Showcase B.C. creative showed planner burnout

Client: Showcase B.C.Product: Convention and meeting facilitiesAgency: Go Direct MarketingRather than talk to meeting planners about the variety and extent of British Columbia's convention facilities, Vancouver-based Go Direct Marketing decided to take an entirely different approach.In a recent campaign for Showcase...

Client: Showcase B.C.

Product: Convention and meeting facilities

Agency: Go Direct Marketing

Rather than talk to meeting planners about the variety and extent of British Columbia’s convention facilities, Vancouver-based Go Direct Marketing decided to take an entirely different approach.

In a recent campaign for Showcase B.C., a consortium of the province’s major meeting and convention facilities, agency President Virginia Greene says ‘we wanted to talk more about them and what they were looking for, than about us.’

She says the agency took its strategic and creative direction from an article in Successful Meetings that talked about meeting planner burnout.

‘This is not a glamorous job,’ Greene says. ‘Each of these meetings is worth millions of dollars, and they have a lot of pressure to make intelligent decisions on behalf of their membership.

The company decided to put together a series of posters that would depict the life of a meeting planner.

Illustrator Russ Willms drew a meeting planner juggling balls on horseback, wearing a hat rack, and, finally, reclining on a bed of roses.

The posters, sent one at a time over the course of four months, were accompanied by a letter that said ‘We know you’re busy and we want to be helpful,’ together with a business reply card requesting more information.

Greene says the posters were sent to 6,000 meeting planners worldwide and generated a response rate of slightly more than 20%.


As well, she says the consortium partners booked $3 million in business in the near future, a windfall when most meetings are booked up to five years in advance.

Q. Why was this piece successful? What made it work?

A. It worked because it went to the right people. It had frequency of communication.

And also because it was easy to respond.

You didn’t have to do anything except send this card back. We had organized everything. We did all the work.

Q. On what level were you trying to generate a response?

A. You’d have to say that we were going after share of heart on the response side because we knew that the business decision was going to be made once they got all the data.

Q. What qualities do successful direct mail pieces have in common?

A. They are sent to the right people, that is, qualified people. They have a personalized letter.

A lot of stuff in our industry doesn’t have a personalized letter, and it leaves me to wonder ‘Why did you send it to me?’

And, finally, they have a simple response mechanism that tells me what I’m supposed to do and when I’m supposed to do it.

Q. How important is personalizing the letter?

A. It’s a given.

A lot of people view it as an additional cost. But we have measured and tracked response rates when you include a personalized letter, and they are always better.

Q. Do you favor long or short letters?

A. Short letters.

I have seen them tested and in focus groups. And I know from experience, people do not have time to read a lot of copy.

There are certain things that are going to be difficult to sell in a single letter and usually they require a second step in the sales cycle anyway.

If you are just trying to get me to respond, focus your effort on that and don’t tell me your world history.

Then give me a follow up package that fully explains the offer. I always prefer frequency to length.

Q. How important to the success of the direct mail piece is knowing your prospects?

A. It’s 80%. If you don’t have the right group of people, it would not make any difference how good the piece is.

To use our medium to qualify the market is to use it as a broadcast medium. That’s what flyers are all about.

Q. People are bombarded with direct mail offers every day. How do you make yours stand out from the rest?

A. It has to do with talking to the right people, with knowing what’s in it for them, and answering that question right up top.

If you tell me right off the top what’s in it for me, and compel me to believe that, then I will take some action on it.

Q. Is there a hierarchy of objectives, creatively?

A. We start always with a briefing document that says who is the market, what motivates them and what are we trying to get them to do.

I like to think about the standard package being an envelope, a letter, a sales brochure and a response mechanism.

I’m a lot less interested in the envelope than a lot of people.

We tested a lot of our clients’ customers, and people do not like to see sales messages on the outside of envelopes. It immediately tells them it’s what they call ‘junk mail.’

Most of our clients are talking to their existing customer, and research has shown us the corporate identity of the client is enough.

Q. How hard should you press for a response in a direct mail offer?

A. We are really not as concerned about the response rate as we are with the return on investment.

Basically, we try to assess what our clients earn off a program, and then determine how long to continue doing it based on what it’s generating in sales or leads.

Q. Do you see direct mail as a support for mass media advertising or as a stand-alone medium?

A. For many of our clients, it is completely stand-alone. But like all media, they work better when they are layered in together.

There are some direct mail campaigns where you want to use the confidentiality of the medium and you don’t want the competition to know what you are offering.

Q. How are the rules changing in direct mail? What are you doing in creative today that you might not have done two years ago?

A. It’s always a challenge to be bright and fresh in front of a jaded consumer. That’s a challenge we face in marketing generally.

The most interesting things that are happening are on the database side, where it’s not visible to the eye.

That’s where all our time and effort is going, trying to understand the behavior of the market.

Q. If you look at the winners of this year’s RSVP Awards, what trends do you see creatively?

A. I thought the winners looked like what we’d seen before, really.

I didn’t really feel I saw anything that said we were using the database as well as we could. I’d really like to see more segmentation.