Free travel! But is it smart marketing?

Suddenly I’ve received and see a score of free travel deals.  That’s free for qualified buyers, of course.   Typically two days and nights, including airfare, lodging, and meals, with a conference, networking, and one-to-one meetings with sponsors.  That’s one way to bag a qualified lead. I’m waiting for the Hawaii offer that applies to smart-ass consultants who don’t live on a coast.

Sponsored executive trips, often oriented around golf or a cruise, have been around for decades.  What’s new is that the trip offers now have multiple sponsors to share the cost and blatantly advertise in mass media.

Does it work?

It’s tough to find a prospect in a recession.  Marketing is producing fewer leads.  You quantified the results and noticed that it’s actually costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a qualified lead.  Why not just cut out the marketing in the middle and pay for the leads in a sponsored meeting program with free travel?

My gut is that it smacks of desperation. Marketing from market validation to lead management is a process that can’t be short-circuited. Didn’t your mother tell you there are no real shortcuts in life … or business?

Freebies mask intent and corrupt results, especially when you’re talking about a $1,000 trip to hot sunny Miami to a bored buyer stuck in blizzard in Rochester. I wonder how truly qualified these leads are.  Be sure to include a huge fudge factor in your budget.   That said, the math may still work in its favor.

What do you think?  Have you tried it and how has it worked for you?



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