Thursday, July 21, 2011

5 Ways Exhibitors Should Market to Attendees. And None of Them is a Postcard.

This year I'll be going to ASAE's Annual Meeting & Expo for the first time.  When I registered, I was asked if I preferred to receive communication from vendors via email or regular mail. Since I can't keep up with email as it is, I opted for regular mail and didn't think much of it at the time. Fast forward a few weeks and suddenly I'm being deluged with mail--invitations to private events, save the date cards for sessions, and offers to "bring this card to booth X to receive a free gift."

While I have nobody but myself to blame for opting in to this frenzy of direct mail, I can't help but wonder how, in today's digital/mobile world, vendors can think that sending a postcard to attendees three weeks out from the event is effective marketing. I mean, am I supposed to just amass a folder of these postcards--most of which  contain some messaging like "bring this card for [swag of some sort]"--then haul it to St. Louis and somehow make my way through the exhibit hall and remember which card goes with which booth? Am I stupid and this is how others do it and I just need to get with the program?

Maybe my expectations are too high and this is just "best practices" marketing in the association world. But I don't think so. Maybe it used to be, but now how can spending money to print a postcard or other mailer and pay postage, then expecting recipients to remember to bring it with them several weeks later compete with, say, tweeting during the event "visit booth X and show this tweet to receive [swag of some sort]"? Granted, I realize that not everyone in the world is on Twitter, but then again, not everyone in the world understands how to juggle a ream of paper and postcards during an Expo either.

Here are five ways that I'd rather be marketed to by exhibitors:

  1. On Twitter. Especially for this conference, which has not only a pre-established hashtag but also a Twitter roll. During the event, when people are on site, instead of weeks ahead of time.
  2. In the mobile app. ASAE has not one but TWO mobile apps for this meeting--one for mobile phones and one for the iPad.  Want attendees to visit your booth? Build it into the scheduling function. Granted, right now the scheduling feature is just for sessions, but I think it would be awesome to have some kind of "specials" tab where exhibitors could post the same messages they're now sending via US mail on a postcard. Something that will make me remember to visit their booth while I'm on-site, because a postcard sure won't.
  3. QR codes. Say what you will about QR codes--that they're confusing, don't work well, or just stupid--I still say they make more sense than a postcard that says "bring this card to our booth for X." How about if you're compelled to do a postcard ahead of the event, instead of telling the recipient "bring this card to our booth in three weeks" say "scan this QR code to follow us on Twitter and follow our tweets during the event for a chance to win X"?
  4. Foursquare--ok, so granted, you will only reach those attendees who use Foursquare, but still--it's worth at least trying. You're a lot more likely to get me to your booth via Foursquare than via postcard.
  5. SCVNGR--instead of me explaining about how to use SCVNGR, a mobile scavenger hunt app, just read this. We used it at the ASHA convention last year and it was a great success and drove a lot of traffic to participating booths.

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