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Where Do You Spend Your Trade Show Promotion Dollars?

More than just about anything else, exhibitors want to know how to improve their trade show promotions in order to get more traffic (and more of the right traffic) to their booth.

It’s a big deal.  And you can help.  Here’s how.

The average exhibitor spends 14% of their trade show budget* on trade show promotions.  Where do you spend yours to get the best results?  Consider the big three buckets:

  1. Pre-Show Promotions
  2. At Show Promotions
  3. Post-Show Promotions

Do you get a better return on your investment on pre-show, at-show, or post-show promotions?  Or, if you’ve been splitting your dollars into two or three of these buckets, which gets the lion’s share?

Tell us in the comments box below, and let us know what kind of activity you are doing that is bringing in more attendees, and the right attendees.  Don’t be shy.  Go ahead on share your experience and insight.  We all want to know how you’re getting more trade show booth visitors for the least money.

Common places to invest in pre-show promotions include direct mail (ranging from a post card up to dimensional packets), advertising, telemarketing, and pre-show microsites.  You can also do email and social media, at next to no cost.

At-Show promotions include entertainers, presentations, celebrities, gifts, discounts, hospitality, and show specials.

And after the show, post-show promotions can include mailing follow-up packets, gifts, or post-show specials and discounts.

Based on my results, I’ve been shifting my money from one of these 3 promotional buckets into another over the last several years.  But I won’t say which just yet.  I’d rather hear from you first where you get the most bang for your promotional buck in the comment box below.

*About the 14% statistic: Over 2,000 exhibitors told us in a 2008 survey where they spend their exhibiting budget, and promotions were, on average, a whopping 14% of their budgets.

Creating Effective Trade Show Promotions BookWant even more proven ways to attract more leads with promotions?  Then click here to get the free, 76-page Creating Effective Trade Show Promotions book.  It’s filled with insightful articles, worksheets, checklists, and proven ideas to drive more traffic to your booth.

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.

7 responses to “Where Do You Spend Your Trade Show Promotion Dollars?

  1. We use to spend a pretty penny on pre-show mailers, but since demand gen’s grand entrance, we have saved thousands on email campaigns. This is also the case for post-show follow-ups.

    So basically our money is spent on at-show promotions, which we are still trying to figure out how its positively affecting our ROI.

    1. Monique,

      That’s similar to my experience, too. We have shifted more funds to at-show promotions, because the pre-show mailers were not bringing in the attendees like they used to. Year by year we would attach the visitor’s mailers to their lead card. While we used to get dozens, if not hundreds before, the last year we did a mailer there were less than a handful. At-show promos get results we can see.

  2. Pre-show promotion is the responsibility of the show company. That’s the whole reason I pay them. They are far better equipped to get people into the show than I am. Why should I spend my money to get my prospects to come see my competitors? So I spend no money at all on pre-show promotion.
    Post-show promotion is too late, because if I didn’t get anyone into my booth at the show then I have nothing to follow up on. Besides, once I have a list of leads, follow-up is cheap and easy.
    At-show promotion is the most important activity. I paid to be there, and the customers are there (well in theory at least), so it’s now or never. There is heavy competition for visitors’ attention at a show, so I have to stand out to get them to see me.

    1. Jonathan,

      I agree with you that it seems dicey to promote to all your potential prospects to come visit you at a show, only to expose people to our competitors…except if you have new things they can’t see anywhere else. Or if you feel you will win any competitive comparison. However, pre-show promotion to the show’s list of pre-registered attendees gets you in front of people who are going there anyway, and helps you stand out from the hundreds of other exhibitors. That’s the approach I’ve taken for years, although recently I’ve put more emphasis on the at-show promotions, because, as you know, that’s where you can get their attention and get the conversation started. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  3. With social marketing becoming a big way, it is a very good idea to both let them know and invite to any event you are involved in. Suggest they tell a friend.

    If you have a newsletter, let your readers know and encourage them to attend and stop by and say hello or tell them of your Show Special. The more face to face meetings you can have with your customers the more then should remember you when it comes to continuing to be a valuable customer. This action doesn’t cost you but some time and the reward can be added $ales.

    The other point is this activity helps reinforce the efforts of the show’s marketing out-reach. The more the consumer see info about the event, the better chance they will come.

    1. Thanks for sharing your tips on promotions, Pat. You bring up a good point about your newsletter — see how you can leverage existing customer and prospect communications to get the word out on your trade show presence.

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