Author: Dave Brooks
Date: December 12,2007

LAS VEGAS — Fairs and festivals are becoming more
sophisticated at collecting e-mail addresses of patrons. From
information retention through online ticket sales, to kiosks that
collect email addresses, fairs are continually developing means of
keeping in touch with patrons through the low-cost medium of email.
But once a fair captures an e-mail address, what do they do with
it? “The days of blasting customers with mass e-mails is
over. E-mail is the most personal advertising medium in
history,” said Richard Finstein, president and co-founder of
CommPartners, which held a panel on e-marketing at the 117th annual
International Association of Fairs and Expositions convention in
Las Vegas. “If your e-mail isn’t personal, it’s
broken.”Smart marketers recognize people’s aversion to
SPAM and have developed a core set of best practices to continue to
hold the attention of fairgoers. Finstein offered the following
seven tips during his presentation on ways to retain a
customer’s attention and send powerful marketing messages.1.)
Get Permission“E-mail is one of the most powerful and yet one
of the most dangerous mediums of communication,” Finstein
said. “Virtually everyone uses it; it’s very
inexpensive and it can easily be built into the existing marketing
system. But of all media, it is the one where it’s most
critical that you have explicit permission.”Fair managers
should be very clear about their intent when collecting
fairgoers’ e-mail addresses and explicitly ask for permission
to send them e-mail marketing materials. Consider exchanging
permission for a discount coupon to the fair or some type of
promotional item, he said. Failing to correctly receive permission
could lead to federal penalties and blacklisting by weary Internet
Service Providers.2.)Build a Targeted Mailing List“The very
best way to get permission is to have your best customers and your
biggest fans ask their friends to sign up,” Finstein said.
Follow up with ticket buyers and include a subscribe link in the
mailing so readers have a means of signing up if their friends by
forwarding them the e-mail.3.) Adopt a Strategy of
Persistence“They used to say it takes something like 7.3
impacts to make an impression with an ad, and that was long before
the Internet. I believe today it’s approaching 20 imprints
before you can make an impression,” Finstein said. “So
if you aren’t touching your clients in some way at least once
a month, chances are you’re going to lose their
interest.”Successful e-mails begin with a story and use the
e-mail to “drip that story until it gradually unfolds,”
he said. That means constantly thinking about the next move and the
next contact, whether it be inviting them to a presale or sending
out specialized content detailing an upcoming fair event.”4.)
Tell A StoryOne of the biggest mistakes fairs and events make is
blasting out nondescript e-mails every time a new event books the
fairgrounds or a new event goes on sale.“You need to include
relevant information that will entice people to read your e-mail
and not get the feeling you’re just trying to sell them
something,” he said. “Fortunately, fairgrounds are full
of great stories and community knowledge. Entice your customers
with local stories of fair exhibitors, or maybe a tip or recipe
from one of the competitors. As a fair manager, you truly have an
infinite number of stories to tell.”5.) Let Your Patrons
Drive the DesignSince there’s no such thing as guaranteed
delivery in the e-mail business, marketing departments have to be
cognizant of design. Filters often block out logos, graphics and
flash animation, determining whether or not your customer or
prospects see your message.“Filters are extremely
thorough,” Finstein said. “If you’re not careful,
they’ll block out your legitimate message.”He
recommends using flat text with links to your website —
high-resolution graphics should be saved for your website. Patrons
who read their e-mails on Blackberrys and other PDAs often
can’t download the graphics, he said. Many fairs and big
festivals are beginning to offer both rich text and plain formats
so patrons can determine how they want their mail delivered.6.)
Have An Exit Strategy“People who gave you their e-mail
address did so because they want to hear from you, but that could
change,” Finstein said. “If people don’t respond
to you, chances are they’re either not interested in your
content or they’re no longer getting your
e-mails.”“In either case, we recommend you define a set
number of non-response messages and then stop sending them e-mails.
It sends a negative brand message and it doesn’t do anything
to help reestablish your relationship with them,” he
said.7.)Define Your Own Best Practices The key to maintaining a set
of successful best practices is to know what you want from your
program and be prepared to change those priorities as the
event’s needs change, Finstein said.“Identify what you
will use them for, the goal of your communications and how
you’ll define the success of your campaign,” he said.
“The most important element in any kind of successful e-mail
marketing is understanding and defining what your realistic
strategy should be.” – Dave BrooksInterviewed for this
story: Richard Finstein, (877) 297-0926