Many of Us think that direct marketing means mailing thousands of brochures or creating a blast e-mail that must be coordinated through a large database to be sent out — strategies that can be time-consuming and very expensive. While mail campaigns and e-mail marketing can be very effective, sometimes less is more.

If you are trying to attract new attendees to your event, remember that a targeted outreach to a smaller number of individuals, such as group leaders (department heads, chief residents, education directors, company managers, etc.) can yield a large number of registrations. Besides spending time on your general event marketing, take a few moments to put together creative communication packages for this handful of gatekeepers. You may be surprised at the outcome.

To get you started, here are a few tips and creative ideas for targeted direct outreach to decision-makers:

  • Get gatekeepers' attention

    Keep expenses in line with the potential return on investment. Remember that these gatekeepers have the potential to deliver 20, 50, or even hundreds of attendees (depending on your target audience). Don't be afraid to spend a little more to get their attention. For example, you might want to invest in a high-quality calendar for 100 key people. Have a stamp made with your event logo, date, location, and Web site, and stamp the info right into the calendar. Next, flag dates several months out from your event with messages like “Remember to register my group for the XYZ event” or “Only 30 days left to XYZ event — Register now, before early-bird pricing expires!”. This one investment may keep you on the mind of your target audience throughout the year.

  • Create a call for papers

    Your gatekeepers may well also be potential presenters at your event. You might want to use this possibility to create a relationship that could also lead to group registrations. For example, send a package with a personalized call for papers invitation (intrigue your reader) along with a group discount registration form (always provide an immediate call-to-action) to the appropriate medical chiefs at the top 50 hospitals in the country. Create a relationship with these key people and you open a door to registering whole departments. Besides, you might also end up with some interesting presentation proposals. You might work closely with your scientific chair to personalize a cover letter. Physician-to-physician communications can be more effective than a general letter from an unknown organizing committee member.

  • Use FedEx power

    Your message is important, and the potential return is higher when speaking to gatekeepers, so don't send your important message via third-class mail. Get past the secretary, mailroom sorting system, and the general junk mail watchdogs by sending your message by overnight express. By carefully choosing your delivery method, you can go a long way toward making sure your message is heard.

  • Repeat that message

    The average person needs to hear, read, and/or see a brand, logo, or key message seven times before they retain it. Don't be afraid to send multiple communications to the same person over a period of time. By presenting the same core message creatively and refreshing it with new information to support your appeal (i.e., an updated speaker program or the announcement of a late-breaking clinical trial update session), you will remind your audience that there is a reason they want to come to your event.

  • Add the P.S.

    Always include a P.S. line in your direct communications. Studies show that many readers skip to this line before they read the main body of a letter or e-mail. Make sure you include your action item in this line and use this message opportunity to motivate your audience to register, subscribe, or request more information.


Jennifer Goodwin is president of The Goodwin Group International LLC, a medical communications company in Arlington, Mass., that has a network of medical communication experts in 20 countries. You can reach her at jgoodwin@goodwingroupintl.com.