association execs don't want promotional emails from exhibitors

Every year, when I register for the ASAE Annual Meeting, I check the box to receive emails from exhibitors. As a writer and content marketer, I like seeing how vendors in my community use email marketing. Some of them do it well, but some, oh boy, they really blow it.

The list ASAE provides to exhibitors includes association execs and staff as well as consultant members like myself. Ideally, an exhibitor would scrub and segment this list because it includes people with a range of positions and needs. For example, a company selling learning management systems shouldn’t waste their time sending emails to a government affairs professional.

The association execs on this list represent a wide spectrum of associations with different membership models, programs, financial resources and history with the exhibitor. Someone who works for a home builders association has no interest in an abstract collection tool. A person who just saw a demo of your system shouldn’t receive a generic email explaining what you do.

Deliver value in return for your inbox privilege.

These attendees have given exhibitors permission to enter their inbox—quite a privilege. Next time you talk to an association exec, ask her how many emails she gets a day. What percentage does she leave unread or delete?

You have a terrific opportunity to be of service and stand out from the pack. Don’t waste this opportunity with a promotional email that’s only says who you are, what you sell and what booth you’re in—all forgettable information. Nobody cares about any of that except people in the later stages of the selection process, and they already plan to visit exhibitors who sell what they need.

Instead, use this opportunity to be helpful. Assuming you know your target audience(s), share something of value. Share educational content that helps execs improve a process, solve a problem, or learn more about a challenge.

For example, if you sell email marketing systems, provide a few tips for getting more emails opened, and link to a blog post that explains more. Sign off with a reminder that you’re exhibiting in booth X at the show and would love to share more tips in person.

Remind attendees why they’re receiving your email so they don’t mark you as spam. Say something like, “You’re receiving our tips because you opted in to receiving emails from exhibitors during the ASAE Annual Meeting registration process.”

Be a good community citizen.

Stick to your agreement with ASAE. I’m guessing you have permission to send this group one email before the show and one email after the show. Comply with that agreement. Just because someone gave you their email address (or business card) doesn’t mean you have their permission to add them to your email marketing list—you don’t, that’s spammy behavior.

If you want to add someone to your email marketing list, send them one targeted email with educational content that helps them solve a problem or improve a process. Near the end of the content, insert your “call to action,” in this case, ask them to opt-in to your list. You could say, “If you would like more tips for [the topic of your valuable content], please subscribe to our bimonthly newsletter.” If they don’t opt-in, remove them from your list.

If you’re not in the email business, learn more about sending emails that will get noticed, opened, and acted upon. Visit the sites of your colleagues who blog about email marketing, for example, Informz, HighRoad, and Real Magnet. Look for posts on email subject lines, formatting, and calls to action.

You’ve been given access to an association exec’s inbox. That’s a big deal. Now, you have the opportunity to show them what kind of partner you would be. Will you be focused on her needs and help her solve problems, or will you be self-absorbed?

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Bark)