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Nov 25, 2003
Case Study

How to Boost Your Trade Show Booth Impact With a Clever Pre-show Mailing Campaign

SUMMARY: No, this is not about one of those "Visit our booth to win a prize" mailings. The campaign profiled in this Case Study was much more clever and stand-out-in-your-mailbox.

Our favorite DM tip: try printing your copy on the address label instead of on the envelope the label is on. Neat idea.

The economy has been better than expected this year
for Mitchell P. Davis' company Broadcast Interview Source Inc, so
three weeks ago he decided to splurge on a tabletop exhibit at a
niche industry trade show.

"I hadn't really networked to this audience before, so I wanted
to attend the show anyway. My real goal was to see what I could
learn about the marketplace, but I've learned that if you're just
attending, you're passive. You don't interact with people."

He contacted the association throwing the show and discovered if
his company joined, he could get an annual membership, a tabletop
exhibit, a ticket for a second staffer, and use of related postal
mail lists for a reasonable price. "It came to 60-70% more than
I was going to spend to be there anyway."

So, on Wednesday November 5th, he decided to go for it. The show
was just eight days away on Thursday November 13th.

How could he make the most of his investment on that tight a time


Davis decided to whip out a pre-show mailing. "If
you're going to exhibit anywhere, the pre-requisite is pre-mail
to see if you can get them to come to the booth."

This show was an industry-insider event, with fewer than 200
executive attendees and only be a dozen or so booths. Why bother
pre-mailing to such a small crowd who couldn't help but see the
booth in the networking room?

"Impressions," explains Davis. "Everything is another
impression. People don't buy the first time they see our offer.
Nobody was going to do a credit card at the booth. They need to
see it two-to-three times. You become more real. They need to
know we're legit, we've been around."

His marketing goal was that if after the show you mentioned his
brand to an attendee, they'd say, "Oh yeah, I know what that is,
they do…" Then hopefully with the next impression, or the
impression after that, impressions would turn into firm sales.

Working quickly, Davis tossed together a pre-show mailer to the
registered attendee list that he hoped would stand out in their
in-boxes, by using three clever elements:

- 9x12 oversized envelope to dominate the mailbox

- A thick stuffing to give it "heft value", including a seven-
page letter, 14-page black and white brochure, and an oversized
glossy colored brochure that unfolded to 32"x16". (He had the
brochures on hand already, but wrote the long letter himself that
day and photocopied it in-house.)

- An oversized 8 1/2" x 5 1/4" address label for the outside
envelope with the following copy in giant type above the name and

Things to do:
1) Put this envelope in my briefcase.

2) Read contents on way to Newsletter
Show in New York

3) Stop by their table at the Plaza
Hotel to see their stuff.

Davis figured that putting this teaser copy on the label rather
than printing it on the envelope would give the creative higher
impact. "You can get these labels at Staples," Davis notes.
"It's two to a sheet. The label becomes the address and the
teaser. The person is focusing on their name on the label, and
thinks 'I'd better read the whole label.'"

In addition to the main mailer, Davis also sent a second campaign
the same day to the entire association membership list. He had
two reasons -- first of all, pre-register lists are never
completely accurate because so many businesspeople make or change
show attendance plans at the last minute these days. So, by
sending a mailer to the entire list, he'd hit more potential

Plus, Davis surmised that letting non-attendees know he'd be at
the show would also help build his brand. "They might think 'Hey
this guy is exhibiting, he has a table, he's a real company.'
It's another impression, and they might go to my Web site even if
they don't go to the show."

But, he didn't want to spend big bucks on the larger list, so
Davis used the Post Office's online NetPost service to send out a
simple black and white postcard to the list. He simply input the
list and his copy to the USPS site, and within 24 hours, the
mailing went out automatically.

The postcard copy was very simple, with Broadcast Interview
Source's main benefit statement in a large headline across the
top, and then a numbered list of three action options -- visit
the show booth, visit the Web site, or telephone for a brochure.


Everyone our reporters and Davis himself spoke to at the show said they remembered getting the oversized mailing and
that it stuck out in their mind. Plus, many told us they had
carefully followed instructions -- placing the oversized envelope
unopened in their brief cases to read while they traveled.

Davis was able to use the package as an icebreaker to chat with
attendees, which was very helpful because it was one of those
intimate networking events where if you don't already know a lot
of people, you can be left out of conversations.

These conversations had an unexpected benefit -- Davis was
chagrined to learn that while he thought his copywriting was
ultra-clear, many attendees had misunderstood the mailer's
benefit and service explanations.

"It was an epiphany for me. I learned my stuff was too
complicated and I need to dumb it down. I learned you should
state your primary benefit again and again and again, and don't
state too many other benefits. So, I was testing my DM piece
against good reactors."

Now he's busy at work, revamping all marketing materials to
reflect a simpler, clearer message. "I had all this confidence
in the piece, and let me tell you, now it's being totally

Davis is also working on a follow-up mailer to drop right after
Thanksgiving, to solidify his show impressions. This time it
will be a dimensional, "If you get a box, you look at the thing.
The flat stuff, who cares?"

We're looking forward to getting it in the mail soon.

Useful links:

USPS NetPost Service:

Broadcast Interview Source
See Also:

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