The Three Stages of Trade Show Marketing
Trade show season has begun again, so many of our clients are looking at their calendars and making plans for an effective approach to this most important component of their annual marketing. That means taking a big- picture view. There are three stages: pre-show marketing, the show, and post-show follow-up.
The least important part of your trade show is the actual trade show. What's that again? Too often, all the focus gets placed on the show itself. But trade show success lies in the pre-marketing and post-show follow-up. First, ask yourself if the reason you are exhibiting at trade shows is to create brand awareness for your company’s products and services. If the response is yes (as it is for many), then maybe you should think a little deeper. Simple brand awareness is not competitive enough for today’s approach to building business. Get aggressive! Shoot higher! What you should be shooting for is brand preference. Let's tailor a trade-show experience that will exceed your expectations.
That experience to position this “brand preference place” is a Before – During – and After experience. And all three components of assuring a successful trade show involve branded promotional products.
Before the Show
The most important aspect of the Before component is to identify who your target audience is for the show. Not how many badges you want to scan, but which specific buyers/customers and companies you want to attract into your booth. You know who these people are. No, they're not “everyone in your database!” Sure, there might be some nice surprises among them but don't expend all your energy there. Create a mailing list and craft promotional solutions to entice those special folks to come to your booth during the show. Send a personal invitation tied to a branded microfoil helium balloon so it floats out of the box when they open it. Send the case for an expensive pen requiring them to bring it to the booth and get it filled with that excellent writing instrument. There are dozens and dozens of clever ways to create Before-show buzz.
Focus your show budget on this smaller audience – the audience that will impact their sales – rather than the great masses grabbing handfuls of stick pens out of a bottomless bowl. Put more effort and money into the pre-show invitations and then follow up on the mailing with personal calls. Ask potential conference attendees if they got the mailing and would like to schedule a specific appointment in the booth, filling the days of the show with these appointments. The goal is 25 or 50 amazing meetings, most of which will result in sales, new clients and strengthened relationships.
During the Show
Next is that least important segment, During the show. OK, it may be the least important segment, but now is the time. Make the booth memorable with fun apparel for the staff, interesting décor or themes, and ways to grab attention. One of the most successful booths in my experience had a theme of “It’s A Jungle Out There”. The three-part pre-show mailings focused on jungle animals and clever copy. At the show, the booth was decorated with trees and bushes rented from a local garden shop; the staff was in pith helmets and shorts; there was a sound loop of jungle noises playing in the background; and mini-plush tigers and lions were given to all who attended a booth meeting (note: not just walked into the booth, but viewed a presentation). Each hour on the hour, giant plush jungle animals were awarded in a drawing, the prizes to be shipped back to the winners’ homes by the client. It looked very different from every other booth at that show – and it was the one booth that everyone remembered.
After the Show
Finally, work on the After-show experience. Send each booth meeting-appointment attendee a thank-you gift and then follow up on that mailing with another personal phone call and a call to action. The scenario we see all too often is this. The account executive has invested time and money and sweat into the show, worked it hard, met people who seemed interested and said they’d call, left their contact info and then ... they don’t follow-up. They don’t send that sample or follow-up on the quote they e-mailed from the show floor. They don’t verbalize this, but it’s almost as if their position is, “I put in the time and the money and the effort ... You said you were interested. You should be calling me!” But it doesn’t work like that. They won’t call. They have to be reminded. Be pro-active, because this is where true show success is found.
The Five Strengths of Promotional Products
- They are targeted. A promotional product goes only where you want it to go. Compare that to a radio or newspaper ad which often hits everyone except its target audience.
- They are a long-term advertising value. They continue to promote your brand for years after they're given out.
- The medium becomes the message. They create an association that is a memory hook.
- Goodwill is created every time the recipient looks at it - as long as it's been used properly to show appreciation.
- Every time someone uses the product, an endorsement of your company is implied.
Maybe this is why surveys continue to rank promotional products so highly. In fact, among all advertising media, only the internet currently ranks higher. Radio, television, newspapers, and magazines fall way down on the list. Of course, the most effective marketers combine different means to get results. Need more traffic to your web site? A well-designed campaign using promotional products can be the best way to reach your objective.