AND SOME FREE–ASSOCIATION
Make effective pre-show mailings
By Paul Bridson
1. Plan your strategy
Planning is the key to the success of your pre-show direct mail campaign. There are many facets in the planning process, including the product/service, the offer, the media, the communications format and an evaluation of the results. Your direct mail campaign should be used in conjunction with other pre-show promotional activities such as advertising, telemarketing, press relations, etc.
2. Select the product, service, or event to promote
Decide which product, service, or event is most likely to attract visitors to your trade show exhibit. For the best response, keep your promotion simple and easy to understand.
3. Establish objectives
Write down the objectives for your promotion. Make sure they tie into your established trade show objectives and marketing strategy. Think about the response you want as well as the result you can realistically hope to achieve.
4. Target your audience
Target the people you want to respond to your mailing. Think about their interests and concerns. If you are promoting to different markets, you often have to reach multiple buying influences within each company. Consider tailoring your message to the appropriate audience.
5. Locate qualified mailing lists
Your mailing list is the most important factor in determining whether your mailing will be successful. Often, who you mail to is equally, if not more important, than what you mail. Your very best mailing list is your own in-house list made up of current and past customers, and interested prospects. If you consider buying a list, consider your secondary, as well as your primary markets. Merge the registration list from show management with your in-house list to avoid mailing duplicates.
6. Choose a format, tone and style
Your goal should be threefold: to get your piece opened, to get it read, and to get the reader to take action. Think about using envelope teasers, attention-grabbing headlines, offers, testimonials, benefit charts or response coupons. Consider size, color, whether it will contain a reply mechanism, or be just a simple postcard. Distinctive color and shape will improve your mailing's effectiveness.
7. Highlight your uniqueness
Successful copy focuses on one key message. Highlight your uniqueness and competitive advantage by stressing the benefit that is most important to your customer. When writing copy, use the Who, What, Where, When, and How exercise. Five times as many people read headlines as read body copy, so say something important.
8. Create an incentive
An enticing offer will give prospects a reason to visit your display. The incentive will only be meaningful and irresistible if it is linked to a direct benefit for your prospect and only made available at the show by redeeming the offer at your stand. Often two-part mailings entice attendees to visit your trade show exhibit. This usually consists of a premium item that is sent in two parts. The first half is sent prior to the show. If the visitor wants the second half of the item, they must collect it at your booth, during the show.
9. Schedule your mailings
Timing is critical to your show mailings. Consider the need for a single or a series of mailings. Plan a realistic timeline for your campaign. Use pre-sorting to save on postage. Take advantage of show management's promotional materials. Purchase pre-printed postcards for pre-show mailings.
10. Track your success
The best way to measure your mailing success is to establish a tracking system. Use a code on each mailing. As part of your incentive offer, encourage visitors to bring the mailing to your display in exchange for a gift.
11. Alternatives to direct mail
Some additional ways to promote your show or event include email, web banners, and magazine advertisements.
Paul Bridson and Kelly Sargent
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