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Meeting Planner Direct Mail Promotions Gone Wrong

In the last month alone I have received three different mailings from meetings industry suppliers.  The problem is: I am not a meeting planner and have no business for their facilities and services!

It saddened me to see how these marketers are wasting precious resources to get business that doesn't even exist. They would have been better off giving the money to charity because it sure didn't do them or their brand any good!  In an effort to educate, and yes, perhaps shame a little, I decided to post these pieces for everyone to see.

The Scottsdale CVB:

This one came as a slick, nice-quality, four-panel self-mailer.  Not sure how much the postage was to mail from the U.S. to Canada, but I would estimate this piece to have cost anywhere from $2.00-$4.00 per piece, depending on quantities printed, plus postage.

I am unclear on how I ended up on their mailing list, but I am guessing it's because I was on the list of attendees at a show in the last couple of years -- IncentiveWorks perhaps, or even the Ignite Business Expo.  But I don't recall stopping by their boot to let them know I had business for them, since I was too busy to staff my own booth or the MPI booth.

So how could this mailing have been made better? Making sure I have business I can bring to them is the obvious answer, but personalization is another matter.  If you're going to go to that extent, it's cheap enough to have the person's name printed in the piece nowadays, why not go to that extent?  At least they targeted the copy to a Canadian audience, making a point that Scottsdale has very little rain in the fall, and daytime highs are near 26 degrees Celsius.

But even if I COULD take a group to Scottsdale, without a relationship from a rep, a follow-up call, an attempt to court my business, why would I reach out to them?

Maui Jim:

This direct mail was a bit better targeted to my needs, because while I don't have a group that could go South, I am in a position to buy gifts for my employees.  Not sure about sunglasses, but I could consider it.

This piece offered compelling reasons for the product ("quality, stylish looks everyone wants"). It had the right tone and spoke to me ("You've got enough on your plate, so let us help you out.").

But I am not likely to act on the piece because they talk about booking my next corporate event

This large company could have saved itself some dough if only they had pre-qualified their list! 

Speaker Bureau:

This last promotion was a heart-breaker!  So close, yet so... pointless.  Now I know this to be a small business, and this came from the company's President, so I could not show you this without blocking out the names (contrary to the above promotions, which came from larger organizations whose marketing experts should have known better). 

This package came by courier (in a local courier company plastic envelope, which was then placed in a UPS envelope... not sure what that was all about but I'm suspecting the sender thought we were located in the Greater Toronto Area, and we are not).  

It contained a personalized, hand-written note!  AND very yummy chocolates.

The note read:

"Dear Doreen,

It would be an honour to work with you and your team to source world-class speakers for your upcoming events!  (Nice intro, makes it all about me.  Again, too bad I don't hire "world-class speakers" -- which sound expensive -- for our Christmas party, or training).

After 27 years, our international reach and sterling reputation "speaks" for itself!" (Cute way to let me know they're experienced, but it's about the seller, not about the prospect... How about adding, "Could we have a conversation?" or something to let me know they want to engage me, not just fatten me up with sweets?)

It was signed, "Respectfully, Carol."  But I don't know Carol, and she has made no attempt to contact me since her unexpected, and likely very expensive gift (courier, time to hand-write the note, package the gourmet chocolates... what $15-$20??).

I'm sure there are many more examples of promotions like this out there.  In a previous post, meeting planner Cara Tracy, CMP, CMM, makes a very eloquent point of the importance of accurate lists.  And even if your list has up-to-date data the lesson here is to make sure contacts have potential for you before you mail to them!

Gratitude Post #4: To The Canadian Meetings Community

Throughout the month of October we have been expressing thanks to the clients, the employees and the partners who have made Greenfield Services what it is today.

In this last "gratitude post" we wish to acknowledge the meetings community for supporting us over the last 15 years.

Having just completed the data gathering phase for the MPI Canadian Economic Impact Study, we know intimately how much this community truly wants to help.

It was a long, tough survey to complete for the 659 meeting planners and the 312 venues who participated in the study.  Greenfield sent close to 200,000 emails and made almost 20,000 phone calls for this project, over a three-month period.  But we couldn't have done it without the great support of meeting professionals who championed this cause, including:

  • Canadian Tourism Commission: Michele Saran & Michel Dubreuil
  • Caesars Windsor: Shelley Williams
  • CanSPEP & ISES: Carol Ford
  • Coast Hotels: Cindy Quach
  • Destination Halifax: Hélène Moberg
  • Destination St. John's: Krista Cameron
  • Edmonton Tourism: Brent Beattie
  • Fairmont Hotels & Resorts: Mark Sergot & Jeff Doane
  • IHG Canada: Angela Xavier & Swati Ettrick
  • M&IT Magazine: Sonja Chilcott
  • Marriott Hotels (Canada): Scott Alison & Lorie Blackwell
  • Meetings & Conventions Calgary: Peter Gregus
  • Ottawa Tourism: Noel Buckley & Glenn Duncan
  • PCMA Canada East Chapter: Heidi Welker & Bev Hill
  • Regina Hotel Association: Tracy Fahlman
  • Starwood Hotels & Resorts: Catherine McAuley
  • Stronco Group of Companies: Ralph Strachan
  • Travel Alberta: Brian Slot
  • Tourism Fredericton: Wendy Bradley
  • Tourism Moncton: Louise D'Amours
  • Tourism Saskatoon: Todd Brandt
  • Tourism Toronto: Tara Gordon & Julie Holmen
  • Tourism Vancouver: Dave Gazley
  • Tourism Winnipeg: Chantal Sturk-Nadeau & Maria Cefalis
  • Tourisme Montréal: Michel Bourdon & Anne-Claude Michellod
  • Vancouver Convention Centre: Claire Smith & Chris Gowe
  • Vancouver Hotel Destination Association: Russ Cowan

To the MPI Foundation Canada leadership team, especially Project Chairwoman, Rita Plaskett, and Director of Development, Ron Guitar -- thank you for entrusting us with this important work for the Canadian meetings industry.

Finally to our research consortium partners: Rachel Cameron & Amanda Chan at Maritz Research, Scott Meis at the CTHRC, and Greg Hermus at The Conference Board of Canada.  It's been a slice, thanks for including us in this landmark research project!


Gratitude Post #3: To Our Partners

Throughout our 15 years of business at Greenfield Services, we have been blessed with wonderful relationships with partners, who have helped us achieve the level of success that we now enjoy.  

For some people these "partners" would in fact be vendors or suppliers. But we don't see them that way. They are caring individuals, working for caring organizations, who truly have given us not only great service, but also great advice and support. As part of our Gratitude Series, we recognize:

- Betty and Jim Healey, of RoadSIGNS:  We  have enjoyed the coaching and strategic input of this husband and wife team since 2006.  Through them we have learned so much about the Law of Attraction, being clear with our intentions, and being positive in our language.  In the last two years especially, Jim and Betty have enhanced our company's productivity by making us aware of how we interact with one another as well as with our clients, through conscious communications and the Lumina assessments.  Earlier this year, RoadSIGNS also became a client of Greenfield's, as we helped them develop a new website and enhance their online presence through SEO and social media.

- Mitchell Beer, CMP, CMM, of Smarter Shift.  Mitchell and I were colleagues through the MPI Ottawa Chapter and collaborated on the MPI Foundation Canada's first economic impact study of the meetings and business events industry in 2007. But our partnership with Mitchell really started to take form about two years ago, when we began our own foray into content marketing.  Mitchell has helped us with writing and editing numerous posts for both this blog, as well as the Membership Engagement blog, working with my colleague Meagan Rockett.  He also helped us analyze and document the last two annual installment of Greenfield's Pulse Report for Associations.  Mitchell's insightful writing on content marketing, membership-based organizations and the meetings industry has made him an invaluable partner to our online success.

- Colleen Francis of Engage Selling Solutions:  Colleen is a third partner we have been working with for several years now.  As a public speaker, trainer and coach on all things related to sales, she has helped us focus on our sales funnel.  Her views on client engagement and the sales vortex also helped us devise our approach to lead nurturing.  We enjoy her weekly e-enewsletters, her webinars and even her monthly coaching calls when she often kicks our butts!

- Martine McPherson, graphic artist:  Martine is a talented graphic artist, and we are so thankful that she chose to move her family back to her native Glengarry so she could design for us!  Well she didn't really leave Toronto just for us, but she makes us feel like she's always there for us, whether it's for a last minute magazine ad that we forgot to have designed, or for a nice new layout for our Pulse Report. 

- Sherryll Sobie-Cooke, Pixels & Prose: a newer partner for us, Sherryll is another great writer who has helped us with client newsletters and our new, soon-to-be unveiled website.  She shares our vision of working with people to make a difference, and not just make a buck.

- Pardot: I know Jeff Chabot, our Web and E-marketing Programmer, would be upset if I did not mention the support team at Pardot, the Marketing Automation software platform we use at Greenfield services.  We work closely with them to manage several instances, both for our own marketing and for clients.  (And they put on an amazing annual user conference where Jeff gets to display his break-dancing skills -- for real!).

To each and everyone of you, from all of us at Greenfield Services, thank you for being there for us. It's been great doing business with you!

Gratitude Post #2: To the Greenfield Team

This is the second post in our series to celebrate Thanksgiving.  We now call this our "Gratitudes Day" or "Grati-Tuesday" post.  (We're still debating which name is best... You can read our first installment here).

In general in our work life, I find that too seldom do we take the time to express our thanks to those who make a difference.  So Heinz and I wish to recognize our employees for the difference they make for our clients and their fellow teammates, each and every day.

This post is for:

- Lorna, our longest-serving Business Development Specialist, who has been with us for 11 years!  Not only is she a skilled relationship-builder on the phone, she helps us find new team members whenever we need to hire.  We affectionately refer to her as "The Godmother of Alexandria." (And the reason behind this might be the topic of another future post...);

- Meagan, our Director of Client Solutions, who started with us 8 years ago, and climbed her way from Client Care Specialist to Team Leader, Project Manager, Director of Project Operations... As she's preparing to take over the world, we're happy she's on OUR team!

- Pamela, our Business Development Specialist, who is also known to her friends and teammates as as Miss Sunshine.  Aside from generating leads, she is also our Law of Attraction expert, always quick to remind us that our words can attract or detract -- so why not attract positivity?

- Tanya and Stacey, our Team Leads Extraordinaires, who have risen to the occasion in taking over the the project management reins.  They still work those phone lines and communicate with clients over email, and take care of our scheduling, staff coaching and client reporting.  They have been maximizing their respective strengths and complementing one another to make projects tick, on time and to our clients' expectations.

- Kiwi, our Quality Assurance Coordinator, who works remotely in Oshawa and is an integral part of our team as if she was right there with us, every day.  She also has taken on more responsibilities this past year, continuing to keep us error-free and helping us get client projects organized and onboarded.

- Jeff, our Web and E-Marketing Programmer, who can not only code, but also decode geek-speak for the rest of the non-technical (normal) world.  He gives great presentations too, always the master of puns and quick with the repartee...

- Gwynydd, our Social Media Coordinator and Business Development Specialist, who is delightfully analytical and thorough with anything she takes on.  A great writer and engaging tweeter, she keeps us straight by asking the right questions.

- Frank, our part-time IT Guru, who swoops in a couple of times per week to keep our network clocking, and our systems computing the way they should.

- Amy, our Client Care Specialist and Quality Assurance back-up, who sweetly but stealthily can convince any hard-core business executive they really ought to help us out and take that survey.

- Jennifer, our Client Care Specialist, who is a dedicated collaborator, always graciously recognizing her teammates and reliably making human-to-human connections.

- And Candace, our newest team addition and Client Care Specialist, who unknowingly was an inspiration for this whole gratitude idea to begin with.

We truly appreciate your dedication and look forward to earning your trust and loyalty.

Meetings Industry Suppliers: Are Site Selection & 3rd Party Planners Friends or Foes?

A few months ago Greenfield Services held its Meeting Industry Supplier Summit during the Canada Meet in Toronto.  A highly contentious issue brought forward by the Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) and hotel representatives who attended was the frustration with what they perceive as the "infiltration" of site selection and 3rd-party planning professionals in the relationship between the destination or host venue and the organizing entity.

All CVBs reported having some site selection professionals come to their city on familiarization trips, which were paid for by the CVB, only to see them go directly to the hotels with their Request for Proposals (RFP) – thereby “cutting out” the CVB who could then not “get credit” for the room-nights generated.

Some supplier professionals complained that some of these 3rd-party planners come on fams to "troll for business,” soliciting business from other meeting organizers.  Others voiced the concerns that 3rd-parties cut into hotels’ margins and driving up prices, without adding value.

Sales reps also complained about 3rd-party planners sending out dozens of RFPs, through online systems, to widely different types of destinations, and hotel types.  They felt site selection companies should do a better job of assessing what calibre of hotels and what rate range their client is willing to pay.

Much talk also took place about the “hurry up and wait” syndrome, where very tight deadlines are met for the RFP, but answers don’t come for weeks or the site selection rep stops communicating altogether. 

Finally a handful of Suppliers also complained about 3rd-party planners expecting way too many perks or concessions in the negotiation process.  One hotelier put it this way, “Why does the site inspection have to be in peak season when the program is in shoulder season – thought part of the site visit is to ‘see what the end user will see/experience’? And why ask for complimentary spa services or free golf when the program includes neither?”

Before you start thinking that this is just a “dump on 3rd-party planners” column, please read on.

I actually think the proliferation of intermediaries in the meetings industry is due to the fact hotels and CVBs too often have done a poor job of maintaining relationships.  And I believe hotel revenue managers have way too much power at many hotels; they just look at yields, and not at the relationship with meeting planners.

One site selection professional I spoke with told me about seeing her role as an "advocate" for her clients.  She related the example of one meeting where the organizer inadvertently had forgotten to account for some VIPs arriving earlier than the block reservation, and how the sales manager said she was unable to convince the hotel's revenue manager from charging almost twice the rate just because they were arriving one night earlier. The organizer could not get the hotel to budge until the site selection company stepped in.

From my experience, there are site selection professionals and 3rd party planners who abuse their status. They go on familiarization trips and never book anything, or they hit up hotels for perks they shouldn't be asking for. But there are just as many who are highly ethical, masterful at servicing and keeping in touch with their clients. Many seem to have more time to do so because often hotel and CVB sales managers are forced into too much administration work, endless meetings, and travel!

Ultimately, I see this as another case of suppliers and planners needing to elevate the conversation.   Hotel sales managers and CVB reps perhaps could use a reality check on the value they provide and the strengths of their relationships with clients. On the other hand 3rd-party planners and the companies they work for should take action against the unethical behaviour of some of their reps because they are giving everyone in that field a bad name.

There seems to be so much pent up emotion about this issue, with sales representatives afraid of speaking out for fear of repercussion.  Even site selection professionals who have witnessed unethical behavior by their peers seem reluctant to bring light to the issue.

Honesty and clarity are needed here, on both sides.  I urge you to have more and better conversations on this subject!

This article by Doreen Ashton Wagner was originally published in the October 2013 issue of Meeting Professionals International (MPI) Ottawa Chapter Communiqué Newsletter

October is Gratitude Month at Greenfield

Every morning just before we all get on with the numerous tasks at hand, the Greenfield Services team gathers for a quick stand-up meeting.  We provide project statistics, information on upcoming projects, and the like.  We end this meeting with each person's Positive Focus when we each report a pleasant outcome or "win" from the day before. This helps us focus our minds on positive situations, so that we begin our day feeling happy and confident.
Canadian Thanksgiving is later this month of course, but this year we wanted to get a head start. On this first day of October we challenged our team to elevate their Positive Focus to a statement of gratitude.  From experience we know that expressions of appreciation are uttered only rarely in business.  Yet a practice of gratitude is a simple way to nourish our spirit at work.

So for you, dear readers, we will be publishing a Gratitude Post each of the five Tuesdays this month.

To start us things off, we are grateful for our Clients!  Greenfield's driving passion and purpose is to "help our clients, our employees and our community GROW and prosper."  And clearly without customers who trust us and allow us to do what we do for them, we wouldn't even be writing this post.

To name all our cherished clients over the years would make this too long, so we'll keep this to our two largest customers for now: our largest association client, the Certified Management Accountants of Ontario and our our largest hospitality/meetings industry client, Fairmont Raffles Hotels International.  We thank you, from the bottom of our collective heart, for partnering with us and allowing us to use our capabilities and our  creativity to help you get to where you need to be.

We truly appreciate your vote of confidence.    

Wanted: Professional Speakers and Exhibitors for #MPICEIS

Did you exhibit at a tradeshow or speak at a business event in Canada in 2012?  If so, your contribution to the economy must be counted and Meeting Professionals International (MPI) is looking for you!

Earlier this summer Meeting Professionals International (MPI) Foundation Canada and its partners announced the launch of the third edition of the Canadian Economic Impact Study of the meetings and events industry (CEIS 3.0).

This research will quantify the number and economic impact of business events that took place in Canada in 2012.

Anyone who spoke at or exhibited at a Canadian event in 2012, is invited to participate in a 10-minute online survey.  Respondents need not be a member of MPI.  Meeting planners, exhibitors, delegates and Canadian meeting and event venues are also being surveyed in this exhaustive study. 

The survey link for speakers and exhibitors to participate in this study is

It is recommended that respondents have information on hand for expenses relating to at least one 2012 event. To view a PDF of the questionnaire, click here.  The survey closes October 11.

The MPI Foundation awarded this landmark research project earlier this year to the consortium headed by Maritz Canada, along with The Conference Board of Canada, the Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council and Greenfield Services Inc.

This is an important endeavour that will enable the Canadian meetings industry to articulate its value to governments, investors and other stakeholders, and help advocate for a favourable business environment.

Should you have any questions regarding this study, please contact Greenfield’s Chief Strategist, Doreen Ashton Wagner.