Trade Show Marketing

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On With The Show
Targeted tactics for trade-show marketing set the stage for long-term success

Whether you think attracting trade show leads is like shooting fish in a barrel or you think a more focused approach is key, marketing at trade shows gets a boost from well-chosen promotional products.

JR Williams, president of distributor firm Poor Richards Promos (UPIC: William) in Dickson City, Pennsylvania, has addressed the challenge of improving trade-show marketing with promotional products in his online report, “The Seven Deadline Mistakes of Trade Show Giveaways,” in which he says clients often fail to consider retention and reuse when selecting products for trade-show marketing.

“First and foremost, we need to get away from the ‘throwaway’ giveaway mentality. Picking the right product makes all of the difference,” says Williams. “Having a bowl full of ‘trick-or-treat’ gifts on the table is really a waste of time and money.”

Williams says another big mistake is overbuying. “We get calls every day from potential clients thinking they need 2,000 items for a show with 5,000 people. The reality is, you can only talk to so many people, and [distributors] need to help clients manage that.” Thinking cheap is probably the third-biggest problem with trade-show marketing strategies, he says. “This still falls in line with the retention and reuse problem. We need to talk about cost per impression, not cost.”

To avoid the pitfalls associated with these common mistakes, Williams urges distributors to ask their clients a few simple, but revealing questions:

  • Who is attending the show?
  • Will every attendee be regarded as a qualified buyer, or will your client be targeting a select group?
  • When and where will the show be?
    Most of the time promotional items are a last-minute thought. It’s important to find the right supplier with the right turnaround time and shipping distance to make sure the budget is maximized on a product, and not on freight and rush charges.
  • What do you sell?
    Understanding what your client sells and the demographics for the audience they sell to is imperative to helping them make decisions on product choices. You don’t want them to hand out golf items to tennis players.
  • Why are you going to the show?
  • What are your goals for the show? Are you looking for lead generation? Conversion? Branding?

But if a distributor can provide a product to meet the client’s goals, says Williams, the sky is the limit where successful impressions are concerned. “Promotional products can be helpful in many areas depending on the client’s goals, whether it’s traffic building through pre-show mailers or handouts at the booth. The one thing I know for certain is traffic brings traffic. The more people in your booth, the more people are standing in line to get into it. Empty booths stay empty.”

Promotional products can also be a great disqualifier, he says. “If not everyone at a show is a qualified lead, we recommend buying inexpensive items that move those unqualified people out of the booth so the client can spend time with qualified leads.”

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