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How IEEE Used Email To Drive Event Traffic

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Sometimes bucking a trend can help a company stand out -- something IEEE, the world's largest professional association for the advancement of technology, recently found out.

The organization is trying to make inroads into Latin America. Part of its strategy was to attend Futurecom, which took place in Brazil in October. IEEE took a 360-degree approach to marketing during the event, employing a public relations strategy; having its incoming president for 2014, Jose Roberto Boisson de Marca, keynote at the event; and designing a booth that had a new look and feel.

IEEE supported the efforts with an email blast sent out the day before the show started to 1,200 registered attendees, said Tracey Caliendo, IEEE's director of marketing. The biggest surprise: The event organizer told Caliendo not to send the emails.

"We wanted to do a blast, but the organizer kept pushing back and telling us it was weird, that we shouldn't do an email because culturally that's not something that they do in that market," she said.

Because it was the first time IEEE was attending the event, Caliendo wanted to let attendees know the organization would be there and also invite them to visit the booth. She decided to ignore the advice of the event promotion team because she felt what IEEE had to say was relevant to the audience.

"Our president is super relevant not only to this [geographic] area but to the topic and point of discussion," she said. "We had someone there who was identifying areas of focus, and we've got oodles of content to share with attendees. It just made sense."

After consulting with some of her local Latin American salespeople, Caliendo and IEEE made the choice to send the email out. The message included a call to action to attend the IEEE president's keynote; it also invited recipients to visit with the organization at the event to learn more about its membership, conferences, standards and content.

The email blast had an open rate of 22%, Caliendo said, noting that typical open rates for IEEE's industry sector are less than 10%. While conversion rates are not available yet, she said her team saw between 10% and 15% of booth traffic come directly from the blast. It's a strategy that she intends to duplicate in 2014.

"IEEE will continue to engage customers with email marketing to enhance our exhibits efforts. We're expanding to some nontechnical exhibits and want to broaden our brand visibility," she said. "I'm so glad we went with our gut on this one. What better way is there to get people to stop by than asking them?"

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