3 Ways to Make Meetings Marketing Relevant with 1 Bad Example

This article was originally published on Meeting Focus Blog.

For years, I’ve been fascinated¹ by photos and copy in print and electronic marketing; by the photos used by hotels, DMOs (aka CVBs) and other industry vendors on their websites and in marketing pieces; by the copy in emails received to market a service or facility. One received recently took me by surprise more than most, so much so that I posted the copy on social media and said it had made me howl with laughter.

Before sharing and dissecting the language in what I received, here are the first two of three things that keep the industry the same in its practice, because these items do nothing to show a difference between facilities and they don’t help customers buy what is being sold.

1. Room set and meeting room photos: Facilities of all kinds – hotels, conference centers, convention centers, restaurants, other ‘off-site’ meeting spaces – post photos of some of their larger or largest rooms, so buyers can see how a meeting might look. For years, I’ve railed against the ‘standard’ (and boring) room sets – straight theatre or classroom, crescent rounds in straight rows – and find little changes or if there are, no one is showing it through marketing. This is what is shown in photos: A large room, with a small stage and too-small screens only at the front. The look is cavernous! Think of how hotels could change how their space is viewed and contribute to changing perceptions of how people can meet with different photos and illustrations! Using Dr. Paul Radde’s insights and his book² Seating Matters: State of the Art Seating Arrangements,” hotels could transform our industry in reality and in visuals!

2. People in photos: Most of us identify with those who look like us. For years in training about meeting planning, I’ve laughed saying that most hotel brochures and websites show young, gorgeous people, who look nothing like me, around pools and in cocktail lounges. There is sometimes some diversity by using people of color; there is almost never diversity in age, ability (how many people using electric scooters or videos of meetings in hotels where sign language is being used, have you seen?), visual ethnicity, or body type. To attract a diverse clientele, visuals matter.

3. Marketing copy: So now what triggered this blog. The email³ was sent from a company that markets multiple properties of different brands. Here, in its entirety, is the copy:

“No Strings Attached” Offer

  • Zero penalty if group is cancelled at least 60 days prior to the event.
  • 50% of cancellation will be credited to a future group to be held prior to December 31, 2014.
  • Attrition charges waived on consumed groups.
  • Group must be booked by August 31, 2014 and consumed by December 31, 2014.

Does not apply to existing bookings and restrictions apply. 

Let’s dissect:

Bullet 1: “… if the ‘group is cancelled’ …” that means the hotel is canceling the group and they are right: the group would owe nothing. What they meant (I think) was “if the group cancels”. But wait – there are never “penalties” anyway; it’s “damages” the group would pay.

Bullets 2 and 4: I hope they meant 50% of the cancellation fee (which they called a ‘penalty’ in bullet 1) will be credited. If the meetings booked using this offer have to be completed by December 31, 2014, to receive what I think are the promoted benefits and one can cancel within 60 days and the future meeting has to be held by December 31, 2014, … well, this is a “two trains running” word puzzle I can’t solve!

Bullet 2 continued: I think they meant the credit could be for a future meeting by the same group, but it says “future group,” so maybe not.

Bullets 3 and 4: Yep, no attrition on “consumed groups.” Well, I hope not! Once the groups are “consumed” there’s no one left to charge! Sure, “consume” can mean “to use” but most of us think it is to eat or drink. And even so, I’m unsure what the meaning is.

Then there’s the caveat: “restrictions apply.” Those aren’t listed anywhere in the email and are nowhere to be found at the link with more information. And it’s not even “restrictions may apply” it’s that they do. That is not encouraging for me to get more information I can’t find immediately.

If the agencies working with our industry vendors are not paying attention to what the industry is discussing or to changing demographics, shame on them. If the companies purchasing copy and illustrations are not proofing, more shame on them. We’re smarter than that…us buyers…and we want to see what’s best and can be versus what always has been.

Let’s do it! I’m available to consult as are many planners and copywriters I know!

¹ This is the word I use when I am really shocked and appalled. It’s like when my Aunt Rose (of blessed memory) used to say, when she saw a baby that really wasn’t cute, “Now THAT’S a baby!”

² I wrote the foreword for the book because I believe strongly in what Paul has done, is doing, and is encouraging the industry to do. I received no payment nor do I for promoting the book and the concepts or sales of the book.

³ I wrote a nice email back to the company that sent the message stating that perhaps this was written by someone who spoke English as a second language and that the terms and concepts were unfamiliar. And I said that someone still should have proofed it. So far, no response has been received. I’ll update in the comments section as soon as I hear — if I do.

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