Welcome to Advice from the Booth Mom editorial series, each article you will gain insight on how to set up your company trade show schedule, planning logistics and marketing efforts strategically at industry events. This week from the Booth Mom, she shares her insight on promotion- pre-show, on-site and post-show promotion.

If you consider your exhibit your stage, and your staff as the actors, what props will you use to entice your audience to take note of your message? A promotional strategy plan that addresses your goals and objectives, target audience, promotional budget, and timeframes can make the difference between a colossal prop and a chaotic flop.

Before planning your promotional strategy, take an introspective look at your company and product line. Ask yourself:

What do I have that’s new? “New” is the most powerful word at a trade show. Attendees want to see the newest products available on the show floor, so if you are doing a product introduction, use it to your advantage as part of your promotion.

What type of promotion will reinforce my current advertising theme or integrated marketing plan? Plan your exhibit theme around it.

What differentiates me from my competitors?

Determine your “unique selling position”. How can you make attendees remember you by your uniqueness?

How do I want to be remembered by the show attendees? Will the promotions I’m planning to leave the lasting impression I want?

The key to success in promotion is developing an integrated trade show program spanning pre-show, on-site, and post-show promotion. The goal is making multiple impressions on your target audience to increase your memorability – that little piece of attendee mindshare all exhibitors want.

Pre-Show Promotion

So, how do you get your “perfect prospect” to put your exhibit on their “must see” list? First, you must determine the demographics of your perfect prospects, and what types of promotion might appeal to them.

Types of Pre-show Promotion

There are many types of pre-show promotion and considerations regarding when and where to use them:

Public Relations (PR)/Media Relations
Get the list of participating press from Show Management and invite members of the press to your exhibit booth or press conference.
Present a professional looking, well-formatted press release in a press kit.
Don’t hype “non-announcements”. If you don’t have news, don’t pretend. You’ll be found out and ruin future opportunities by crying “wolf”.
Inform your exhibit staff during pre-show orientation regarding which staff members will handle speaking with press or media contacts.

Direct Mail
Direct mail is only as good as the mailing list you use.
Concentrate on the quality of the names on the list, not the quantity. Include the pre-registered attendees and your current or past clients.
Be creative in what you send to prospects. Think outside the box for innovative tie-ins to your theme.
You can double the traffic to your exhibit with a hard-hitting direct mail piece that gives a compelling reason to visit.

Email and Fax
Instead of “snail mail”, send emails or faxes to invite prospects to your booth. The cost is minimal and appeals to many hi-tech show attendees. Link your email to your web site and always list your booth number.

Where can you advertise before the show to catch the eye of your
“perfect prospect”? Web banners? Trade journals? Do you have a list of the events your company is participating in on your web site?

An ever-growing number of attendees are turning to the Internet to plan the exhibits they’ll visit at a trade show. Don’t miss opportunities to link to the show’s official web site.

There’s nothing like a one-on-one invitation to your current customers, hot prospects, and even inactive customers to boost your booth traffic and potential sales. Offer them a “sneak preview” of your new product line or a special thank-you gift.

On-Site Promotion
Sensory overload is a common malady once you get to the show floor.
Many on-site promotions take place outside your exhibit, and can draw attendees to your exhibit with:

Door hangers or game pieces delivered to show attendees at the official hotels in the housing block, which give a compelling reason to visit your exhibit.
Advertising outside the convention center. What do you see between the time you leave your hotel room until you arrive on-site? Static billboards or mobile billboards on trucks circling the area, bus signage, bus stop posters, advertising on or in taxis, taxi receipts, hotel room keys, etc.
Can you park your company logo on a truck nearby?
Advertising inside the convention center, offered by show management, such as bellyband advertising on the show’s official directory, badge inserts, banners, signs, bags, etc.
Opportunities to sponsor meals, receptions, press rooms.
Private “second show” events for current or past customers and hot prospects, such as hospitality events, press receptions, seminars, or customer appreciation dinners
Speaking opportunities for your company’s executive staff to present at conference sessions, seminars, or meals.
Press kits in the press room or press conferences.

Inside your exhibit, try:

Promotional giveaways that tie into your theme, tag line, or product message; are of high perceived value; and will be kept by the attendee, preferably in their office to remind them of your company and product. “Trade” these giveaways for a completed lead form or for attending a comprehensive presentation or demo.
“Commotion” at your booth created by a celebrity, “infotainment”, interactive demonstrations, or participation in a contest with immediate results.
Partner program passports, where visiting a specified number of demonstrations in partnering exhibits earns a promotional gift.
Raffles for high-dollar items. If you can’t afford to give away a car, give away a lease on a luxury car, or a motorcycle or a vacation.
Special at-show product pricing

Post-Show Promotion

Just because the show is over doesn’t mean you have to stop promoting to the attendees and press. Keep the momentum going with:

Follow-up letters or emails to qualified attendees. Save your best 4-color printed collaterals for serious follow-up or place links in an email to your web site.
Case studies, white papers, articles, client recommendations, or references
Follow-up giveaway items that tie into your theme in trade for completing a post-show survey.
Phone calls to further qualify or set appointments for demonstrations or meetings.

Keep an eye out for my next article, as I will cover your secret weapon against your competition: a well-trained exhibit staff. Do you have a question or want me to go over a specific topic? Click here.

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