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Case Study: Great venue, great topic – shame no one is coming.

October 19, 2008

Scenario: The carefully selected venue is booked. Staff hotel rooms and flights are paid for. A clever and aesthetically pleasing mail shot has been designed, printed and posted. All set… or are you? 

“All in all we are about £15,000 out of pocket but there is nothing to worry about because we are hoping to showcase our latest product/services to over 50 carefully selected prospects…. the only problem; there have only been 4 registrations… oh yes and the event is in 3 and a half weeks” That is pretty much how the initial conversation went. 

How can this be?

The venue is fantastic (a famous F1 location), the event is free of charge and free of commitment, and the invited prospects are all major clients.
Surely we were missing something. This sounded like a great day out as well as an opportunity to hear about new technology that demonstrated a genuine breakthrough in its field.
So, how could we help …apart from offering to attend the event ourselves?

So what went wrong?

The problem was simple. No one knew about the event.
Yes, they had started planning months ago and invites were posted 8 weeks in advance of the event, but not enough thought had gone into the method of communication. Much effort had gone into preparing for the event yet little had gone into its promotion; instead the assumption was it was so good it would sell itself. 

However, people still need to know about it. The direct mail shot was fantastic; assuming it made it past the receptionist’s bin, onto the relevant person’s desk…. oh and caught them when they had nothing better to do than decipher a cryptic, but terribly witty, summary of the event. 

As is often the case, too much effort was put into literature that demonstrated the intellect of the marketers from whom it originated. Clearly there is a place for clever and imaginative marketing, we would never question that, but what is equally important is to get the message across succinctly.
There are times when the event will sell itself and the job of marketing is to put aside one’s ego and simply communicate the information and ask the recipient if they wish to attend.
This may sound harsh and you may wonder what on earth is wrong with direct marketing? Maybe you’re right.
We’d agree there is nothing wrong with direct marketing at all. It is a fantastic way of communicating and, unlike email, often leaves clients with an attractive, visual document that can be passed around the office. 

However, the problems arise when too much is expected of it and it is not complemented by another more straightforward message, or at least a swift and simple response mechanism. To respond to this mail shot the recipient was asked to complete a form and fax it back. 

Not a major hassle we agree, however these days people are more likely to respond to their friends’ invitation to the pub via SMS or email. So why expect more effort here? 

The combination of a convoluted message and an arduous response meant that only 4 people had bothered to reply. The rest hadn’t bothered… or just didn’t know about it.

Where to start

The mail shot was complex but effective if given enough attention. With this in mind we decided to simplify it but replicate the design in an html email version and jog the memory of anyone who saw the original in the post.
This stage was not designed for maximum response but was designed to convey all the information about the event and display fantastic pictures of the venue. All in all it demonstrated that this was a professional, well organized event promising to be informative whilst also offering a really good time. 

And the call to action?

Simply click. One click led the prospect through to a summary of the event along with a pre-populated form ready for submission. All they had to do was confirm whether they would be there in time for breakfast and/or would be staying for dinner.
It was sent to 1,214 people and generated 146 clicks (12%), resulting in 33 registrations. 

They wanted a minimum of 50 attendees so accounting for potential dropouts and no-shows we were aiming for 75 registrations. 

Our event needs YOU…

The next stage was to make things a little more personal. Using our technology we removed all who had registered or replied saying they couldn’t make it. The rest each received a personal email from their own account manager telling them how good it would be to see them there. The personal approach worked perfectly, generating a further 54 registrations as well as prompting around 30 people to ask for products details. 

To all intents and purposes the email came directly from a known and trusted contact which meant people paid attention to the message. This meant the event details were conveyed and as is often the case with prestigious events, that was all that was needed. 

Sorry, did you want breakfast?

Attendees were invited to arrive early and enjoy breakfast and/or stay for lunch and a guided tour at the end of the seminar.
With 91 registrations and various culinary options it was important to understand numbers. With this in mind all registrations were asked to confirm whether they would be eating and if so their preferences/requirements. All of this information was then easily collated and could be downloaded with the rest of the campaign reports. Having everyone’s preferences in advance apparently saved Louise (on whom this responsibility normally fell) several days of frantic last-minute co-coordinating.

Are you sure you’ll make it? 

Any event has dropouts and no-shows. Generally this isn’t a problem providing you have done two things:

  • over-subscribed
  • been tipped off before hand

This ensures that even with no shows the event is still full and the ‘tip off‘prevents you from laying out too many chairs (making even a popular event look under-attended).
Three days beforehand we sent a reminder with a tractable link through to confirmation of details and directions to the venue.

This reminded people of the event, confirmed details for them, prompted last minute dropouts to inform us and gave a hint as to no-shows who had no intention of attending or letting us know (anyone failing to click to view directions). 

Our 91 registrations meant we were over-subscribed so could afford a number of dropouts/no-shows and our final email meant we were prepared for them.
The event went off without a hitch with 72 attendees (22 more than target). 


The client thought the event was a massive success so all that remained was for us to send a final email linking through to an online feedback form to see if the attendees agreed.
Again the focus was to minimise the effort needed for attendees to submit their feedback. The form was pre-populated, the questions were brief and all the information was collated statistically and graphically in the reporting system along with all the other statistics for the event promotion campaigns.
The attendee feedback was equally positive. 

...ah but was it a financial success? 

Our costs were minimal in comparison to what had already been spent and in what seems like a bid to keep it that way they have never told us exactly what volume of business came from the event. However they did assure us they’d be doing it again... and were smiling when they said it.

If you would like any further information,please email [email protected] or call 0161 817 2929

Posted by Jenni Malley

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