferencing and event management solutions provider ViewCentral, describes, "Our product manages all of the administrative tasks that need to take place before an event can be conducted." The company's application handles tasks such as publishing the availability of the event, doing e-mail blasts promoting the event and accepting registrations. Once the event is over, the application helps event managers understand who registered, who attended (or didn't attend), as well as track what other events these individuals have attended.
Get to the Point
Key to reaching these busy folks is understanding that they are always on the go and often on deadline. And, with so many elements to juggle, this audience is appreciative of communication that's to the point and spells out a clear solution to their needs. LoGiudice says, "They're really looking for a particular company or person who can help with a complete avenue," such as handling their travel needs or venue requirements. He suggests a multichannel approach as the best way to get your message across to this market, whether via print ads, direct mail, e-mail or telemarketing.
ViewCentral deploys a combination of e-mail, webinars and direct mail. Recently, the company found success with a direct response promotion using self-mailers. Hnilo's decision to go with this approach stemmed from the deluge of e-mails he and his colleagues receive on a daily basis—and then inevitably delete. Meanwhile, the amount of physical mail reaching his desk has dwindled. "The physical stuff that I did get tended to have a longer shelf life on my desk," says Hnilo. The company's first half of the year promotion was a three-part campaign featuring three mailers, each of which addressed a key area of concern to its customers: event attendance, better time and resource management, and ensuring event content is on the mark with the target audience. Each self-mailer featured an arresting graphic on the front cover—such as an uncomfortable, empty chair, boldly targeting the issue of attendance—with pay-off copy inside. "We try to be very iconic, very pithy," describes Hnilo. "It's been effective for us, in terms of our first half of the year promotion, with good response rates."
He also recommends offering valuable information instead of contests or giveaways to draw in this market. ViewCentral's solution has been to send its customers a call-to-action in the form of a booklet: "The Five Costliest Mistakes in Event Marketing and How to Avoid Them." He concludes, "Make sure you're delivering some kind of business intelligence that's going to help your recipient perform his or her job more effectively."
AAA Events Planners & Services: 322,453 events planners and services. Price: $60/M; $120 unlimited usage. Call: Hugo Dunhill Mailing Lists Inc./AAA Lists, (888) 222-4618.
Accepted Meeting Planners Masterfile: 15,800 executives responsible for planning and scheduling seminars, exhibits, trade shows and conventions. Price: $55/M. Call: Market Street Lists, Inc./Addresses Across America, (603) 772-6666.
Convention and Meeting Planners: 36,296 executives responsible for making arrangements for offsite meetings and conferences. Price: $85/M. Call: W.S. Ponton Inc., (800) 628-7806.
Successful Meetings Subscribers: 72,050 subscribers to a publication for top executives involved in planning meetings worldwide. Price: $120/M. Call: Edith Roman Associates, (800) 223-2194.
Event Planners & Convention Database: A database of 323,987 event and convention planners. Price: $75/M. Call: Willow Lane Direct Results, (800) 233-6451.
Events Planners: 87,567 individuals who plan all types of events. Price: $60/M. Call: Fred Woolf List Co., (914) 694-4466.
Corporate Meetings & Incentives: 32,288 recipients of a publication for corporations, travel agencies, seminar/meeting planning companies, tour arranger/travel service contractors and incentive program packagers. Price: $140/M; SCF, ZIP, state, run charges, $150/M; SIC, $155/M; key coding, $143/M. Call: Walter Karl, (845) 620-0700.