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Trade Show Marketing - Gimmicks Are Not Strategies

Posted by Tim Berney

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iStock_000018074087LargeFOR-EDITORIAL-USE-ONLY-210x210For most in sales or marketing, trade shows are like the lottery. You buy that booth space before the deadline, wait for the big day, and then…..hope. Hope that you’re in a great traffic area. Hope that your smile is especially attractive. Hope that several new prospects came to the show, just to see someone exactly like you. AKA, you hope that you get lucky. Just like picking the right lottery numbers.

Doesn’t happen though does it? And so you have convinced yourself that trade shows aren’t really for selling. You go because you have customers there and it’s a good time to build relationships. You go because your competitors go, and you don’t want to be forgotten by those eventual, maybe someday, prospects. You’re going for the last time and if this isn’t a far better trade show, you’re actually NOT going again. Sound familiar?

And you were so hopeful. But, like my friend Patrick Moore always says, hope is not a strategy. And, that’s what you’re missing. Strategy. Not the right promotional item. Strategy. Not lime green shirts that really get noticed. Strategy. A strategic approach that makes people actually want to visit you at the show. And no, not because you have a magician pulling (logoed) thumb drives from behind the prospect’s ear.

Look at it like the attendee does. Sure, they’re going to the trade show and convention to have a few expensive meals and drink too much. But, a few weeks before the show, they have good intentions. They have a short mental list of things they want to accomplish. And you need to make your way onto that list while they are in casual planning mode. It’s too late once the show starts. Again, from their perspective, they are going to show up and knock out their list, then wander around a bit. The chances of them strolling into your awesome booth are, and you know it, about like your chances in the lottery.

Your strategy is to market before the show, providing a compelling reason for them to engage with you before and/or during and/or after the show. And, that reason needs to be related to your offering. Yes, it needs to be creative enough in order to get their attention. But, that is second to the strategic plan, which also includes engagement activities at the show (at your booth, at breakout sessions, on your social platforms and website), and post-show activity as well, because you don’t close too many deals at the show do you?

The good news for you is that most of your competitors are horrible trade show marketers as well. They want to build that huge display and watch ‘em pour in. They feel busy at the show patting themselves on the back. Their promo items are perfectly arranged and the video is looping every 10 minutes. Just like every other boring booth. There’s your opportunity. It just takes a well conceived trade show marketing plan to be the most popular kid in the room. And the one with the best ROI.

So, you can put your money down for the PowerPlay and hope your tail off. Or, you can literally steal business from your lousy trade show marketing competitors. Go smart or go home.

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