A Custom-Tailored Meeting Agenda

Associations Now September/October 2014 By: Samantha Whitehorne

A look at how the Drug Information Association boosted their conference marketing efforts by offering personalized conference agendas to prospective attendees. Each suggested sessions the recipient would likely be most interested in.

The Drug Information Association was doing what pretty much every other association does to market its annual meeting to potential attendees: Send promotional emails highlighting speakers, sessions, and other offerings.

But for this year's meeting in June in San Diego, DIA's marketing team added a new twist to one of its emails: personalization.

DIA sent tailored conference agendas to close to 7,000 potential attendees. Each personalized email suggested sessions the recipient would likely be most interested in. And with 260 educational offerings covering more than 21 tracks like patient engagement and electronic health records, there were a lot to choose from—even for the most seasoned attendees.

But how did DIA know what attendees would find appealing?

It developed the agendas based on what members had previously selected as their top interest areas in their online profiles. Staff then tagged meeting sessions to these interests using DIA's internal content taxonomy. When session tags and interest areas aligned, those sessions were recommended as ones worth attending.

DIA says that while it sounds like a lot, if you have the back-end database in place, it's relatively simple. Associations just need to be sure members are updating their preferences.

The new strategy worked for DIA. Member response was very positive, and click rates and open rates were much higher than other promotional emails. The organization will definitely explore other personalization opportunities in the future.

[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Personal Agenda."]

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now in Washington, DC.