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Event Walks the Talk —Sherburne

February 2008
THOSE OF you in Southern California may be familiar with PrintFest 2008, which will be held at the Anaheim (CA) Conference Center March 27-29.

The predecessor of this show was the Gutenberg Festival that was founded in 1973 and sold to GASC in 1999. Following the final year of the Gutenberg Festival in 2005, Chris Jacobson, whose father founded the Gutenberg Festival and Horse Trader magazine, resur-rected the Southern California show in 2006 as PrintFest and has been gradually rebuilding attendance and exhibitor levels.

The reason I am writing about this show is the unique approach that is being taken this year. Jacobson is partnering with the DMA (Direct Marketing Association)—more specifically, Bob Hughes and his Southern California chapter—to bring the print show under the same roof as DMAsc’s Southern California Direct Marketing Expo, which has historically had 300 to 400 attendees from creative firms, ad agencies and marketing departments. Members from the printing and mailing community are now also attending the event.

“Our belief is that, in a changing industry such as ours, you cannot continue to do things the way you have always done them,” says Jacobson. “Our objective at PrintFest this year is to bring customers and printers together with manufacturers and suppliers, paying special attention to the education of creatives and marketers relative to the changing world of print.”

PrintFest is walking the talk relative to change and promoting the combined show with a cross-media campaign being spearheaded by Primary Color and Gary Mack, a pioneer in cross-media strategies.

Variable mailers were sent to past PrintFest and Direct Marketing Expo attendees, as well as other targeted lists beginning last month. When recipients visit their customized Web URL included on the mailer, they are asked a series of questions. Business rules programmed into the site determine what conference sessions are most suited for each individual attendee and present them with a proposed conference agenda, which they can modify as they like, and they will be given the opportunity to register. There will be a series of automated follow-ups by print and e-mail, depending on responses, to keep the dialog going and excitement levels high.

A cornerstone of the PrintFest conference is Thursday’s session, an in-depth case study built around the design, development, execution and results of this multi-channel campaign. “We are using ourselves as the guinea pig,” explains Jacobson. “And we are going to provide all of the details, warts and all, about how this campaign was orchestrated. It will include what we did right, what we did wrong, the results we achieved and our conclusions. It will be very educational.” The case study will begin with a joint overview session and break out into marketing and print tracks for detailed discussion.

Learn the Hot Topics

This is a great opportunity for print service providers to learn firsthand how to implement these types of programs—and what the pitfalls are, based on real-world experience. In looking at the conference agenda, which is broken out into tracks for marketers and for printers, it looks like all of the hot topics are being addressed, from search engine optimization and pay-per-click e-mail to how to implement personalized Web URLs. Even if you are not in Southern California, it may be worth the trip to take advantage of this learning opportunity.

When I spoke with Jacobson, he pointed out one other interesting fact: At PrintFest, 10 percent of attendees, mostly printers, typically come for the conference and expo, and 90 percent attend the expo only.

The history for the Direct Marketing Expo is very different. The majority of its attendees come primarily for the conference. That sends an interesting message about the differences between printers and their marketing customers. You can draw your own conclusions on that one.

It is refreshing to see this combined event, bringing printers, creatives, designers and marketers together under one roof for a common educational experience. Although we may come at it from different directions, the issues and challenges facing these constituencies are two sides of the same coin. We need more events like this in our industry.

“Printers need to understand that all of this new media and alternative media is not the enemy,” concludes Primary Color’s Mack. “It is the wave of the future, as the worlds of marketing and print collide. And it is part of the package that printers must bring to their customers in a consultative approach. That is what we are spotlighting at PrintFest: focusing on the print component, but bringing it all together in a comprehensive conference. The case study of our cross-media campaign to drive conference attendance will be a terrific launching pad for the discussions that will go on over the course of the event.”

If you are not going to PrintFest, watch for follow-up coverage, especially about the outcome of the cross-media campaign. And use this column as a reminder that you should be active in your local DMA chapter. Taking the time to go where the buyers are—and to learn firsthand about their issues and concerns—is one of the most important things you can do, as you build a marketing strategy for your business. PI

Cary Sherburne

About the Author
Cary Sherburne is a well-known journalist, author and strategic marketing consultant working primarily with the printing and publishing industry. She is a frequent speaker at industry events, a regular contributor to printing industry publications and has written three books, which are available for purchase through the Bookstore section on Printing Impressions’ Website (www.piworld.com). Sherburne can be contacted at Cary@SherburneAssociates.com.
 

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