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For 2019 Edge, Event Pros Shouldn’t Overlook Direct Mail, SEO, Experiential Marketing

Per the latest industry surveys, AccuList USA’s trade show and conference marketing clients can look forward to solid event industry growth in 2019–along with potential marketing strategy shifts in an increasingly competitive landscape.

Businesses Are Bullish on Event Marketing

Event software firm Bizzabo’s survey of over 1,000 mid- to senior-level marketers at major companies in 2018 found good news for the event industry: Most respondents (41%) consider live events to be the most critical marketing channel in achieving business outcomes (out of 9 possible channels), a 32% increase from 2017. Business execs are also doubling down on live events. Between 2017 to 2018, the number of companies organizing 20 or more events per year increased by 17%. Additionally, the vast majority of respondents (95%) believe in-person events provide attendees with a valuable opportunity to form connections in an increasingly digital world. This reflects a 12% increase compared to 2017.

E-mail & Social Media Remain Favored Promotion Channels

Meanwhile, Eventbrite, an online event management and ticketing firm, surveyed 1,200 event professionals last year to see how marketers are likely to spend in 2019. Word of mouth, an effective tactic for 63% of event marketers, is bolstered by investments in social media marketing, which 49% of event creators placed among the top three most effective drivers of ticket sales. They cited Facebook and Instagram as the top social platforms for reaching event-goers. E-mail rounded out the top marketing channels per those surveyed, with 38% of event professionals relying on it.

Trends Encourage Growth of SEO & Direct Mail Use

However, with 89% of attendees using search for purchase decisions, Eventbrite foresees a necessary expansion of SEO efforts. There’s definitely room for growth, with almost half (46%) of event professionals saying they aren’t using SEO. And, while e-mail is cited among the favored marketing channels, direct mail continues to turn in higher response for the 41% of event pros who use it. Eventbrite thinks the 50% who cite competition as their biggest challenge will want to reconsider the edge offered by adding mail to their arsenal, urging the hesitant to take a trial run by segmenting mailing lists and sending flyers or save-the-date cards to a test portion.

Experiential Marketing Is 2019’s Hot Buzzword

Experiential marketing is a hot new trend for trade show exhibit providers, brand marketers and event planners. It is a strategy that engages attendees by using branded experiences at an event, as part of an event, or in a pop-up activation not tied to any event. It’s all about immersing people in memorable live experiences to create more lasting and positive brand impressions. Yet Eventbrite found that close to 60% of event creators are not using experiential marketing. Acknowledging an intimidation factor, Eventbrite urges starting small, for example by promoting a pop-up shop (temporary retail space) grand opening at an event, by offering a smaller experiential activation like an on-site art installation, or by using a partner on-site sponsorship to enhance the event experience.

Download the Bizzabo report “2019 Event Marketing Benchmarks and Trends” for more details on event industry trends.

Use Direct Mail to Push Trade Show Attendance Ahead of the Pack

After many years of supporting the marketing of trade show and conference managers and exhibitors, AccuList USA can attest to the continued power of direct mail in building audience. While exhibitors who do a pre-show campaign 1-2 months before a show can increase attendance by up to 50%, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, a post by the NextPage agency recently explained how direct mail will push those pre-event promotional efforts several steps ahead of competitors.

Make Direct Mail an Engaging, Personalized Invitation

Show marketers looking for an edge with multi-channel audiences will embrace direct mail’s higher response rates and retention rates, urges NextPage, leveraging the deliverability of a tactile and visual attention-getter in an era of crowded digital mailboxes and websites. By combining variable printing with segmented list targeting, savvy marketers can create a pre-event mailing that is highly personalized. Custom shapes and dimensional options, textured paper, intriguing folds, eye-catching graphics and taglines, and more will then help mailings stand out and engage.

Include Incentives That Spur Booth Visits

NextPage also advises including an incentive in the mailer to spur booth visits, such as a raffle ticket or product sample. Creativity pays off, and the blog cites some incentive success stories. For example, trade show expert Marlys Arnold uses scavenger hunts in pre-show campaigns, with a direct mail piece that lists five questions and gives a web address where attendees can print off an answer sheet to fill out and bring to the show. She reports earning satisfying lines at her booths compared with more passive giveaways. In another example, independent copywriter named Mark Johnson wanted to target subscription newsletter marketers at a Las Vegas Conference and created a special website with case studies and a free offer that he touted in a postcard. The free offer was an exclusive 30-minute consultation with Johnson to review current marketing campaigns. Johnson rented the conference association’s membership list and mailed the card only to qualified leads five weeks before the show. Out of 400 pieces mailed, 406 people visited his site, and he generated five solid leads!

Use Targeted Lists of Qualified Prospects

Yet the real key to success with a direct mail campaign is targeting of qualified leads, starting with a list of current clients and prospects and moving on to lists of registered attendees, association members, subscribers to relevant trade publications and newsletters, multi-channel buyers of relevant products, etc.  Marketers can then segment and tailor messaging by geography, industry, product interest, title, firm-ographic data (such as number of employees) to increase response.

For more direct mail advice, see the blog post.

New Tech Energizes Trade Show & Conference Marketing

AccuList USA has long experience in helping trade show and conference marketers with targeted lists and data services. But we also support an expanded event marketing approach that goes beyond promotion to engage audiences at every touchpoint in a multi-channel world, as a recent post for the Trade Show News Network (TSNN) blog promotes. Luckily, that is easier than ever thanks to emerging event technology trends.

Social Amplification & Content Digitization

Any event pro not using social media to the fullest is missing a key tool in building audience per TSNN’s “Top 10 Tech Trends” by Matt Coyne, Technology Engagement Architect at GES EMEA and a 10-year veteran of the events and exhibitions industry. By making it easy for registrants to share their attendance with their own social media networks, marketers can amplify an event and reach new potential attendees that can’t be reached directly.  Social media can also work in tandem with traditional channels, as with our Digital2Direct tool matching postal records to Facebook users for targeted social ads. Just as important as the boost in registrations is the increase in registration-to-attendee conversion driven by social media engagement, Coyne adds. Digitized content is then the engagement tool that creates an interactive event experience, building repeat attendance and luring prospects via social sharing. For example, Coyne cites the growth of devices like “Smart Badges,” which act as a digital briefcase for attendees to collect digitized content. And tools like Facebook Live increase the dissemination and sharing of digital content.

Gamification, AI, and Selected Apps

Digitized content also can be leveraged with gamification to increase event participation, say by awarding points for Smart Badge usage with exhibitor contacts, speaker downloads, session attendance, etc. and then posting competitive results. Event planners can then help boost participation at less popular sites and activities by boosting their points. AI is another way to help expand attendee experiences; an example is the use of chatbot software to answer attendee questions and offer learned guidance. Finally, there are event-specific apps. Although Coyne provocatively declares apps “dead,” he really means that cost-effective use of apps today must be selective. Not every event needs to spend for an app, but a large conference can benefit from an app that enables visitors to track their schedules or from a dedicated lead-capture app.

Facial Recognition: Security & Feedback

Facial recognition software has recently been in the news, and Coyne sees it as a future boon for some trade shows and conferences. Consider how facial recognition at high-security events could decrease the hassle of on-site screening requiring multiple forms of ID, creation of photo IDs, and so on. Plus, facial recognition software that can recognize emotion could also be used inside halls and conference rooms to get real-time feedback from attendees, and thus a chance for planners to react and improve audience experience, Coyne suggests.

For more of Coyne’s tech trends, see the full blog post.

 

Why Direct Mail Still Wins Allegiance of Trade Show Marketers

One of AccuList USA’s oldest areas of expertise is trade show and conference marketing, particularly direct mail lists and support services. A recent survey of exhibit managers and event marketers by Exhibitor magazine shows why direct mail continues as a promotional tool, as a companion rather than a victim of the growing use of e-mail and social media. Here are some insights we gleaned from those comments:

It’s Still All About the List

The traditional rules of direct marketing continue to apply for direct mail success: Quality, targeted data is the most essential response factor. Mike Naples, business alliance manager for the United States Postal Service, reminds event marketers of those basics: “A successful campaign is 60% identifying the target, 30% making a compelling offer, and 10% creating a unique piece.” Dan McAdams, vice president of sales and marketing for McAdams Graphics, is even more specific:  “The most effective direct-mail projects start with a solid mailing list. A bad list yields a bad return.”

E-mail Is Mate, Not Replacement, for Snail Mail

While acknowledging the growing use of e-mail, Holly Seese, global marketing communications manager at Celanese Corp., reminds Exhibitor readers that “hard-copy event invites are still more memorable than e-mailed ones.” That can be especially true with an older target audience. “People over the age of 50 have an emotional attachment to letters that people under the age of 50 never developed,” opines Keith Goodman, vice president for corporate solutions at Modern Postcard. More generally, e-mail faces headwinds in crowded, spam-filtered inboxes, while direct mail’s lower volume actually boosts its impact: “Direct mail is back in vogue because few companies are using it. So a creative mailer is more likely to get read,” explains Eugene Maresh, co-owner of Say it With Style Targeted Promotional Solutions. Or as Joy Gendusa, CEO of PostcardMania, sums up: “E-mail is brilliant for lead nurturing, but not for lead generation. If your message is seen as spam, you’re hurting, not helping.”

Creativity and a Multi-Channel Mix Required

At the same time, audiences have become more demanding. Direct mail must be personalized, relevantly targeted and creatively eye-catching to engage response now. Tired tricks are not going to win interest. “An interesting shape is the best way to generate attention. Priority or overnight mail doesn’t cut it anymore. It feels wasteful,” asserts Rhea Cook, president of Ex Machina Design X Marketing. And because audiences also use multiple digital channels daily, they expect to engage with coordinated event promotion and response across channels, so direct mail can’t go it alone if it is to be successful. Or as Jefferson Davis, trade show marketing and sales consultant at Competitive Edge, concludes: “People ask me all the time, ‘What is the single best media for exhibit marketing?’ But there is no single best media. The magic is in the mix.”

To see more quotes about direct mail from event marketing pros, go to http://www.exhibitoronline.com/topics/article.asp?ID=1282