No-Frills Mailing Gets Results for Virtual Conference Site

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Responses are running at 5.6 percent for a 120,000-piece direct mail campaign that i-Marq.com dropped April 20 to promote its virtual trade show service, which debuted in January.


The campaign targets CEOs, chief information officers and vice presidents of sales and marketing at Fortune 500 companies in the hi-tech, financial services and healthcare industries.


"With more than 500 conferences taking place each year, it is impossible for marketing professionals to attend and get the most out of each of them," said Kimberly Wuepper, executive producer at i-Marq.com, an affiliate site of Babcock & Jenkins, Portland, OR. "With this service they can get access to the topics and issues that are most relevant to them right from their computers."


The piece was designed to be as plain as possible to stand out from all the clutter and to give it a feeling of intrigue to generate response, Wuepper said.


"Senior-level marketing professionals probably receive more direct mail than anyone in the country," she said. "We needed to stick out from the rest of it and felt the best way to generate a response was to make people curious."


Each piece consisted of an 8.5-inch-by-11-inch sheet of white paper folded in three. The 10-point type took up only the center part of the middle fold. Each letter was personalized and read, "No more conference hotel rooms. No cheap cocktails. No limp shrimp. Found a better way -- you've got to see it. Best source of marketing information." It then directs people to visit www.iMarqAdvantage.com and provides a personal identification number for access.


The cost was $1.09 per piece, including postage.


The goal behind the language of the letter was not to pitch the service as a product but to let the audience know there is an alternative to the frustrations of traveling and attending conferences, Wuepper said.


"The idea was to come at these people with a message they could very easily relate to," she said. "We don't make mention of the service and what they can access there because we didn't want to sound like a product advertisement."


The service is free and currently has 3,700 registered users. The trade shows run by i-Marq.com are customized based on information that users provide on virtual business cards they fill out when they register.


So far there have been two to four live Web events each month with an average of 70 attendees for each. Wuepper said she expects the number of trade shows and attendees to increase. More than 120 consultants and analysts contribute information to the site. They include Frank Ingari, founder and chairman of Wheelhouse Corp.; Tom Sant, president of The Sant Corp.; and Becky Medved, vice president of customer relationship marketing at Protocol.


Among the topics they can get information on are direct and interactive marketing; Web conferencing; professional development; research and databases; and customer relationship management.


Respondents also can register for a bimonthly newsletter called Inside i-Marq.com. Subscribers will receive updated information on the site as well as links to the top two featured articles and conferences in their selected categories. There are 2,500 subscribers to Inside i-Marq.com.
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