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8 Wrong Ways To Use Trade Show Promotions

wrong ways to use tradeshow promotionsDone right, promotions increase tradeshow booth traffic, make positive impressions, deepen relationships, and boost memorability.  Done wrong, they can waste booth staffers’ time, be a drain on your trade show budget, and erode your reputation.

Here are 8 wrong ways to use trade show promotions that exhibitors unfortunately do again and again – and how you can avoid making these same mistakes yourself:

1.  Get the cheapest giveaways possible

That thing you bought to give to booth visitors?  It has your company logo on it.  Do you want people to equate your brand with cheesy, cheap, and poorly made?  And when it breaks in two weeks, do you want your logo on it?  Nope, I thought not.  So invest in quality, as befits your quality brand.

2.  Pile giveaways in your booth – then ignore the people they attract

You heap an enticing stack of giveaways on the edge of your table, and lo and behold, the trick-or-treaters appear.  They grab and dash, and you feel helpless.  Instead, either put the giveaways further in your trade show displays, or out of sight altogether.  Better yet, guard them with a capable booth staffer, who can quickly qualify attendees with a single question.  You may find your giveaway trap is worth it, if you can find enough qualified leads amidst the treasure hunters.

3.  Offer giveaways that have no tie-in to your message.

Is your strategy to buy the latest cool gadget as a giveaway?  While people will love it, that gadget will not help them remember your competitive advantage.  Want to be remembered for the right reasons?  Find a giveaway that is appealing AND that you can memorably hook into your marketing message or theme.  That way, you create a deeper, more meaningful impression your booth visitor will remember after the show.

4.  Don’t tell your booth staffers about your promotions

Skip telling your staffers about your promotions.  Then, have that awkward moment when an attendee hands your staffer your pre-show mailer inviting them to come get your at-show giveaway, only to be met with a blank stare.  Feel how your company (and professional) reputation takes a hit.  Unprepared staffers won’t know about contest requirements, fulfillment expectations, or how to tie your giveaways to your marketing messages.  So train them.

5.  Offer a prize or raffle – without qualifying entrants

Want a big list of people who just want an iPad?  Raffle it off at your next show.  Unfortunately, that list will be pretty useless when you get back to the office – unless you are an iPad salesperson.  Instead, require attendees to answer a few qualifying questions on an entrance form first, so you know who are the good prospects right away.  Better yet, only do a broad-appealing raffle like this when most of the show attendees could be prospects for your products.  Otherwise, you waste a lot of time talking to non-buyers.

6.  Treat your customers like strangers

Don’t reward your customers for their loyalty.  Give them the same $1.29 giveaway you handed over to everyone else.  Let them feel how special you think they are for giving you their valuable business.  Don’t like the way that feels?  Then have a second, higher-level giveaway stashed away that’s only for clients.  A welcome bonus – you’ll be surprised how often when you give that to a client while thanking them for their business, that they answer you by saying, “You know, we do have this new project coming up…”

7.  Hire a celebrity, then ignore the line

Celebrities, especially those within your industry, can draw a crowd.  But that crowd is worthless if your staffers ignore the line waiting to meet the celebrity in your exhibit.  Staffers can engage attendees by talking about the celebrity, but then also ask them about their needs, and record their answers.   So your staff will know who the qualified leads are before they get the celebrity’s autograph.  The same applies to other entertainment you hire that gets a line forming.

8.  Give a great gift – but then don’t follow up

After you’ve invested $5, $10, $20 or more on a high-quality, memorable gift with your best prospects, you let those valuable opportunities die on the vine by not calling them after the show.  Sure you can hope the gift alone will compel them to pick up the phone and place an order with you.  But their desk will be cluttered with work that piled up while they were at the show.  Instead, be sure to prioritize your leads by quality, so your sales force can reach out to those top-level prospects while they are hot.  And tell your sales people what giveaways the leads received, so the sales people can refer to the gift in the follow up call, and tie the goodwill of the gift to them.

Promotions are a powerful tool for trade show marketers.  But like all tools, they need to be used the right way for full effect.

What other wrong ways have you seen exhibitors use trade show promotions?  Share with your peers in the comment box below.

Creating Effective Trade Show PromotionsLearn more ways to do trade show promotions the right way! Click here to get the 76-page Creating Effective Trade Show Promotions book, filled with articles, worksheets, checklists, and ideas to boost your booth traffic.

About the Author

Mike Thimmesch was Skyline Exhibits' Director of Customer Engagement, for over 25 years. He is now retired and spends his time freelancing, traveling, and enjoying time with his family.

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