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I am registered as a speaker for the DMA conference starting today and I’m very much looking forward to what looks like an exciting conference with a great lineup of speakers and sessions.

What I have been less impressed with is the show sponsors’ approach to marketing. For instance, one day last week I received 22 pieces of direct mail from sponsors of the event (and 5-10 most other days).

This was spray and pray marketing in its most virulent form, overwhelming me with a barrage of on stand competitions. The typical ‘win an iPad’ competition seemed to be at the heart of their customer acquisition strategy.

I don’t know how many people are registered to attend DMA 2012 but lets assume 8,000. Given the large investments people have made in their presence at the show, they need to work the data harder.

Because I gave this data when I registered, I’m assuming that they have my postal address, my job title, company name, email and in some case, my phone number, twitter, and Linkedin.

Direct mail has a place in the marketing mix. But what should they have done to get my attention? Here are a few suggestions:

Don’t bore me, drive me

Honestly, as kind as it is, I don’t want a 1 in 2000 chance of winning an iPad by visiting your stand. I probably already have one and I certainly don’t believe I will win it (as opposed to a major prospect or client you have your eye on – its a trade show after all). What I want is to find out is if you do anything interesting and if I want to work with you.

Why no digital integration?

If you did send me mail, why is there no personalized experience for the show? Why did no one drive me online as a next step? I saw lots of personalized ‘hand writing’ and other clever DM tricks but no one stopped to think ‘how do we start to engage this person.’ Driving me online gives you the option to:

  • start building engagement with me
  • get me excited about something
  • start building a better profile of who I am

Easier said than done?

Well where is the site that allows me to send personalized emails or postcards to my contacts saying I’ll be at DMA and lets meet up – great for the large number of conventional print people saying they now do digital and data (you clearly don’t). Matching my Twitter and Linkedin accounts to the attendee list would be fairly easy to do.

With some thought, there are literally hundreds of digital experiences that could be appropriate for different vendors especially if they are saying they now do digital.

Take the time to get personal

We have all the tools we need to target people but we don’t appear to have the inclination.

The DMA have integrated Vivastream into their event. A social platform for connecting at the event. By Friday, 2000 people had registered on there and yet I have received only one email through the system and no contact via Twitter or LinkedIn although my details are there.

I spent about 2 hours manually going through the Vivastream data (Vivastream helps but the tool still needs work and so there is lots of manual work) and selecting those people I wanted to meet. It took time and I sent about 25 messages but I already have meetings with 5 and expect more as people arrive. Low numbers yes but these are potential customers or partners that I have prescreened. Believe me its worth the time.

Once you get personal you can take the time to offer something of value. What about a free clinic or even just lunch? Because I filtered I know it’s worth my time.

Use twitter to reach key contacts

If the twitter address has been supplied, then why not message me

  • with a personal invite to meet
  • link to a key piece of thought leadership
  • an invite to the session you are sponsoring

This will get much more cut through than direct mail.

You could also enhance your Twitter data by using appending services such as Social123 who will take an email address and append social accounts in about 40% of cases

LinkedIn works if you work hard

If I’m not on Vivastream but you have my name and job title, then take the time to filter the job titles you’d ideally want to connect with, look me up on LinkedIn and send me a personal message. You don’t need to be connected to me to reach me if you have a premium account. A certain number of Inmails are included each month. I’ve found this to be one of our best methods for developing new business. 

You need to get personal and targeted as you get rated by those you approach. So it takes time and it works. I can assure you that if I got approached on Linked in with the following message, I would be there:

Dear Craig

I see you are attending the DMA conference. Fantastic so are we. I also see that you’re interested in big data. As it happens I’m running a VIP cocktail party at xxx aimed just a senior marketing decision makers to discuss this issue. We have the results of our latest research to share and a short talk from our CEO. Then its networking and cocktails with 75 other peers.

Just RSVP online ………

For many reading this I hope this feels old hat. But unfortunately my experience is that most companies still don’t get the technologies or landscape they live in. My 22 pieces of direct mail had no effect (except for me to write this piece) and yet with a little time and effort, reaching and engaging with me would have been easy.

If you are attending the DMA convention when you read this, please do get in touch. You know how.

Craig Hanna

Published 15 October, 2012 by Craig Hanna

Craig Hanna is a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter.

15 more posts from this author

Comments (4)


Dustin LeFebvre

I'm exhibiting at the DMA show and I decided not to send out any advanced communications. Why? Because 70% of the attendees opt out of receiving marketing materials. Yes - 70% of direct marketers ask not to be bothered with the communications they make a living sending. What you're left is a mix of juniors and vendors. Maybe that helps explain why no one spent too much time tweeting you.

about 4 years ago

Lawrence Everard

Lawrence Everard, Director at Little Yellow Duck

Interesting article with some valid points.

Whether it's direct mail or digital communications, this just reinforces the fact that a lot of companies simply don't think enough about what they are doing, what they want to say... and how they're going to engage.

But hey, when it is considered and executed well, it's amazing how effective DM can be.

about 4 years ago

Craig Hanna

Craig Hanna, Digital Business Consultant at Econsultancy.comSmall Business Multi-user

Thanks for the feedback. Dustin - Adds perspective although I still believe that for those who did decide to mail they needed to think about the execution much more rather than what they did. I don't believe they even considered options.

This was no way meant to bash DM, just the particular approach taken in this case. Done well it can be very effective.

about 4 years ago


Kris Gibson

Great article, if we're not utilizing the tools available to us, how are we supposed to sell ourselves as experts?
And for a different perspective - as a Canadian based company I received 3 mailings promoting various booths....AFTER THE SHOW. These mailers clearly did not take into account border delays, or consider Canadian based lettershops. There is a sizable amount of Canucks that visited the DMA, and I'm sure they were all equally unimpressed to receive these pieces after they returned from the show.
Again, with a little thought could have been much more effective.

about 4 years ago

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