Challenge: Register conferees.
Solution: Segment direct mail recipients based on medical specialty, then provide a customized message about the conference that will provide a tailored experience based on specialty.
Results: A year before its inauguration, CollaborativeCARE Conference was already 13.5 percent to goal.
At first, the mailings from the CollaborativeCARE Conference (C3) weren't going to include a registration form for the Nov. 15 to Nov. 20 event in Long Beach, Calif. The Weston, Mass.-based regional conference organizer was going to require physicians to register online.
But, going into the marketing campaign for their inaugural event, organizers thought better of it, says C3 Chief Marketing Officer Fred Criniti. Exactly 793 registrants later, they were glad they did. About 320 recipients mailed back handwritten registration forms—complete with email addresses.
"It blows us away," Criniti says. "But it's a little bit of a lesson learned for a marketer. ... I would hate to think how many people we would've lost if we didn't offer the option."
As smart as C3's target audience is, Criniti says physicians have a certain comfort level that must be accommodated in order for them to agree to attend an event. Having a traditional initial contact channel is one. Having content experts they respect is another.
Need No. 1 was satisfied in late 2010, when C3 bought a mailing list and sent postcards and brochures differentiated by specialty to 20,100 endocrinologists, infectious disease specialists, cardiologists, gastroenterologists, nephrologists and other specialists. Shortly thereafter, C3 also used direct mail to contact 18,000 primary care physicians, for a total of 38,100 mailings a year ahead of the event.
Each group of recipients saw a face they recognized, helping fulfill need No. 2. California cardiologists, for instance, saw the portrait of Dr. Steven E. Nissen, department chair of cardiovascular medicine at The Cleveland Clinic, and recognized him from nearly 2,400 miles away. Criniti says featuring "world-renowned" specialists—in Nissen's case, as the cardiology curriculum director for the conference—pulls in registrants.
To further instill confidence in the event with mail recipients, Criniti says C3 partners with entities the specialists know. In the case of the cardiologists, that's the California Chapter of the American College of Cardiology.
Customizing the mailing by speciality also helped C3 meet one of its other goals: segmenting the audience at the conference by specialty area. This allowed attendees to receive bespoke educations and C3-facilitated opt-in meetings with exhibitors on specific days. For cardiologists, as an example, Nov. 17 will be their day.
"Physicians are telling us that they would prefer to be a little bit more structured in how they go into the show floor," Criniti says. So, as the event nears, the conference will open up registration for opt-in meetings with pharmaceutical companies.
And while the direct mail does provide many response channels—QR Codes, a fax number, the C3 website URL and an 800 number—Criniti knows that direct mail as a medium will still play a huge role in future marketing campaigns. Amid emails to those already registered, C3 sent mailpieces to physicians in May and will do so again in July and September.
Criniti sums it up: "Some of them are just still really comfortable in traditional methods."