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A Distributor Puts On A One-Of-A-Kind Trade Show

Case Study Close-UpAt the start of 2013, the executive team of Premier & Companies Inc. (asi/298491) met to discuss new ways to grow its business. The company's leaders wanted to do something that would get customers talking, so they brainstormed marketing and sales approaches that were completely outside the box.

"The idea was presented about having a trade show aboard the USS Intrepid, which is a living museum here on the west side of Manhattan," says Ed Sanders of Premier. The ship certainly has a wow-effect, offering a 17,000-square-foot room, a flight deck and the USS Enterprise space shuttle.

"We had to attract marketing professionals, facility managers, and procurement and purchasing coordinators and show them why they should interrupt their day, look at our video and attend our event," Sanders says.

Premier decided to create a "Mission: Possible" theme in which attendees could take part in a game. Event guests would use spy glasses to decode personalized mission cards, which directed them to visit key manufacturers. Attendees could also later drop their cards into a bin and be registered to win prizes.

Andrew Schrage, co-owner of the personal finance website Money Crashers, believes Premier's idea was both creative, eye-catching and light-years better than a typical trade show presentation. "Premier & Companies demonstrated to its clients that it was willing to go the extra mile in order to earn their business," he says. "What Premier & Companies showed other companies is that it's not afraid to go out and grab new customers and do so with savvy."

Adding to the entertainment experience, Premier showed clients and prospects a full array of its services before and during the event. In its trade show package, Premier incorporated the latest in stamping, papers from Neenah and offset lithography, along with mounting and fulfillment, direct mail, e-mail, video and personalized URLs.

"We welcomed guests with a package for the front end and provided management with an easy-to-use, real-time, back-end reporting module, which is all part of our online technology," says Sanders. "We then added another dimension utilizing red lenses within glasses, which optically allow for hidden messages to be part of the custom mission cards. They're also part of the invitation package and digitally printed."

Not to be forgotten are the detailed lengths Premier went to in marketing the USS Intrepid event. The distributor launched a cross-media print campaign for 2,000 people and an e-mail campaign for 1,300 people. The cross-media effort alone successfully reached about 60% of invitees, resulting in RSVPs from more than 25% of invited guests within two weeks of the campaign's kickoff. The personal URLs sent via e-mail, meanwhile, were viewed by 50% of recipients. "We had 870 registered people for the event, and on a rainy Wednesday, we had almost 700 attend," says Sanders.

Premier & Companies also kept detailed analytics on which aspects of the event were most visited. "This allowed for our clients to see what other services we can provide, making our relationship more valuable," says Sanders.

Schrage, who applauds Premier's use of tracking metrics, isn't surprised the event was a hit. "Any company that can put that much of a creative spin on something that's usually rather mundane – such as a trade show – is sure to have positive, long-term results," he says.