October 29, 2008
Case Study

How Branded Cookies and Gas Card Giveaway Beat Budget Cuts: 6 Steps to 10% Lead Gen

SUMMARY: If you’re feeling the pain of the economic crisis in your marketing budget, keep in mind that your prospects are likely feeling that same pain. So, consider a campaign that offers remedies for their financial concerns.

A technology marketer beat all their goals for a trade show even after the budget was cut by 27%. Instead of splashy off-site parties, they created a contest for a $500 gas card at the peak of last summer’s high gas prices.
Like many marketers these days, Tom Henson, VP Marketing, Invivodata, has been forced to make do with less. He had to cut 27% from the marketing budget for the largest annual trade show in the pharmaceutical information industry. The event is particularly important since it allows the team to showcase their products to help clinical drug-trial sponsors record patient data.

For last summer’s show, Henson realized that they couldn’t plan splashy offsite events and evening receptions that typically help them generate leads for their database. “All of our focus had to be on the booth,” says Henson. “How do we stand out and focus on driving traffic to the booth?”

They needed a low-cost way to attract attention and collect attendees’ contact information for post-event lead nurturing and follow-up. But they didn’t want to be yet another company promoting a gadget giveaway or handing out tchotchkes.

To stand out among more than 450 exhibitors at the Drug Information Association’s annual meeting last summer, Henson and his team played off an economic concern on the minds of everyone this summer: high gasoline prices.

They created a campaign for the show called, “Refuel with Invivodata.” It offered free cookies to booth visitors and invited attendees to enter a contest for a $500 gas card.

The six steps they took:

Step #1. Create cookies branded with product image

The team created a giveaway that would appeal to almost anyone at the show: a cookie branded with the product image. Food always captures attention. A special cake they had baked for an event the previous year had received a strong response.

The team found a bakery in the Boston area, where the event was held, that could print any image on a sugar cookie.

- They provided the bakery with an electronic drawing of the company’s new patient data recording device and text that read: “Introducing the Invivodata SitePRO Tablet. The right size for site-based ePRO.”

- The bakery printed that image on edible rice paper, which was baked into a rectangular cookie that measured 2 1/2 by 4 inches.

- They baked 800 cookies, roughly 10% of the show’s expected attendance.

Step #2. Create gas-card giveaway and “Refuel” campaign theme

The team decided that the high price of gasoline was another theme that would resonate with nearly every attendee.

“I had heard a CEO talking about how price-sensitive people are to gasoline. They’ll drive across town just to save 10 cents a gallon,” says Henson. “We thought it would be a great marketing lever to pull.”

- The team used a sweepstakes to give away a $500 gas card.

- They decided to give away one large amount rather than several cards with smaller amounts to generate more interest in the contest.

- To combine the food and fuel giveaways, they established the campaign theme “Refuel with Invivodata.”

They printed posters with an image of a hand pumping gas and inviting attendees to register to win the gas card. The posters were placed on the four attendee-registration tables at the company’s booth.

Step #3. Add carbon-offset initiative to campaign

Two weeks before the show, Henson’s team nearly had their plans derailed when the company’s CEO, Doug Engfer, heard about the campaign. Engfer’s personal environmental beliefs and his desire to run a socially responsible company raised a concern that offering a gas card would contribute to the world’s pollution problem.

Rather than scrapping the campaign, Henson’s team and the CEO reached a compromise: They would purchase carbon offsets to mitigate the impact of the gas giveaway, as well as the team’s travel to and from the event.

- Using an online tool, www.carbonfund.org, the team estimated their carbon dioxide output for travel to and from the show as well as the car trips generated by the fuel giveaway.

- They used money from their marketing budget to purchase carbon offsets equal to the amount of their emissions. Henson says the offsets cost a few hundred dollars.

- The team created a flyer for the booth explaining the concept of carbon offsets and the company’s efforts to make their show participation carbon-neutral.

The flyer also featured an educational note from Engfer. It explained the company’s commitment to environmental stewardship and encouraged readers to choose alternative transportation.

Step #4. Conduct preshow email promotion

About one month before the event, the team began promoting the campaign to their in-house email database.

Promotions included:
- A note about the giveaway and the company’s presence at the upcoming show in the quarterly email newsletter.
- A pre-show email promotion inviting attendees to visit the booth and take part in the gas-card giveaway. The email featured the same imagery used in the registration-table posters.
- A press release highlighting the company’s activities, including speaking appearances and the new products the team would be demonstrating, went out one week before the event.

The press release didn’t mention the giveaway, but it included a link to the company’s website. Visitors could learn about the “Refuel with Invivodata” campaign at the site.

Step #5. Collect contact information during the show

During the trade show, the team took advantage of their booth location at the foot of an escalator to hand out cookies to passing attendees. Members of the sales and marketing team invited visitors who took a cookie to register for the gas-card giveaway by scanning badges.

As another cost-saving initiative, the team printed fewer product information folders than they typically did for past DIA shows. That meant the booth staff were more selective about giving away printed information. They reserved that collateral for prospects that appeared better qualified based on the title, company name and nature of the questions they asked during product demos.

They kept registration for the contest open until the conclusion of the show. Rather than choosing a winner onsite, they selected a name after the event, and had a sales representative from the winner’s region deliver the card in person.

Step #6. Don’t dismiss post-show follow-up calls and lead nurturing

After the event, Henson’s team analyzed the names they had collected and planned the appropriate follow-up:

- First, they removed the names of booth visitors who represented competing vendors.

- The remaining names were considered valid leads and were organized according to the company’s two primary channels:
o Potential partners, who would team up with Invivodata to manage clinical trials on behalf of large pharmaceutical companies
o Pharmaceutical companies that sponsor clinical trials

- Members of the inside sales team for partner programs and the pharmaceutical channel conducted follow-up telephone calls with attendees. They used any notes taken during conversations at the booth to ask follow-up questions or offer more information.

- All leads were entered into the company’s lead-nurturing program, which included follow-up touches, such as:
o Quarterly newsletter
o Invitations to upcoming webinars

Free cookies and free gas proved to be a hit at the trade show. Henson’s team beat their goals for lead generation at the show, even with the budget cut:

o 10% growth in qualified leads over the previous year
o 33% decline in cost per lead for the event

Word-of-mouth about the company’s cookies and gas card giveaway helped drive strong traffic to the booth while making the CEO more comfortable with the campaign.

“[Our CEO] was pleased with all of it,” says Henson. “I had to subtly remind him that we thought it was due to the gas card. We had several people commenting on the gas card, and it did create a buzz.”

The contest also provided an entry point for conversations among visitors and the sales and marketing staff. “Everyone would tell us about the price of a gallon of gas in their area,” says Jodie Andrews, Marketing Brand Manager/Event Coordinator. “It was a very easy conversation starter.”

Those leads have already proven valuable to the team’s lead nurturing. Henson says 15% of attendees at a September webinar were visitors at the company’s booth. Those attendees hadn’t participated in the company’s webinars before the event.

Pre-registration for an October webinar had already doubled the team’s goal.

Useful links related to this article

Creative Samples from Invivodata Trade Show Campaign

Carbon-offset vendor Carbonfund.org:

Drug Information Association


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