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Direct-Mail Effectiveness
ILLUSTRATION: MARK FISHER
Q.
Management won't free up the funds for a direct-mail campaign. How can I convince stakeholders that direct mailers are effective?

A.
I get this same question from professionals in almost every industry, and given all of the ways you can allocate your marketing dollars, it is a reasonable one to ask. As such, I have provided plenty of statistical ammunition near the end of this entry to back up your argument. But statistics aside, let's first take a look at the fundamentals and some anecdotal evidence. When using trade shows as a lead-acquisition tool, everything rides on your ability to start a conversation with an attendee that ultimately converts that person into a customer. You are trying to transform the highest number of attendees to clients, within a limited period of time, at the lowest price you possibly can. And to do that, you need to get them into your exhibit on the show floor.

At first glance, the cheapest way to do this is to simply blast out a bunch of emails and then wait for people to start setting appointments. But more often than not, the response you get is the sound of crickets. Was the message bad? Was the offer wrong? Probably not. Recipients just didn't open your emails.

That's because the response rates on acquisition emails (i.e., missives from people the recipient doesn't know) are very low. People are deluged with hundreds of emails per day. It is hard enough to get existing customers to open an email, let alone someone who knows nothing about your company other than the fact that it's exhibiting at a conference they are scheduled to attend.

To that end, other types of marketing might be more expensive but can prove to be more successful and provide a significantly higher return on investment. Direct mail is a longtime favorite for event marketers since it is a tactile, graphically oriented format that can be easily tossed in a briefcase or bag to reference during or after the show. Creative mailers, e.g., scratch-offs, coupons, event tickets, 3-D packages, etc., can further increase response rates.

My marketing teams and I have been doing trade shows for more than 30 years, and direct mail has consistently been our best lead-acquisition tactic. And with our exhibiting clients, we see firsthand that direct mail provides one of their most profitable methods of outreach. In fact, if you take it one more step and look at the industry's leading show organizers, almost all of them use direct mail as a cornerstone in their marketing mixes.

Clearly then, it's worked for us, our clients, and show producers. If it didn't, we'd all stop using it. But if this anecdotal evidence doesn't convince you, consider the most recent statistics from the Data & Marketing Association's Statistical Fact Book.

➤ Direct-mail campaigns are 25 percent better than email and 60 percent better than online display ads (aka web marketing) at generating a positive experience with recipients.

➤ Neuromarketing as well as haptic research has uncovered the power of direct mail as a physical and tangible medium. Studies show that consumers understand and remember what they read on paper better than what they pore over on a screen.

➤ Customer response rates for direct mail increased year-to-year by an impressive 43 percent, but prospect response rates more than doubled – reporting a 190-percent increase.

In effect, this last statistic means that the effectiveness of direct mail has improved considerably, at least between 2015 and 2016, i.e., the years the study addressed. I suspect this increase can be attributed to the use of new and emerging print technologies that allow for personalization and improved targeting strategies using real-time data. But the bottom line is that direct mail has been and continues to be an effective tactic.

Plus, according to a Mail Moments Review report from the United States Postal Service, 84 percent of Millennials will look through their physical mail. In addition, 64 percent would rather review their mail for useful information than scan an email. Finally, Millennials believe mail is a more reliable source of communication than email.

So with statistical evidence and the proven success of direct-mail marketing, the question to ask your stakeholders isn't "Can we afford direct mail?" Rather, it's "How can we afford not to include direct mail in our marketing programs?"


— Keith Goodman, vice president, corporate sales and marketing, Modern Postcard, Carlsbad, CA
Help Wanted
Send your tough questions about exhibiting to Linda Armstrong, larmstrong@exhibitormagazine.com.

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