by Linda Neumann, Brilliant Marketing Ideas, SD Direct Featured Sponsor of the Month for January

Woman with promotional products

Finally, time to start thinking about getting back out there.  If you are thinking about exhibiting at a trade show, don’t make the common mistakes that will impact your bottom line.  Preparing for the event is not as simple as picking out a shiny pen.  Trade shows create the best opportunity to obtain a face-to-face meeting with your target market in a short period of time.  That’s why you’ve done your due diligence to find the right fit for prospective clients.  You’re investing your time, and marketing budget on a big event with the expectation of generating inquiries and leads for future business. 

To get the best return on investment, you’ll need your business to stand out from the competition. You need a cost-effective way to drive attendees to your booth, get them to stay long enough for you to engage with them, and prove the value of doing business with you.   

Make a strong first impression. Trade shows can be one of the most complicated forms of marketing by encompassing every sales and marketing tool available.  From pre-show promotions and booth show strategy to follow up after the show you need to stand out from the other companies at a show.  You need to grab the prospects’ attention at least 10 feet before they get to your booth.  The entire goal of your booth is to get them to stop and interact with you. Your booth should tell the attendees who you are and what you provide in a glance. Your booth reflects your company.  Have fun with it, develop a theme perhaps and enjoy the experience but allow branding to all tie into your company.   

Once you have the look of your exhibit space covered, it’s time to work on your promotion. Something for your visitors to remember you by – other than your professional demeanor and dazzling expertise!  With so many creative options out there, it’s time to become memorable.  Preshow promotions are popular. Mailing something that they can bring to your booth to fulfil can be effective and give them a preview of your booth theme or style.  If there is no access to a pre-conference list, there are many other ways to gain attention before attendees even reach the exhibit hall.  Think about product enclosures in the conference bags, or floor graphics that lead people to your booth.  

Create your budget. Yeah, yeah. We all know this, but it’s easy to get wrapped up in a cool idea and forget the limits of your budget. If you need to find the perfect giveaway, it won’t do any good to shop $5 items with a $2 budget. Search for items on within a specified price range. You can even search for products or a category of items, like mobile tech, and request a specific price range. It’s a great tool for tailoring the field of ideas to fit your needs. And contact us for additional ways to get creative or your own custom catalog of ideas.  

We have helped customers get attention creatively with limited budgets. One idea is to hand out buttons with unique ID numbers on each button.  If attendees find someone with the same number on their button, they can come to the booth to win a prize.  Now you have attendees wearing your button and looking at that button on others throughout the conference. 

Know your target market. Attracting a Millennial to your booth may take a different approach than a Baby Boomer or a Gen Xer. For example, you might be surprised to find out that Baby Boomers are more concerned about the environment than Millennials (Jean Twenge, PhD, “Generation Me”). Or that men are more likely to own a branded USB drive (ASI 2016 Global Impressions Study). By knowing your prospective clients, you can design your marketing efforts to pull them in.    

Make sure the giveaway is useful. Attractive, enjoyable, and directly related to the service or product you offer – these are all important qualities to consider when choosing the right giveaway for your next trade show. However, topping the list should be useful. According to the ASI 2016 Global Impressions Study, 77% of people said that they would keep a promotional item that was useful to them. So, if you want that handy little giveaway to stick around, make it useful.  

Plan your follow up.  Of course, don’t forget the most important elements of the show can be what happens AFTER the show.  Following up.  If you prepare your follow up BEFORE the show it makes things a lot easier in the end. Do you know the best timing for follow up is no earlier than 48 hours after the show and no later than 48 hours after that?  Think of it as your 48 hour window of opportunity.  This allows to not have your message buried when attendees return to their offices, but not too late to remember you.  More important is the impression it makes upon their return. And need we remind you that adding a promotional product to any mailing can increase that response rate substantially?  Of course we can help you find the perfect product for that effort. 

Don’t forget to take good notes, measure your return on investment and see how your efforts pay off in relation to your other shows or other marketing activities. 

In the end, selecting a successful trade show giveaway comes down to finding the right balance between fitting into your promotion, being useful, unique and attractive. To find your perfect match, explore our or for a marketing consultation.  

Make your next event successful.