Tips on how to craft and execute promotional messages
Don’t forget the obvious
• The basic messages should include when, where, what and who should attend. Consider incorporating these into the logo area so they’re never omitted.
• Send a mark-your-calendar postcard or e-mail message as soon as the basics are confirmed. These initial mailings should reflect graphic elements of future mailings to begin building recognition.
• Your list is critical. No amount of marketing will produce results if you’re not targeting the right people. Keep your lists clean; merge, purge and update regularly.
Be sure all your ducks are in a row
• One of the worst things you can do is to promote services before they’re ready. Nothing is a worse turnoff than going to a site under construction. The same applies to responses. Be sure you are staffed up to respond to questions and to receive and confirm registrations.
• Your theme and design should be selected well before the promotional schedule begins so everything — including the “hold-the-date” mailing — has a consistent recognition factor.
Focus on benefits
• Total square meterage may be relevant to exhibitors, but it’s not important to attendees.
• Value messages about products, contacts, and growing a business should be the focus.
• In successive promotional pieces to attendees, the “why” message becomes increasingly important. Attendees need to have answers to the question, “What’s in it for me?”
• Most trade shows focus on goods and services; better marketing focuses on attendee experiences and transformations.
Keep it simple
• Busy promotions are confusing and make readers have to work to find information. Bulleted, easy-to-follow copy and simple graphs work better for readers who are time-crunched and have short attention spans — which is everyone.
• Over-sized postcards for initial mailings and last-minute reminders force you to simplify your design and message and can save postage.
• Promotional pieces may become larger and more complex closer to the show (preliminary programs, for example), but they still should be well organized and simple to read.
• For bigger pieces, use colour-coding for sections of the brochure or for segmented tracks.
Chisel the copy
• Resist the temptation to say everything in a single piece. One of the biggest mistakes is including too much copy. People are generally too busy to read details. Edit your copy and edit again to get to the basic need-to-know information and the value messages that focus on benefits and call for responses.
• Separate those messages into successive mailings or e-messages. Condense to bullet points. Use active verbs, such as meet, get, see, experience. Ask for action, such as register, go to Web site, reply now for discount, etc.
Aim to attract the newcomer
• Prospects don’t know the value of your show if they haven’t experienced it. Put yourself in your prospect’s shoes, and you’ll realize what they need to know. It might be something that you and your repeat customers already take for granted.
• Your copy will need to be more persuasive in convincing prospects. Some shows offer first-timer orientations or receptions, discounts for new registrants from established client organizations and even money-back guarantees.
Capture attention quickly
• Use bold colour combinations, but not every colour on the chart. Combinations of two, three or four colours are better than a rainbow effect where nothing stands out.
• Balance consistent brand, theme and logo with a new and exciting design every year. Unusual shapes and sizes will stand out. If your promos look the same show after show, your audience will get the subliminal message that there’s nothing new about the show either.
• Each mailing should be distinctive, offering more and different benefits, new information, registration links, etc.
• For targeted segments, capture attention by enclosing a promotional product that reflects the theme or some element of the show.
Integrate direct mail and e-mail
• A good technique to avoid e-mail and direct-mail fatigue is to alternate them. Be sure to have something new in each message.
• After the initial save-the-date announcement, one message might publicize the registration opening; another, the keynote speaker; another, some discount opportunity, or a special event for a segmented audience.
• One rule of thumb is to treat print and e-mail as separate spheres. Don’t expect the print reader to go to the Web or vice versa. But just in case they do, be sure all your messages are complementary and that you send no more than one a week.
Tailor the message and the look to the audience
• Develop profiles of the different segments of your audience and target the groups individually. For example, for a dental show, dentists, hygienists and office managers may all come, but they have different perspectives and different needs from the show. Everyone should not get the same mailings or e-messages.
• Tailoring applies to design, as well as benefit copy.
Consider enlisting professional help You may be tempted to use in-house talent because they know the event better. But from a marketing perspective, that strategy may backfire. Designers are not marketing experts, and your staff may be so entrenched in the event that they’re too close to offer fresh approaches and write good benefit copy. Professionals in event marketing will prod you with new questions and will give you an outsider’s take on your past marketing efforts. Chances are the money you spend for professionals will be earned back in better response rates and new attendees.