Pre- and Post-Trade Show MailersJeffrey Dobkindirect marketing, convention marketing, mailings, As a direct marketing guy, Ive always considered trade shows to be 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 4,000 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 who live in a world of yesteryear, where there was no Internet or 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 when prospective purchasers had no way to view a vendors image other than what they were wearing when they showed up at the prospects doorstep: a suit and tie. Maybe thats what I hate so muchwearing a tie. What a useless garnish of clothing, unless you are going to a hanging, and its your own. So, it all comes out now. Anyhow, I still hate trade shows, old clients, ties, writing, this computer Im typing on, and yes, Im 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 didnt clean it up. Okay, Ive come clean. Where is my analyst when I really need him? But still, some clients not only like trade shows, they thrive on them as the lifeblood of their marketing plan, 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, and so is a postcard, mailed two weeks before the first day of the show, to arrive in your prospects hands a week before the event. Mail your pre-show materials first-class, and do not 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 mailerdont worry, theyll read it. By a week before the show, attendees are committed to going, and its probably costing their firm a few thousand dollars to get them there and put up with them & err & put them up. So, at this point theyll read anything thats show-related. It wont be until the third day of walking the trade show floor that theyll be sick of the show, the products (yes, even yours), the rubber chicken lunches and the $9 hot dogs they find at the convention center. By then, theyll be truly disinterested in any mail you send them. Send your pre-show mailer to a list of attendees, less exhibitors. If unavailable, mail to attendees and exhibitors. Still no dice? Mail to last years attendees. Still no luck obtaining the list? Youre not really going to a trade show, are you? You just told your boss you were, didnt you? To make sure your mailer is opened, use the best teaser copy for any envelope or mailer: Gift Certificate Enclosed. Gift certificates make for ideal letter-opening teaser copy, plus theyre inexpensive to print and light to ship. Redemption value can be revealed inside the package, or at the trade show booth. This is a great line to get any of your mail opened, and its copyrighted by me, Jeff Dobkin. Send me $10 every time you use it or Ill sue. The objective of your letter or postcard should be to drive people to your booth during the first two days or, remember what I said about the third day? Make a nice offergive something away. Dont make the same mistake I did: I tried to give away my wife. Not only did people avoid 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 $3,000 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 to pick up your new Cross pen! No one knew that everyone won, not even our exhibit staff. Unfortunately, we ran out of $1,000-worth of Cross pens in the first hour. So, we bought out the entire stock of Cross pens at a local office supply store and gave them out during the second hour. Then, we finally abandoned the instant gratification we had hoped to provide with our sales pitch, gave out rain checks instead, and mailed pens a few days later to the other few hundred letter-waving trade show booth visitors who were clutching our promotional piece in their sweaty little hands. Other Pre-Show Ideas Mail something bulky to get the attention of your prospects. Mail a golf ball to each attendee and have them try to shoot three holes-in-one to win $100. Send a Frisbee, have them toss it into a round hole cut into a basketball backboard about 20 feet awaythree times in a row for $1,000. Cut the hole one inch too small (ha, ha, ha & just kidding). Cut the hole two inches 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. Those who miss get to keep a Frisbee. Now theyre walking around with your ad. Post-Show Mailings Dont give out expensive literature during the show. What a wasteit just gets sandwiched in a plastic bag between everyone elses literature, to be looked at sometime between later and never, and it usually gets the briefest glance or, more likely, winds up in the garbage. Mail your trade literature on the last day of the show to the people who stopped at your booth. This shows attendees youre on the ball, and youll be a responsive team to work with, says Francine Carb, CEO of the Bryn Mawr, Penn.-based Markitects marketing firm, who was actually kind enough to let me use her quote in an article. Because you actually met the people you are mailing, be sure to personalize the letter you send. Act civilas if you formed a meaningful relationship with them in the seven minutes you took to speak with them at your booth. We send our literature, along with a personal letter, to arrive two days after the show closes, says Carb. It lands on their desk without lots of competing literature while the show is still fresh in their minds. I instruct my clients to do the same, says Jeffrey Dobkin, author of this article. But in reality, who knows when they send it out, if they ever do. I hope your marketing team runs 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 to send the first package immediate, the second package after two weeks, the third after four weeks, and the fourth package after eight weeks. All mailings contain personal letters, usually with, but sometimes without, a brochure, for a more personal feel. The tone is always personal, however, and if you really do it right, no one will suspect that you are sending the same 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 $2.04 in postage, you can send a series of six letters to a highly qualified prospect. And I recommend that you do so. 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; it would be pretty easy to shift my sight up a few inches and a little to the left. Jeffrey Dobkin is a speaker, direct-mail copywriter, marketing consultant and author of How to Market a Product for Under $500 and Uncommon Marketing Techniques. He may be reached by phone at (610) 642-1000 or visit www.dobkin.com.