Meetings & Travel Online to Use Mailing to Drive Agents, Planners to Web SiteWeb Dynamics Limited early next month will launch a direct mail campaign to target major hotel marketing and sales directors.
The campaign's aim is to seek out more advertisers for WDL's first online catalog, Meetings & Travel Online, an Internet cataloger of hotels and convention halls targeting travel agents and meeting planners.
For its featured advertisers, Mtonline.com incorporates floor plans with other hotel or venue information so that its consumers can determine what facilities are best suited to their needs.
Promotional materials being sent in next month's direct mail campaign include a flier that depicts screen shots from Mtonline.com, a page of testimonials, advertising rate cards, a four-page "Easy Data" information form for hotel marketing executives to fill out and a personal letter signed by Jim Curtis, CEO of Mtonline.com, Windsor, CA.
In addition, the packages will contain a print copy of one hotel subsite within Mtonline.com. It will show prospective advertisers how they can post their hotel dimensions, specifications and even floor plans when advertising on the Internet catalog.
All of it will be stuffed into 9-inch-by-12-inch packages and shipped to 1,200 hotel marketing and sales directors. Curtis estimated the campaign should cost about $2,400.
Major direct marketing efforts weren't launched earlier because it would have been counterproductive to send potential advertisers to a site that hadn't been fine-tuned.
"We've been taking the bugs out of it. First, you have to learn to crawl. Then you walk, and now we're running," he said.
As the advertiser-targeted campaign plays itself out, a sporadic postcard campaign targeted at the company's consumer base will continue. The postcards feature a screen shot from Mtonline.com and urge recipients to visit the Web site.
The postcard campaign began when the site first went live in February 1998. It has reached 15,000 to 20,000 travel agents and meeting planners nationwide. Curtis wants to reach Mtonline.com's entire consumer market, which he estimated at 150,000 to 200,000.
"We're still a long way off," he said.
Just 10 percent of the meeting and travel consumer market has been tapped with this random-drop direct mail scheme, but it's still producing results.
Site traffic has increased since the postcard campaign and site launch, from an average of 5,000 hits per month to 50,000 monthly hits. Curtis said other site statistics were unavailable.
The company's marketing strategy also includes pursuing business relationships with car rental agencies and city convention bureaus. "Meeting planners often work with convention bureaus. We want them on our site so planners can work with them through our site. Almost every large hotel in any given city is a member of [a nearby] convention bureau," Curtis said.
The Web site features a cruise promotion that seeks to encourage users to submit their names, e-mail addresses and other personal information. This contest has been going on since January and has yielded about 15,000 e-mail addresses, 75 percent of which appear to belong to meeting planners and travel professionals.
E-mails are sent out to the opt-in contestants, but there are no immediate plans to expend resources on an in-depth e-mail campaign.
Curtis likened Mtonline.com to an Internet version of the offline biannual travel publication, Official Meetings and Facilities Guide.
The publication, which Curtis said had a circulation of 18,000, once threatened him with a lawsuit but eventually backed down.
"They said we were using their colors on our site," said Curtis.