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Trade Shows are a necessary evil that every business can either ignore or use to their advantage. If you’ve opted to participate, here are some ideas to help you maximize your results.
Invitations: who you mail to is more important than what you mail.
Even the most dazzling invitation will fizzle if mailed to the wrong prospect. Finding the precise mailing list is the most important step in ensuring your success. For a trade show invitation, the best list is key prospects and current customers within a 75-mile radius of the show location. Invite only those people who are genuine prospects. One good source of names is a list of people who have responded to your ads within the last six months.
Offer a little something extra for a select group.
An even more select group of prospects can be targeted to receive special invitations to hospitality suites, executive briefings, presentations of papers, seminars, and other special events held in conjunction with the show. If the event is relatively minor, a notice about it can be included in the invitation to the exhibit. But, if the event is a major occasion (such as the introduction of a new product) promote it in a separate mailing.
Incentives get the traffic flowing.
A gift certificate, mailed with the invitation, can be presented at your booth to claim a small gift, or to enter a drawing. The prospect must bring the certificate to the booth to receive whatever is offered. By printing your booth number on the card, you remind the prospect to visit you; the offer of the gift provides the incentive. The gift need not be expensive or elaborate; perhaps you offer free information, such as a special report, or an inexpensive item such as a calculator or flash drive.
Be sure to personalize.
The more personal you can make a mailing, the greater the response will be. Personalize each mailing with the prospect’s name. A form letter can be made to look personal if produced on a word processor using a program that inserts the prospect’s name and address.
Another technique is for salespeople to write brief handwritten notes to each prospect. The note, written in the margin of a preprinted form letter or on the flap of a formal invitation, adds a human touch to the communication.
Adopt and attitude of urgency.
Direct mail is designed to generate an immediate response. Therefore, your mailing must give the reader a reason to read and act now. A “teaser” – written on the outer envelope – is often used to urge the reader to open it right away. For example, it could read, “Urgent: open by November 15.” Such a letter should be mailed so that it arrives a few days before the 15th.
If you want the reader to RSVP your invitation, you should create a sense of urgency for this too. The close of an invitation to a seminar might say, “But hurry. Attendance is limited. Reserve your seat by November 15.”
Give them a choice or two.
Years ago, direct marketers learned that response increased when the reader was given a choice. This holds true in trade show promotion. For example, many of the people you invite will be unable to attend. By offering to send a DVD of the trade show, you’ll gain the loyalty of this prospect by the “Pay it forward” principle.
Be sure to make it easy to reply – take advantage of toll free phone numbers and the internet. Or include a business reply card or business reply envelope in mailings designed to elicit a response. Without these devices, response drops dramatically.
Create an event to draw a crowd.
Although it is difficult to accept, your trade show is not a major event in the lives of your customers. Your challenge is to change their reaction from one of boredom to one of excitement.
While you may not have the budget to bring in performers from Cirque de Soleil, you can hire a talented magician for a reasonable amount. In many cases they will be happy to incorporate your message into their act thus providing entertainment while helping you achieve your marketing goals.
Exclusivity: everybody wants to feels special.
A powerful appeal of direct-mail – and of trade shows – is exclusivity. One study released by the Trade Show Bureau reported that half the people who attend trade shows go specifically to see new products and services that have not been shown before.
If you’re introducing a new technology, a new product, or an improved version of an old product, promote this fact in your mailing. Emphasize the importance of the product as well as the fact that the reader is having an opportunity see it first – an opportunity not extended to other people in the business. This sense of being exclusive, of being first, is flattering, and it can do wonders for your response rate.
Trade Show account for a significant portion of many marketing budgets. By following these simple suggestions, the return on investment can be substantially improved.