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ILLO: MARK FISHER

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e-mail marketing
We regularly use e-mail blasts to promote our exhibits and events, and someone suggested that we add a postscript (P.S.) message to the end of our missives. What's the benefit of adding a marketing P.S.?

Derived from the Latin term "post scriptum," which basically translates to "written after," a P.S. message might seem like an afterthought - a sort of unimportant throwaway comment that isn't worth much more than a disposable paper cup. In reality, however, a P.S. is one of the most read and most memorable parts of an e-mail message, or of any form of succinct communication such as an e-newsletter, direct-mailer, Facebook post, etc.

Research has shown that when it comes to the various components of written material - e.g., body copy, headlines, image captions, charts, graphs, subheads, callouts, etc. - viewers will read a P.S. long before they consider reading body copy. Indeed, rather than jumping head first into any kind of text, readers typically skim the headline and subhead, briefly glance at any callouts or captions, and then make a beeline down to the P.S. At this point, they either abandon your text completely or commit to reading the body copy. So while a relatively large majority of people will never even look at the body text, where you've probably packed the "meat" of your message, most people that merely glance at your missive will read your P.S.

So for exhibit and event marketers, and just about anyone else writing promotional copy, the P.S. is a powerful communication weapon for two key reasons. First, it's likely the last chance you have to convince readers to peruse your body copy. Second, and perhaps more important, even if people discard your message after reading your P.S., that short little "written after" script is a valuable opportunity to pass on a crucial nugget of product information, to point people to your website, and/or to drive them to your booth or event. Here, then, are six tips to help you write effective postscripts - and harness the power of the P.S.

1. Include a call to action. A pointless P.S. is worse than none at all. So make sure that at the very least your P.S. overtly or subtly suggests that recipients do something. Sometimes, this can be an obvious appeal such as, "P.S. Don't forget to contact your salesperson to set up your private in-booth demo of our new Wowser Widget." Or, it could be more of an implied request for action such as, "P.S. Remember, our price-match guarantee means you'll never find a lower price anywhere. www.Wowser Widgets.net/price-match." You're not telling people to visit your website, but the link clearly suggests you want people to click on the URL.

2. Incorporate a special offer. Everybody loves a good deal, and readers will take notice of just about any text that includes some sort of special offer. So including a value add in your P.S. all but guarantees that people will read the message and likely take action. Granted, special offers aren't appropriate for all products, messages, industries, and situations, but in the right situation, they can drive people to your website or booth to learn more.

Try something like, "P.S. If you schedule an in-booth product demo prior to the trade show, there will be a personalized gift valued at $40 waiting for you in our exhibit." Or use, "P.S. As an added bonus, if you visit us within the first two hours of the show, we'll discount your next order by 20 percent."

3. Create a sense of urgency. Most succinct text communications are immediately discarded after they're read - assuming they're read at all. That is, few people keep them for more than a day or two, and almost nobody goes back to read them a second time.

So if you want recipients to do something as a result of your communication, you need to create a sense of urgency - a sort of "act now or never" statement - to prompt them into immediate action. For example, use "P.S. Visit our microsite and sign up for your chance to win an all-
inclusive European vacation. Only the first 200 registrants will be eligible. www.WowserWidgets.net/Hawaii." Or use scarcity to create urgency with something like, "P.S. If you want to attend our Wonderful Wowserful evening event, sign up now. We only have 10 slots left!"

4. Tug at their heartstrings. We've all seen those depressing TV ads featuring images of abused and neglected animals. But as difficult as they are to watch, they work, and countless people are spurred to donate to the cause by the emotional connection they feel for the animals.

Certainly, most exhibit and event marketers are selling products and services, not rehabilitating animals and lives, so the level of drama and emotional connection should be much lower. Nevertheless, an emotional call to action can further increase your chances of a response.

For example, tie your message (and perhaps your exhibit-marketing strategy) to a philanthropic cause: "P.S. You, too, can help save a life. Sign up here (LINK) for an in-booth product demonstration. For each demo we provide, we will donate one of our portable defibrillators to a low-income housing project."

5. Tempt them with a testimonial. Before people purchase big-ticket items, they usually want to know how other consumers feel about the product, which is why testimonials are such valuable marketing tools. So why not work a testimonial into your P.S.?

Consider something like, "P.S. If you are still not sure if our ZXR Widget is the right choice for you, check out the testimonials from people just like you. www.WowserWidgets.net/testimonials." If the testimonial is brief, you might want to include the entire quote: "P.S. If you need more convincing, consider that John Smith, CEO of Boot Stompers Inc., had this to say about our products: 'After purchasing a Wowser Widget, my ROI went up 35 percent!'"

6. Infuse some humor. Just like a good joke, a humorous P.S. can lodge itself in readers' memory banks. Alas, humor isn't appropriate for all situations. But a pun here or a bit of sarcasm there - even when your body copy is as straight laced as a Baptist preacher - can make your P.S. more memorable. Consider something along these lines: "P.S. We know your bank account more closely resembles that of Greece than Google. So take advantage of our at-show discounts by visiting booth #111." Or try: "P.S. Our exhibit will have enough Krispy Kremes to clog every artery in Kansas. (Our exhibit manager accidentally added an extra digit to our order.) So stop by our booth - our waistlines implore you - and take some of these tasty pastries off our hands before they end up on our thighs."

As you can see, a postscript is far more than a leftover idea, carelessly tacked on to the end of your written message. Rather, it's a valuable marketing tool - a sort of high-visibility sticky note, if you will - that should be a part of every savvy exhibit- and event-marketer's arsenal.

- Bob Pike, founder, The Bob Pike Group, Eden Prairie, MN

P.S. If you're still questioning the power of the postscript, stop and think for a minute. You're reading this P.S., aren't you? Yup. I thought so.

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