Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

December 11 2012

Why Your Meeting Marketing Strategy Shouldn't Go Totally Paperless

David McMillin

Many meeting marketers have increasingly shifted resources to the affordability of social media, online and mobile platforms, but a new study suggests that direct mail still plays a very key role in reaching prospective attendees.

According to the 2012 Channel Preference Study from Texas-based marketing firm Epsilon, 73 percent of American respondents indicated that they prefer direct mail for brand communications because they can read the information at their convenience.

Knowing Your Audience

As meeting planners deal with shifting demographics, it's important to recognize the benefits of understanding different audience segments. Young attendees may prefer to do everything via a tablet, a smartphone or a computer screen, but veteran attendees may still appreciate seeing that save-the-date direct mail reminder.

"The more you can identify your consumers' preferences and engage them in those preferred channels, the better," Jade Mangahis, corporate communications associate, Epsilon, says.

“For some, this will be direct mail, for others it will be email,” Mangahis adds. “Yet, for others, this may be social media.”

Compiling historical data can help determine ROI and create a roadmap for your future campaigns. How many attendees entered that promotional code on your direct mail postcard? How many fans responded to your one-day-only Facebook registration promotion? What percentage of attendees are actually clicking on the registration links in your email blasts?

The Overwhelming Online World

Meeting budgets are getting smaller, so it can be tempting to stick with the most cost-effective route to reach prospective attendees. However, those email newsletters and social media status updates can be very easily lost.

Mary Theobald, vice president, communications and programs, Society of Teachers of Family Medicine, recognizes the challenge of standing out in the cluttered electronic world. While Theobald says that STFM uses electronic channels for promoting three meetings throughout the year, she believes that direct mail plays a key role in enhancing awareness and ensuring that members mark their calendars.

“Our members receive so many emails that they easily miss messages,” Theobald says.

Theobald and other meeting marketers are not alone. According to the study, 73 percent of American respondents indicated that they receive a lot of emails that they do not ever open, which highlights one big advantage of direct mail. Recipients can easily delete an email without ever reading the body of the message, but it’s more challenging to throw a postcard in the trash without noticing what’s on the front.

It’s also important to recognize that while your attendees may be dealing with email overload, their physical mailboxes are considerably less cluttered. According to Tom Foti, manager of direct mail and periodicals, US Postal Service, the average household receives two pieces of direct mail each day. Compared with the average 157 daily emails they receive, those direct mail pieces can begin to feel much more meaningful.

In addition to sending save-the-date postcards, Theobald says that STFM sends a preliminary brochure that includes course offerings and presenters.

“They can search for sessions online, but a lot of members want the convenience of taking the brochure with them as they travel to browse courses and speakers,” Theobald says. “It makes their experience more convenient.”

Creativity is Crucial

Direct mail provides plenty of opportunities to stand out in prospective attendees' eyes, but taking advantage of them is not as simple as slapping a stamp on an envelope.

"If you're going to invest in sending promotional postcards or letters about your meeting, you need to make sure the design and the message are immediate attention-grabbers," Carolyn Clark, vice president, marketing and communications, PCMA, says. “Direct mail may seem old-school, but it’s another opportunity to showcase your organization’s forward-thinking approach to engaging and inspiring attendees.”

Here at PCMA, Clark guided that forward thinking for the 2013 Convening Leaders marketing campaign. Rather than sending a standard postcard with thick card stock, Clark chose a lenticular postcard that brings innovative marketing to life with a dual perspective. At one angle, it’s an orange that symbolizes this year’s destination, Orlando. At another, the orange opens to reveal a light bulb and reinforce the headline: “Big Ah Ha’s Live Here.”

“Our main message is innovation,” Clark says. “That message has to be a continuing thread across all of our communications.”

From including QR codes that lead to specific landing pages to using unorthodox dimensions for an envelope, there are plenty of other opportunities to inspire your audience to read, go online to learn more and ultimately, register for your next meeting.

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