When meeting and convention planners think about
where to hold events, spots like Orlando and New Orleans spring
to mind, instead of Connecticut.
"We're not on the radar screen of a lot of meeting planners,"
admits Coastal Fairfield County Convention & Visitor Bureau
Executive Director Steve Paganelli. "It's an important focus for
us to stand out from the crowd, many of whom have far greater
resources than we do."
"The best way wasn't the traditional way," explains Sales &
Marketing Director Susan Henrique. "The market is inundated with
pieces of direct [postal] mail. If you flip through the
planners' magazines, there's one ad after another. Unless you
have something very catchy, they don't pay attention to it."
Henrique and Paganelli regularly met with their then-ad agency
Genova & Partners in Greenwich to toss around ideas for cutting
through the clutter.
Paganelli wanted a campaign that would really put Fairfield
County on the meeting-planning map. "I wanted feedback of a
'Wow' nature, I wanted to really make an impact."
Henrique wanted a piece of marketing collateral that she could
use to support sales, so that when reps called, prospects would
remember the piece and be more open to chatting on the phone. CAMPAIGN
The team decided to try something completely
Forget brochures, mailed letters, and space ads, it was time to
test an email campaign. Given how cluttered email in-boxes
are these days, they went one step further. Instead of a same-
old, same-old email, they decided to send prospects an e-
The e-commercial, developed with the help of interactive agency
Frognet.com, was a 30-second Flash presentation. (Link to sample
"We didn't want it to be so long that we'd lose people," says
Henrique who knows her prospects' attention spans are short.
First all three teams (the Bureau, their traditional agency, and
the interactive agency) got together to storyboard out the e-
commercial. "It was a very structured process," notes Henrique.
"Each point was based on things a planner will specifically look
for when deciding on a prospective destination. We tried hard to
hit on all of that. Our close proximity to New York and the
casinos, the fact that we are coastal, activities available for
free time, etc."
Although it is possible to send a streamed Flash commercial
directly via email, the team decided to send a simple HTML
"postcard"-style email instead, featuring a large button to click
to see the "movie" ("movie" being a sexier word to use in this
context than "commercial").
Frognet.com's Doug Kneeland explains, "We only recommend
streaming Flash directly if you are sending to small-medium-sized
businesses. Larger companies tend to operate aggressive
firewalls that stop it."
He adds, "I wouldn't do it at the consumer level, it's just too
slow. I was looking at one on my home connection at 24k and it
took maybe 30-seconds to download. They don't have the patience
for that. But, when you access this on a regular office
connection, such as DSL or above, it plays almost immediately.
It takes maybe 5-6 seconds download time before it begins to
The good news is that download time is not affected by the length
of your e-commercial. "It begins playing as soon as an initial
portion of the content loads and the data keeps loading in the
background as you're watching it."
That does not mean people who start watching your e-commercial
will sit there patiently for a long presentation though;
especially in a business situation where phones, email, co-
workers and other factors interrupt their concentration.
To make sure as many people as possible watch all the way to the
end where your call to action is, limit yourself from 20-seconds
to two minutes depending on your relationship with the audience
(Are they fascinated techies who've already bought from you? Are
they fairly cold prospects?) and how compelling they will find the
Kneeland strongly recommends that you plant markers through the
e-commercial so you know what percent of viewers actually sat
through the whole thing, and at what point the others tended to
bail on you. That way you can optimize the campaign going
Henrique was so excited by the idea of sending an e-commercial
that she poured the entirety of her remaining marketing budget
for the year into it. She had the campaign sent to 500 prospects
who had previously agreed that the Bureau could email them.
Initial results were encouraging, but the date the campaign
launched was Sept 10th, 2001, and you know what happened next.
"We pretty much let that one go," says Henrique. "We didn't go
back until January."
She decided to get the most return for her investment by using
the e-commercial as a follow-up message to send to prospects
after she or one of her team met them at various meeting planning
tradeshows in 2002.
Paganelli says it is tough to figure out just when is the best time
to send a follow-up message after you meet someone at a show.
"We've struggled and debated that internally. Do you send it
right away to show them you're on top of things, or wait a week
The golden moment is when your prospect has had enough time to
plough through the stuff that is piled up on their desk since they
were gone, but they have not been inundated with follow-ups from
your competitors yet.
Henrique's team never send the post-show message in bulk,
instead each is sent from an individual to an individual. The
sales rep types a short personal note in the white space above
the postcard saying something like, "Sue, it was great to meet
you at the VBC show, here's a little e-movie about Fairfield
County. Please tell me how you like it."
Henrique and her team are careful to follow-up within 24 hours
after they send this email to prospects. You do not have seven
business days to follow-up. Leads go cold much faster these
Although Frognet.com's email tracking service can show the rep
exactly who clicked, who watched the movie, who forwarded it to
friends, etc., the team are careful never to let prospects know
Henrique says, "We certainly don't want to appear like Big
Brother is watching; we don't let on. It allows us to speak more
intelligently to them though. If they forwarded it to a number
of friends in their office, it shows us they are obviously
impressed by what we had done so we know we can dig a little
deeper into their feelings about the commercial. It allows us to
go into more of a sales pitch."
However, the team does not start with a sales pitch. Instead they
use the e-commercial as a conversation-opener, asking prospects
how they liked it. If the answer is positive, the conversation
may segue into a pitch from that point in a natural way.
"Many prospects say this was probably the best email
marketing they've come upon," says Henrique. "The planner is
more likely now to pick up the phone and take our call. We have
better luck with telephone follow-ups."
The first email campaign sent on September 10th 2001 had a 60%
open rate and 15% click-to-view rate. This is an entirely
respectable response to a B2B campaign sent to a prospect list.
However, when the sales team used the email as a follow-up to
trade show prospects throughout 2002, the numbers have been very
different. On average:
50% or higher open rate
90% or higher of opens click through
70% or higher of clicks view entire 30-second e-commercial
Kneeland explains these almost outrageously high figures, "People
can't resist the temptation to view movie content. It's a
dangling candy for someone. Straight-forward HTML doesn't have
the same allure. People want to see how entertaining the result
of clicking that link is going to be."
The danger, of course, is if it is not both entertaining and also
makes your offer sound worth buying, you will lose people after
that initial click.
He notes, "Click rates tend to be very audience specific. If you
have a previous relationship 30-60% of opens may click, if you
are broadcasting a business solicitation to strangers, only 10-
20% of opens may click."
Henrique says she has learned that just because someone watched
your e-commercial does not mean they will remember it for very long.
"Many times when our sales manager has called and asked if they
opened the movie, they'll say, 'oh I didn't see it'. Then we'll
talk them back through the past couple of days and it turns out
they did open it and look at it, but it was completely out of
their mind by the time we called."
Fast follow-up is critical, and if you get voice mail instead
of a person when you call, Henrique advises that you use it to
remind the prospect about the e-commercial so it is top of mind
when you do at last get through.
Sample of postcard and e-commercial:
Coastal Fairfield County Convention & Visitor Bureau