Valley Expo Postcards Give Recipients the Whole Picture

A trade show production company used its knowledge of its target audience to select the creative for its current direct mail campaign.

Valley Expo & Displays, Rockford, IL, in January began a yearlong effort targeting more than 1,000 trade show coordinators employed by trade associations. It mails three postcards, one week apart and in random order, for what is mainly an acquisition effort. Unlike many business-to-business campaigns, Valley considered what it knew about its audience beyond just a job title.

“They are almost all female, 30 to 35 years of age and college graduates who won’t be in their current positions for more than five years,” said Lee Anderson, sales manager at K.W. Powell & Associates, also of Rockford, the agency that conceived and executed the campaign. “They generate the RFP. Many will eventually move on to different areas of the business. Valley knows its audience. Over time, they have compiled detailed records in order to understand the nature of their audience.”

The front of the postcards uses the same copy: “This is obviously a great place to be.” An arrow leads from the sentence to Valley’s name and the slogan created by K.W. Powell & Associates: “Better ideas. Better results.” The sentence is printed over different images on each piece, including a family picnic, a beach scene and a woman fishing.

“The picnic scene might appeal to them, but I would imagine the beach certainly would speak to them,” Anderson said. “And in the other card it’s a woman who is fishing.”

Flipping the cards over reveals something of a warning. As a continuation of the “great place to be” theme on the front, “Until you see the whole picture,” is printed across the scenes with a frightening spin on the three appearing on the front: The family picnic now has a dump truck depositing garbage next to them; the beach gains a “missile testing” sign planted in the sand; and the woman fishing is about to encounter a large bear entering the water with its mouth wide open.

“The creative was definitely meant to include some element of shock,” Anderson said. “We want them to know that you’re really not getting everything you need with some of Valley’s competitors and that you have to make an educated decision on who to go with. These associations might be swooned by a lot of promises that the competition might not be able to deliver.”

The disturbing images precede different questions asked in each piece, including:

* Are you partnered with a contractor that makes it easy for you and your exhibitors to have a successful event? Valley can.

* Is your current contractor in a position to grow as your needs grow? Valley is.

* Can your contractor consistently create the best event experience? Valley does.

“It’s a very saturated marketplace, and it was a question of being noticed,” Anderson said. “They have to know that not every contractor is a beach, picnic or a day spent fishing. Some of them cannot deliver.”

The campaign, which will cost less than $31,000 upon completion, has exceeded its goal despite reaching only 500-700 recipients so far.

“They’ve secured over $350,000 despite the fact that their goal was $250,000 for the entire year,” he said. “This is based on several shows booked as a result of the campaign so far. Now they are shooting for $500,000 for the whole year.”

Internal and external lists were used. The 1,000-plus members of the target group were picked because they work for associations that schedule shows with 50 to 300 exhibitors.

The cards also invited recipients to log onto to sign up for a free event analysis and consultation. They also could download a free event planner. A user name and password was required for access to the site that were included on the cards. This provided a tracking mechanism to identify recipients who were considering Valley’s services.

“When this campaign is over, it will be important to understand what has worked and what has not worked in order to make wiser investments in extending the campaign next year, and what message considerations need to be repeated,” Anderson said.

Top prospects also received a three-dimensional mailer featuring an event planner, notebook and contact information for Valley.

Also, after receiving the first or second card, those targeted could contact the firm and request that e-mails virtually identical to the cards be sent to them instead of the mail pieces.

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