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/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 variety of job titles and needs. For example, a meeting planner has no interest in a learning management system.

The association professionals on this list also represent a wide spectrum of associations with different types of membership, programs, financial resources, and history with the exhibitor. Someone who works for a home builders association has no interest in an abstract collection tool. Or, a person who just got 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 does she delete? You have a terrific opportunity to be of service and stand out from the pack.

Don’t waste this opportunity by sending out a promotion that’s only about who you are, what you sell, and what booth you’re in. That’s forgettable information. Nobody cares 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 tip for getting more emails opened. Then, 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.

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

Be a good community citizen.

Stick to your agreement with ASAE. I’m guessing you have permission to send one email (maybe more, I don’t know the details) to this group. 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—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 bottom of the email, 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 subject lines, formatting, and calls-to-action.

You’ve been given access to an association exec’s inbox. That is 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)