Questions? Comments? Please call: 610-642-1000

Trade Show Mailers

Pre- and Post-Tradeshow Mailers
Jeffrey Dobkin

As a direct marketing guy I’ve always considered trade shows as my second least favorite way of marketing, the first being the phone. Why should I pick up the phone and call a dozen people in an hour, when I can send out four thousand letters in the same amount of time and never have to face any more rejection than the usual “Not tonight dear, I have a headache,” from my wife.

But some of my clients seem to need that face time, that one-on-one with prospects. These are the clients that seem to live in a world of yesteryear: where there was no Internet, no fax machines. Some of my clients seem to even pre-date color brochures, let alone print on demand presses. They go back to the days prospective purchasers had no way to view a vendor’s image other than what they were wearing when they showed up at the prospect’s doorstep: a suit and tie.

Maybe that’s what I hate so much, wearing a tie. What a useless garnish of clothing unless you are going to a hanging, and it’s your own. So it all comes out now. Anyhow, I still hate tradeshows, old clients, ties, writing, this computer I’m typing on, and yes, I’m the guy who shot your dog in the butt from the just-slightly-open-window-on-the-third-floor with my BB gun after he crapped on my lawn and you didn’t clean it up. OK, I’ve come clean. Where is my analyst when I really need him?

But still, some clients not only like trade shows, they thrive on trade shows as a lifeblood of their marketing, ridiculous as it may seem. So here are some direct marketing tips to make trade shows even more effective.

The Pre-show mailer: A letter is fine, so is a post card. Mail two weeks before the first day of the show, to arrive in your prospects’ hands a week before the show. Mail first class. Don’t use a label, they look cheap. Always have. And you know that cheap suit you bought a few years ago and said “maybe no one will notice?” They do. It looks cheap, too. Get a new one.

About your pre-show mailer – don’t worry, they’ll read it. At a week before the show, attendees are committed to going – and it’s probably costing their firm a few thousand dollars to get them there and put up with them, er… put them up. So, at this point they’ll read anything that’s show related. It won’t be until the third day of walking the show floor that they’ll be sick of the show, the products – yes even yours, the rubber chicken lunches or the $9 dollar hot dogs they find at the convention center, and they’ll be truly disinterested in any mail you send them.

Mail to a list of attendees, less exhibitors. If unavailable, mail to attendees and exhibitors. Still no dice? Mail to last year’s attendees. Still no luck attaining the list? You’re not really going to a trade show, are you? You just told your boss that, didn’t you? Quit going to those cheap x rated shows during working hours… you can get that stuff online. Call me for the best URLs.

Get your mailer opened by using the best teaser copy for any envelope or mailer: “Gift Certificate Enclosed.” Gift certificates make for ideal letter-opening teaser copy, plus they’re inexpensive to print and light to ship. Redemption value can be revealed inside the package, or at the show booth. This is a great line to get any of your mail opened, and it’s copyrighted by me, Jeff Dobkin: send me ten bucks every time you use it or I’ll sue.

The objective of your letter or post card should be to drive people to your booth the first day or two – or… or… remember paragraph 6 about the third day? Make an nice offer – give something away. Don’t make the same mistake I did – I tried to give away my wife. Not only didn’t people come to my booth, I kept the entire isle clear. Eventually on the way home I got a bottle of wine for her. It was a pretty good trade.

At one show a client of mine gave away Cross Pens, and it was a pretty successful promotion for both of us. The Cross Pens drove even the most elusive upscale prospects to his booth – so it was successful for him. I charged him three grand for the campaign, so it was successful for me. We were both happy.

To give the pen out I wrote in the Johnson box of our pre-show letter (upper right corner of the sheet, above the salutation) “If your award number: JD-122446” (printed on its own line in a rubber-stamp-looking font,) “matches the winning number: ‘JD-122446’ then Congratulations! You have won a beautiful new CROSS PEN! Please bring this letter with you to our booth and pick up your new Cross Pen during show hours!” No one knew that everyone won, not even our exhibit staff.

Unfortunately we ran out of a thousand dollars worth of Cross pens the first hour. So, we bought the entire stock of Cross Pens at the local office supply stores – and gave them out during the second hour… Then we finally gave up on the instant gratification we had hoped to provide along with our sales pitch, and gave out rain checks — and mailed pens a few days later to the other few hundred letter-waving tradeshow booth visitors clinging to our promotional piece in their sweaty little hands.

Other pre-show ideas: Mail something bulky to get prospects’ attention. Mail a golf ball to each attendee – and have them try to shoot 3 holes in 1, and win $100. Send a Frisbee, have them toss it into a round hole cut into a basketball backboard about 20 feet away – three times in a row for $1,000. Cut the hole 1” too small. Ha, ha ha. Oops, just kidding. Cut the hole 2” larger in the center to accept the Frisbee. It looks easy because of the big round hole, but the Frisbee will only fit in the exact center. People who miss get to keep a Frisbee. Now they’re walking around with your ad.

Post show mailings: Don’t give expensive literature out during the show: what a waste, it just gets sandwiched in a plastic bag between everyone else’s literature – to be looked at sometime between later and never and it usually gets the briefest glance or more likely just winds up being thrown out. Mail your trade literature on the last day of the show to the people who stopped at your booth. This shows attendees you’re on the ball, and you’ll be a responsive team to work with.

Personalize the letter you send with your literature because you met the person. Act civil – like you had a meaningful relationship with them in the 7 minutes or so you took to speak with them at your booth. Don’t write to the woman who you met at the cheap piano bar at the hotel and had a little too much to drink with, and took to dinner. She looked a lot better after a few drinks, didn’t she? So did you. At the end of the night, don’t give her your business card: give her someone else’s card – one that you picked up at one of the trade booths at the show. For this reason I always get a few cards from my competitors…

Instead of giving out tons of great and expensive literature at the show, give away some simple flyers. Send your good literature – along with a personal letter — to arrive 2 days after the show closes. It lands on their desk without lots of competing literature while the show is still fresh in their minds.

“While I instruct my clients to do this,” says Jeff Dobkin, author of this article. “in reality – where I virtually think we are – who knows when they send it out, if they ever do.” I hope your marketing team is run in a more timely fashion.

The sales team gets the hot leads for immediate follow-up, and the soft leads are placed in a prospect or suspect database for subsequent mailings. I recommend that you send several letters to attendees over the period of a few months. Our post-show mailing pattern is package #1-immediate, #2-two weeks, #3-four weeks, #4-eight weeks. All contain personal letters, usually with, but sometimes without a brochure for a more personal feel. The tone is always personal – if you really do it right, no one will suspect you are sending the same personal letter to the other 2,000 people who stopped at your booth.

Remember, one overbearingly long follow-up letter is usually tossed out, but the same three or four pages of material make three or four great one-page letters. For about two fifty in postage you can send a series of six letters to a highly qualified prospect. And I recommend it.

Sounds like a good pre- and post-show program. Hey, if this works for you – send me a bottle of Champagne, will you? And quit walking your dog in front of my house.
###

Bio: Jeffrey Dobkin has written two “how-to” books on direct marketing: How To Market A Product For Under $500! and Uncommon Marketing Techniques. He’s also a very funny yet information-rich speaker. He can be reached at 610-642-1000. His website is www.dobkin.com