An email campaign featuring video highlighting the property's event space has helped Nashville's Hutton Hotel create interest with meeting planners and promote the property as a conference destination.
The Hutton Hotel opened three years ago close to Nashville's fabled Music Row, with 247 rooms, says Lisa Bush, director of sales and marketing. "We're not a true boutique hotel, but we have a strong boutique feel.
Meetings and events comprise about 40% of business for the hotel, which has nearly 14,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 7,000 foot ballroom with 14-foot high windows overlooking downtown Nashville.
"Because people aren't exactly sure what the Hutton is yet, our best plan of attack is our sales team calling on meeting planners directly," say Bush. "There's an education process—in Nashville, there really aren't a lot of independent luxury hotels. Our competition is properties like the Hermitage Hotel, which has been in Nashville for over 100 years."
The hotel has worked with meeting publications to create a brand awareness for the hotel, but hasn't done any B2B direct mail cold prospecting efforts. "A direct mail piece can get lost and before you know it, you've spent a lot of money and haven't reached end users," she notes. "Of course, we might send brochures and other information after a contact has been made at a trade show."
The hotel has an email database of about 14,000 meeting planners who have either been to the property or connected with the Hutton through other efforts. Bush notes that these individuals are contacted by email on a regular basis with updates about what is happening at the hotel or with special offers.
"For example, in a slower timeframe like August we might offer complimentary Internet or parking upgrades," says Bush. "These are concessions that meeting planners typically ask for, but we're offering them up front."
This spring, the Hutton tested using video to create engagement in email. The video use in the email was originally created for other purposes, such as supplying newscasts with B-roll footage about the property to use in stories, to run on the in-house TV channel, or to send out on CD to planners and other individuals who wanted more information about the property.
"We've seen a huge uptick in using video in email," says Marissa Allen, principal and chief brand/strategy officer of Spectrio, which helped the Hutton create the campaign. "People want to create engaging content in the inbox and get people interacting with their email."
To be effective in email, video doesn't have to be specially shot footage, she notes. "It doesn't even have to be full-motion video, it could be done with graphics. In the case of Hutton, they sent us their existing footage and we created graphics around the footage."
The hotel's first video email was sent in the spring. "The response has been phenomenal," says Bush. "It's unique for people in the industry to get an email like this and they were impressed overall. We got a lot of inquiries from interested people who didn't realize we had that type of event space."
More original footage for a future video email campaign will be shot during a slower period, she notes.
As for the ROI of the mail effort, the Hutton will track back the ROI to see who booked events and where those leads originated from. "We'll track them, but we're pleased with the overall outcome," Bush says. "Our open rates were a little higher than normal—while we typically get a 12% open rate, we saw 16% for this campaign."