Why doesn't a law firm use guerilla marketing tactics at the next convention of the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC)? Or any of the 48 ACC chapters in the US and abroad? We all know the ACC annual convention is going to be in Boston on October 18-21.
Here's what a group of entrepreneurs did in New Orleans:
Hospitality entrepreneurs take convention recruitment into their own hands
By Jaquetta White, The Times-Picayune
Monday January 12, 2009
Last week was the series of mysterious e-mails. On Sunday came the costumed roller-bladers. Tomorrow there is the party at a local nightclub.
These episodes and events are the work of a small group of business owners who are working outside the auspices of the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau to recruit conventions to the city. They have organized a reception for Tuesday evening at which they hope to entice 3,000 members of the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) to steer millions of dollars in business to New Orleans.
"We all got together and said 'We all have to get involved. We have to do something,'" said Thea Pagel, an event planner and one of four people coordinating the guerilla marketing effort. "This is a big event. We wanted to participate."
The PCMA consists of meeting planners and executives who together book $40 billion in convention business every year. Seventy percent of the membership is in New Orleans this week for the group's annual event, which the local visitors bureau refers to as the Super Bowl of meetings for its potential to draw future convention business to the city.
The Super Friends, all of whom work in some realm of the hospitality industry, began sending e-mail blasts late last week to PCMA members who they thought might be in town. The foursome has sent out more than 5,000 e-mails daily since Thursday, each emblazoned with a cartoon drawing of a superhero. The initial e-mail was vague, but subsequent missives grew progressively more detailed.
"We wanted to get their attention," said Pagel, who owns Thea Pagel Productions, an event planning company. "It's like a comic book, and we're slowly unfolding the story we have to tell."
On Sunday, the Big Easy Rollergirls dressed up as superheroes and met the conventioneers as they prepared to enter a private reception at Blaine Kern Studios. The costumed skaters handed them flyers promoting Tuesday's private reception, which will take place on the same evening -- but at a later time -- than a dinner for the conventioneers at the Louisiana Superdome hosted by the visitors bureau.
"It's grassroots and guerilla marketing," Pagel said. "We're entrepreneurs by day, but we've taken on this crazy project."
"There are a lot of people who work very hard to bring conventions to the city. But this is a story we wanted to tell," Pagel said. "We're entrepreneurs, and we've all been in the hospitality industry for a long time."
Mary Beth Romig, a spokeswoman for the visitors bureau, said her organization did not know about the plans until the e-mails began appearing last week.
Tonight's reception will introduce PCMA members to representatives from a handful of local organizations, including the Downtown Development District, the Canal Street Medical Corridor and the LSU Health Sciences Center, each of which offered some small financial support to pay the cost of hosting the event.
"It fit in with what we want to do. We want to brand downtown as innovative and creative," said Valerie Robinson, director of marketing and special projects for the development district. The Super Friends campaign is "creative and innovative and everything you want people to think about downtown."
Pagel said those institutions were selected because they portray a side of New Orleans that might go unnoticed by conventioneers. The group wanted to illustrate that the city functions outside the hospitality industry.
"The people here know our culture. They know the layout of the city. They know our restaurants," Pagel said. "But I don't think they know the vision of where we're going and how we're going to be a better and smarter city."