April 28, 2010
Case Study

Email, SMS and Twitter Power Trade Show Contest: 4 Steps to 4x ROI from Event Sponsorship


The quest to stand out at a trade show often tempts marketers to offer splashy sweepstakes prizes with no relevance to their industry and no tie to their own products and services. This isn't the best way to generate qualified leads.

Read how a team of marketers designed a bingo-themed contest for an industry conference that highlighted the host’s software and their own team’s expertise using it. They used automated email to recruit players, generating a 70%+ visitor-to-registration form conversion rate. Then, they kept players engaged over two days by using SMS and Twitter to announce each drawing.


David Lewis, President, DemandGen, and his team wanted to make the most of their sponsorship at the 2009 Eloqua Experience conference.

"One of our challenges at this event was to stand out," says Lewis. "We wanted to showcase our skill set and make people go, ‘Wow, these guys are smart, clever, and I’m having a lot of fun participating in their campaign.’"

A typical trade show sweepstakes offering a flashy prize wasn’t going to be enough. They wanted to design a campaign that garnered attendees' attention, but also provided a relevant tie-in to the conference’s primary theme: The use of marketing automation.


The team designed a bingo game with a conference twist: The cards featured names and photographs of Eloqua employees, and drawings would be announced via SMS messages, Twitter and other channels during the two-day event. The first attendee to get five names in a row would win an iMac.

The team used an automated email campaign to invite conference attendees to register for the game. Here are the 4 steps they took to design, promote and run the campaign:

Step #1. Design relevant game

Rather than hosting a one-time sweepstakes drawing, the team wanted to create a contest that held attendees’ attention over the course of the two-day event. They brainstormed several game ideas, before settling on the bingo theme because it was relatively easy for attendees to grasp.

To make the promotion relevant to the conference, they asked host Eloqua if they could use the names and images of the company’s personnel on the bingo cards. That way, attendees (who were also Eloqua customers) would learn the names and titles of key people in the organization.

The team printed 500 bingo cards that contained a grid of 25 squares featuring a unique, random assortment of Eloqua staff members. Beneath the grid, they included copy that:
o Explained the game
o Described how to claim a prize
o Invited attendees to visit the team’s booth to learn how the game worked
o Provided links to a game info website and Twitter feed

Step #2. Pre-show email campaign to register game players

To promote the game, the team sent email invitations to the list of attendees who had registered for the conference. They designed a two-touch, automated campaign to encourage game sign-ups.

"There’s no silver bullet. One email never does it," says Lewis.

- Email #1

The first invitation, sent three days before the show, was an HTML email that announced the game, provided a brief description of how it would work, and included links to an online registration form (See Creative Samples).

Subject line: "Introducing Eloqua Bingo"

- Email #2

The second email was a reminder message sent early on the first day of the conference -- the day the contest was set to begin. This automatically-generated message was only sent to contacts who had not yet registered for the game.

This message was a text-only letter from Dave Lewis, written as a personal invitation to participate in the game.
o Sample text: "I certainly may have missed it, but I didn't see that you registered for Eloqua Bingo yet. Here is the link again if you need it."

Subject line: "Are you going to play today?"

- The call-to-action on both messages took users to a landing page with a game registration form. To sign up for the game, players were asked to provide:
o Company
o Name
o Work phone
o Mobile phone
o Email address

The form included a note promising players that their mobile phone numbers would be used only to receive SMS messages about the bingo game, and not be used for marketing after the event or shared with third parties.

Step #3. Stagger bingo drawings over two days

Attendees who had registered for the game received their bingo cards with their event packets on registration.

The team had a standard bingo machine at their booth that contained balls numbered 0-75. The numbers corresponded to names on the Eloqua employee list that were featured on the cards, so when they drew a ball they could cross-check the number against a name.

Based on probability calculations, the team expected to have a winner after about 15 draws. Their goal was to have a winner hit "bingo" just prior to a final awards banquet, so they planned to stagger the name drawing over the course of the two-day event:

- On the first day, they pulled names during breaks and at lunch.

- On the second day, they also pulled names during breaks but accelerated the name picks just before the banquet, announcing one every five minutes.

Step #4. Send text messages and Twitter updates to game players

The team used SMS text messaging and Twitter to announce each name drawn and provide other game updates during the show:

- The first morning of the conference, the team sent a text message to all registered players reminding them that they had opted-in and the game was about to begin. This was an automated message tied to the email campaign and registration form.

- Then, after each drawing, the team sent a text message containing the name that had been pulled.

- The team also sent the names to a special Twitter account

- During the game, the team sent occasional messages recapping the names that had been pulled so far. They also sent status updates, such as a note informing players that a winner was likely to hit "bingo" during the banquet and that they should keep their phones on.


"It definitely was a win for us," says Lewis. "It drove a ton of booth traffic and huge amount of awareness."

Revenues generated from the campaign were more than four times the cost of sponsoring the conference. And the team was asked to run a similar bingo game at a subsequent Salesforce.com Dreamforce event.

The two-step automated email campaign delivered impressive open, clickthrough and conversion rates. Here are the metrics.

First email:
o 55.18% open rate
o 23.24% email to form conversion
o 77.65% Visitor to form conversion

Second email:
o 22.14% open rate
o 8.4% email to form conversion
o 80.49% visitor to form conversion

And, yes, they achieved their goal of having a winner yell "BINGO!" just before the start of the final awards banquet.

"We had the iMac there in the banquet room and delivered it to her like the Publishers Clearing House prize patrol," says Lewis. "She was ecstatic."

Useful links related to this article

Creative Samples from DemandGen’s Eloqua Bingo campaign

Members Library -- Special Report: When to Adopt Lead Scoring, and How to Justify the Investment

Members Library -- Special Report: 8 Criteria for Choosing a Lead Scoring/Marketing Automation Vendor

Members Library -- How Simple & Inexpensive Trade Show Souvenir Got 430% ROI

Eloqua: The marketing automation platform used to manage the campaign’s email and SMS messaging


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