‘Tis The Season To Do Trade Shows

Two times per year, a brief period comes along that some cherish and some dread. What I am referring to is trade show season. There are a myriad of pros & cons to participation in these events. One of the cons that I have experienced is the cost. Marketing budgets are running lean these days and some companies have stopped attending entirely or, at the very least, diminished their trade show presence. For those that fall into the latter category, one question seems to come up more than any other: “How do we make this event a success?”

There are many ways to get the most out of a trade show, considering you have a limitless budget. If you are fortunate enough to fall into that category, you can stop reading now. For the rest of you, here are a few tips on how to keep costs down and maximize impact at the same time.

1. Getting Attention – Studies have shown time and again that certain things like use of color or moving images draws more attention. Booth technology today allows for use of moving, interactive projected images in ways that could only be dreamed of 10 years ago. If you don’t have this technology today, make an investment. Now part of this blog talks about saving money, so why the investment portion? Two reasons: For one, it will provide the impactful presence you require. For the other, new booths are lightweight and easy to assemble. This saves large amounts of money over time as many can be transported & set up by the user instead of incurring shipping and drayage. The overall savings can add up to be quite substantial. The more shows you do, the greater the savings.

2. Pre-Show Marketing – Come up with a killer offer and let every attendee know about it. Trade shows vary in size, so your cost will be strictly head count determined, but the real value here lies in the ROI. An integrated marketing campaign that leverages print, e-mail, SMS and web interactions has not only a greater impact, but gives attendees the ability to schedule time at your booth beforehand. Starting with mail, discuss your offer and get their attention. Drive them to the web to sign up for a time slot at your booth. Follow up with periodic e-mails, not just as reminders, but also to snag extra attendees who didn’t respond to the mailing. Text the attendees on the floor before their scheduled times to dramatically increase your impact and response rates. The last step is to secure a solid follow-up. Keep your list handy and get those appointments people!

3. Promotional Items – These days, promotional items go far beyond the stress balls and mouse pads of yesteryear. As an attendee of a great many shows, I can tell you have not bought a pen in years, but I also couldn’t name one company printed on those pens. People tend to glaze over most of the company names on promo items. One way to help people remember you is to give them something useful on a flash drive, such as an app. Memory costs have come down substantially in recent years and there are cost-effective tools & companies to generate apps that people can actually use. Make sure the app is branded to your company, and if possible, make it tie to services or products your company provides, leading to potential business driven right from the app.

Whether you attend 1 or 100 trade shows this season, remember that there is little point in doing anything if it’s not done right. Follow a few basic guidelines and get your team properly prepped and you could be changing your tune about trade shows sooner than you think!