After going to a lot of trade shows and expos, I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of trade show marketing. Looking at what other exhibitors have done in the past is a great way to learn important lessons from their failures and mimic their successes.
Scrap your Old Tricks
If your trade show plans include packing your booth with good-looking women or filling a large bowl full of candy, just stop. These cheesy old tricks are a thing of the past! People are tired of seeing the same old things at every booth and their attention spans are getting shorter than ever, which means that you need to do something really great to bring them in and get their contact information. If you just re-order the same swag and stick up the same visuals that you’ve always used in the past, you’ll continue to see diminishing returns.
Keep in mind that thinking outside of the box won’t really help if it’s still obviously gimmicky though. One time I was at a conference where a company hired the nation’s top rated Guitar Hero guitarist to play on a giant screen at their booth. Who was this company? What did they do? Who knows! It was cool enough for people in the rows nearby to stop by to see what the noise was all about but not enough for people to stop and talk to someone at the booth. (As a side note, generating an incredible amount of noise at your booth kind of makes it difficult to have a meaningful conversation.)
Make Swag Functional and Fitting
Pens are cheap, and no one needs more of them. Don’t just order whatever you can get the most of at a bargain – order something that your target audience will actually want! People are willing to take the time to talk to your reps if they can get something that will benefit them personally at work or at home, or something that they can take home to their family as a cool souvenir.
The best swag is not only functional, but also fitting to your brand. That’s why dentists’ offices provide branded toothbrushes and floss and furniture dealerships provide branded leather wipes and wood polish. The swag that you give away should say something about your business or your target audience.
Remember, the more reusable your swag is, the longer it will last, which means the more people will see it. That’s why buying swag that’s more expensive on a per piece basis can actually be a better investment. The coolest piece of swag that we’ve ever seen is a branded glass growler – which probably cost the company $15-25 per piece, but unless someone drops it on the ground, it will probably last forever and it’ll be used by people in a social setting (like that toothbrush from the dentist’s office), which makes it an excellent investment.
Obviously, the more you spend on an individual piece of swag, the less you’ll be able to give away. However, if you set up a skills-based contest or a raffle drawing, you can still get a lot of leads in exchange for the money that you spend on your branded merchandise.
Go After a Prime Location
Most of the time you don’t have any say in where your booth will be located on the trade show floor, but you do have a say in where your swag will be used. Things like reusable shopping bags, neck lanyards, fitness wristbands, and hats put your brand name on prime location, giving it ultimate exposure. Consider where your swag will be used and how many people might see it before deciding on what to get for your next trade show.
Start a Conversation
While most conferences and expos allow exhibitors to simply scan name badges or tickets to obtain contact information for interested people, stationing your reps in the aisles with scan guns and getting them to bleep the badge of anyone who walks by is a terrible strategy. Instead of making the goal to get as many names as possible, set the goal at starting as many conversations as possible or qualify as many leads as possible. The results afterwards will be totally different if you empower reps to engage attendees and warm up the leads. Instead of a bunch of unanswered emails, you’ll probably end up with a smaller but much more solid lead base that you can nurture effectively with sales resources.
Do a Demo
If your product or service can be demonstrated, offer demos at your booth to wow people passing by. You can even allow people that are highly interested to sign up for private demos to give them more personal attention and answer their specific questions.
Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Business Blogging and Web Copywriting. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and son and enjoys cooking, watching sports, and spending time together as a family. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about current marketing trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!