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Direct Prospects to Your Tradeshow Booth

  |  February 20, 2008   |  Comments

How a switch from direct mail to e-mail delivered increased response from a smaller mailing list.

Back in the days before e-mail, I'd get frantic calls from companies wanting to send a postcard inviting prospects to their booth at an upcoming trade show that was only weeks away.

That meant a flurry of crazed activity to come up with copy that somehow encapsulated the company's whole value proposition, an incentive to come to the booth, and the tradeshow location logistics -- all in the space of a 5 in. x 7 in. card. Then that card had to be designed, printed, lettershopped, and mailed -- pronto -- in hopes of arriving before the tradeshow date.

You know what prospects did when they received those postcards! The majority probably weren't even attending the event and tossed the card. Those who planned on going most likely didn't go out of their way to pack the postcards along with their PJs. And due to the last-minute mailing, many probably received the postcard after the event.

So it's good to see that e-mail has come to the rescue of tradeshow exhibitors.

That has been the case for In-Pipe Technology, an Illinois-based waste management company that regularly exhibits at the Water Environment Federation Annual Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC). In-Pipe, which markets to municipalities, relies heavily on this event to recruit prospects.

In 2006, it went the postcard route, sending invitations to 4,000 WEFTEC attendees to come to its booth and enter a drawing. With design, postage, and printing, the postcard campaign cost $4,000 ($1 per attendee). As a result, 120 people stopped by the booth and 76 of those folks agreed to have their badges scanned.

In 2007, In-Pipe worked with SubscriberMail to develop an e-mail marketing campaign to replace the postcard effort. Because it was using an opt-in list (rather than a list of the show's attendees), the e-mail was sent to a smaller group. The target list included 1,091 prospects and customers who had signed up for e-mail in the past. Of that group, 245 people, nearly 23 percent, opened the e-mail. Even more important, the number of people who agreed to have their badges scanned at the booth clocked in at 92, a 21 percent increase.

In-Pipe marketing manager Nikki Clay is enthusiastic about the improvement in response. She says, "We got a 104 percent increase in response -- from a mailing list that was one-third of the size. Being able to market so economically and efficiently allows us to expand our presence at other shows."

The e-mail campaign also allowed In-Pipe to educate prospects on the benefits of its technology prior to the event, something it could never do in a postcard-sized space.

While the e-mail itself is remarkably simple, it packs a huge amount of information in the list of hyperlinked benefits at the message's top. At the bottom, readers are asked to take the company's primary wastewater treatment challenge. As a result, In-Pipe received a valuable education about its prospects' needs and interests -- before meeting them face-to-face.

E-mail's immediacy also allowed the company to send a reminder to prospects a few days before the event and offer the added incentive of a portable DVD drawing for attending.

Needless to say, after this success, In-Pipe plans to eliminate direct mail and focus its marketing outreach on e-mail only.

If you want to direct a steadier flow of tradeshow attendees to your exhibit booth, think e-mail. By making the changeover, you'll also eliminate a lot of wasted effort, paper, and postage -- and maximize your marketing budget.

Are you turning more to e-mail in the economic downturn? Share your thoughts and cost-effective campaigns with Karen.

Want more e-mail marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our e-mail columns, organized by topic.

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Karen Gedney

Karen Gedney, an award-winning creative director and copywriter, shared her insights as a ClickZ Experts contributor from 2000 through 2009. She was known for her successful track record of achieving high e-mail response rates for Fortune 1000 companies and leading organizations. She died Nov. 16, 2010.

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