BE IN THE KNOW

October 01 2012

Are You Turning Off Your Attendees with Telemarketing?

By David McMillin, Staff Writer

As meeting marketers work to pique the interest of prospective attendees, many organizations are using an approach that includes every channel possible. From direct mail to email marketing to social media, audience prospects receive messages everywhere they turn.

However, there is one route to your audience that you may want to avoid: automated telemarketing. According to the Federal Trade Commission, consumers are more frustrated than ever with this promotional ploy. In late 2010, the FTC logged around 65,000 robo-call complaints. Earlier this year, those complaints soared to 212,000.

If robo-calls are still part of your meeting marketing plan, here are three key areas to consider.

Attendees vs. Consumers

While educating prospects about the potential benefits of your meeting may seem different than traditional telemarketing, you must be sensitive to protecting your brand. If you know your audiences are annoyed by robo-calls from credit card services, a similar style of message about an upcoming meeting may damage your organization's credibility.

"Meeting marketing requires elevating your prospect audience to a position above that of a traditional everyday consumer," Carolyn Clark, vice president, marketing and communications, PCMA, says. "They need to feel that they will receive customized benefits if they attend your meeting, and that feeling starts well before they arrive on-site."

Conversations vs. One-Sided Sales Pitches

Reaching all of your prospects can seem overwhelming. As some meeting marketers look at databases with tens of thousands of contact numbers, connecting with all of them individually may seem impossible, but that doesn't mean that a generic message will produce the desired results.

"Rather than leaving the same broadcast message for thousands of prospective attendees, meeting marketers should consider dedicating resources to a live phone campaign for select segments," Clark says. "First, make sure to focus on your most loyal attendees. Show them you appreciate all their past support with a concierge-style approach to communications."

That approach is all about having a meaningful conversation. From expressing your gratitude to offering help with planning their travel, a live phone campaign will make them feel exactly how they want to: special. 

Outside of your die-hard loyalists, who represents the future of your organization? Are you aiming to increase retention from last year's first-time attendees? What can you do to engage new members who have never attended? Based on past survey results, does a certain portion of your audience seem particularly at-risk?

Create talking points for your staff to answer key questions that these audience members may ask. Your live phone campaign is a unique opportunity to deliver answers and personalized benefits.

Meeting Marketing vs. Association Member Marketing

Your annual meeting may be your biggest source of revenue, but it's important to remember the 365-day relationship you have with your members. You still need to work to maintain loyalties from those who choose not to attend your big gathering, and that reality should play a big role in determining how to deliver your messages.

"It's tempting to have an anything-goes mentality when it comes to increasing your registration numbers," Clark says. "However, you must recognize that the meeting is only one piece of an organization's annual plan for success."

Is There a Right Time for Robo-calls?

Despite the potential issues that can arise from robo-calls, the marketing technique can still work. It all depends on who's talking.

"If you have a voice that your prospects will immediately recognize at the beginning of a message, that automated call can capture their attention," Clark says.

Whether it's your CEO or a celebrity who supports your organization, you'll need to arm that voice with a simple and succinct script.

"The key is brevity," Clark adds. "Keep it concise, and make sure those first few words are enough to keep them listening for the next 25 seconds."

If you are searching for ways to update your meeting marketing strategy, be sure to read our tips on social media and email personalization.

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