Thursday, July 22, 2010

Increase Your Attendance


One of the things I like best about the exhibit business is the opportunity to work with many different professionals in many different types of businesses, trades and organizations. My “practice” is always interesting, very diverse and includes a mini education in promoting different products and services to a broad range of trade show audiences. For example, we may be consulting an ad agency representing a software developer and then a volunteer with a local chairty in the morning and then meet with the preident of a funeral directors' association in the afternoon. Almost every day is like that!

Our showroom at ShaBang Exhibits has several conference and design areas where we enjoy a cup of coffee and discuss the form and function of the booth design along with the graphics and overall corporate branding. During these meetings, it becomes very obvious who’s a “newbie” and who’s an experienced “pro” when the discussion includes the pre-show promotion plans and projects. The professional exhibitor knows that promoting their message and inviting specific visitors to their booth and other functions before the show is a proactive, mandatory marketing task that is as important as attending the show itself. The key word..."proactive."

The statistics highlight its importance:

• 76% of attendees select whom they will visit before they enter the exhibit hall.
• Pre-show promotion can increase qualified attendance by 60%!

Here are some important tactics to consider in promoting your attendance at a show:

While ordinary direct mail marketers dream of a 2 percent response rate, exhibitor respondents in a recent survey by Exhibitor Magazine record an average response of 19%! Done right, it can be a powerful promotion that builds booth traffic, increases awareness, and most importantly, generates sales.

A good direct mail piece consists of four elements: the list, the overall look (copy & design), the offer, and the response vehicle. All four combine to make an effective direct mail piece. Leave out any one of these items and your pre-show mailer will not have its desired effect.

Eight tips and guidelines for the use of direct mail:

1. Plan to send out at least three pieces for maximum effectiveness, with the last piece reaching your prospects a week to 10 days prior to the show.

2. Make sure the list is qualified and up to date. The most brilliant direct mail piece fails miserably if sent to the wrong group of people. Draw from your internal database, past and pre-registered show attendees and exhibitors, and purchase a list of all potential buyers that are within a few hundred miles of the show.

3. Make sure you have an offer with a call to action. Invite them to bring the mailer to the booth to receive a special gift or discount on purchase, or have an RSVP response card that invites them to your hospitality events or special outings. Creating a sense of urgency helps here by saying "respond by October 15 as seating is limited" or "discount applies to first 10 exhibitors to visit our booth."

4. Personalize the mailer by using the individual's name on the envelope and enclosed letter. Have the sales staff add a handwritten note on each one, or even better, hand address each mailer, if possible. We all open mail that has our name handwritten. If this is not possible, choose a script typeface for more warmth.

5. Make sure your copy is brief and benefit-oriented. You need to speak directly to the needs of your target audience, and use different mailers for different buyer groups. Be sure to clearly differentiate yourself from your competition.

If you are showing a new product, play this up in the copy by highlighting the fact that the visitor will have the exclusive first look at your new widget that may help them stay ahead of their competition.

6. Include VIP passes or registration forms for the show that help to bypass long registration lines. Print your company name and booth number so the recipient will know which booth to visit and whom to thank!

7. Use post-show mailers to thank visitors. Or for those who couldn't make the show, offer them a company brochure or video.

8. Have an evaluation system to track the effectiveness of the mailer. Measuring your return on investment is just as important with direct mail as in trade show marketing.

Remember, you can double your response rate by following up with an emailed invitation, and increase your qualified attendance even higher with a personal phone call inviting them to your booth!

Before the show, place ads in your industry's trade publications, as well as local publications and association newsletters. Locally, you can increase awareness with billboards, airport light boxes, and taxicabs. At the show, you can have an ad in the show book, advertise on kiosks in the show registration area, and use hotel room drops under the doors — an extremely effective, and timely invitation to visit your booth!

Send out press releases prior to the show to the trade publications in your industry, and invite the editors to attend the show. At the show, make sure you have press kits, and possibly reprints of articles about your company and its products. Another good way to get your name out, and be recognized as a leader in your field, is to give work¬shops and seminars in conjunction with the trade show.


Plan now to isure the success of your trade show while protecting your investment. Don’t rely on show management to do all the wok in getting attendees to the show. Even if they get a large group of visitors to the show, will they be the right ones for you? Will they be your target audience? A successful show will depend on your promotional efforts.

Large and small companies are finding the Shabang Exhibits website a good resource for information in planning a successful trade show. Check out the Trade Show Tips at:

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