Trade Show Marketing: The Right Item for the Right Audience

Trade shows are an important part of industry marketing, promotion and public relations, and trade show give-aways can be powerful promotional tools when used properly. Business-to-business marketers invest more money on trade shows than any other marketing medium.  That’s because trade shows give greater access and influence on buyers that cannot be replicated anywhere else, and when displaying at trade shows, you can maximize your effectiveness by handing out thoughtful specialty items. Its effectiveness does not rely solely on the recipient – as a matter of fact, much of its success is dependent on you – the giver. The right branded promotional product will attract attention, engage booth visitors, facilitate recall after the show and provide easy-to-access contact information when it’s time to make a buying decision.

Regarding the right items to choose … you should not see the give-aways as objects without value or contribution to your trade show success. Understand it as an opportunity to build rapport with your guests!

Don’t expect too much. Give-aways have a latent value – in other words, don’t expect a quick return on investment immediately. Give-aways make guests feels special and so the next time you hold another trade show, they’ll be there – just like old friends. In addition, give-aways are effective ways to produce and retain repeat buyers so don’t you feel bad about it!

Choose the right item for the trade show audience and consider what the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) discovered about trade shows:

  • 88% of attendees have not been seen by a member of your company’s sales staff in the preceding 12 months
  • 7 out of 10 attendees plan to buy one or more products
  • 76% asked for quotes and 26% signed purchase orders (average all shows)
  • 72% of show visitors say the show influenced their buying decision
  • 87% of attendees will share some of the information obtained at an exhibition
  • 64% of attendees tell at least 6 other people about the event
  • 58% attend only the show in which you are exhibiting
  • 40% are first-time attendees

It costs 22% less to contact a potential buyer at a show than it does through traditional field sales calls. While trade shows are worthwhile, they are not easy.  To get the most out of trade shows, exhibit marketers set measurable objectives, pick good shows, design effective exhibits, and more.

With more than 13,000 trade shows, conferences, expositions, private and business-to-business events in North America, featuring 1.5 million exhibiting companies vying for the attention of over 80 million attendees, it can be quite an ordeal to select where your efforts are best spent. Your selection process is important so you may choose to select the shows you want to exhibit at only after you have set your trade show objectives.

Then look at the trade shows in your industry and carefully weigh the options.  Talk to your fellow employees and industry contacts — what shows have worked in the past? Where do sales people see the customer’s needs leaning?  Look at who is going to be there.  Talk to your current and prospective customers — is this a show they will be attending?

Then consider your trade show give-aways. As the average trade show has more than 400 exhibitors, where the average attendee will visit about 21 exhibits, you can stand out and attract more visitors with top-notch promotions. Some industry experts believe you can increase your trade show lead counts by 33% with good trade show promotions and promotional products.

Just be sure to pick promotions that bring in your desired target audience, not just anyone at the show.  And don’t just give things away – get information about prospects in exchange that will help you qualify and prioritize your leads. When choosing your trade show give-away, consider the following:

Make certain your give-away is more than just a novelty. Make sure it has perceived value and/or function.  The item should support your company’s primary marketing message. For example, if you’re selling computer-related products a branded USB flash drive, mouse pad or screen cleaner is ideal. If you’re in the health care industry hand sanitizer, a wellness calendar or health informational guide ties in seamlessly with your market.

Make certain the item fills a practical need for booth visitors. Toys may be fun and attract attention but they offer limited value. The value of novelty items is short-lived and when the fun wears off, the items will be tossed or forgotten. A stainless water bottle, mug or calendar will follow recipients to their homes and offices and promote your message long after the trade show.

Don’t put all of your promotional eggs in one basket. Possibly give one item to a hot prospect or customer and another to a cold lead. You want to offer something of value to each person who visits your booth, but not every visitor will turn into a qualified lead. Consider rewarding your true customers and qualified leads a high-quality thermos, leather portfolio or branded cap. Other booth visitors can receive lower-cost items, like a t-shirt, pen or magnet.

Finally, make certain that your company logo, contact information, slogan and/or goods and services provided can be read on your give-away. That will endow long-lasting value to your give-away. The goal of your give-away is to continually advertise your company to your customers and prospects. Make it as easy as possible for them to get in touch with you when a need arises.

Trade show give-aways are an investment in your long-term success. When incorporated into your overall marketing strategy they can increase booth traffic, qualify leads and communicate your message long after the convention hall lights are turned off.