Are You Making These Promotions Mistakes?

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Graphic: stock.xchng / Carlos Alberto Brandao

Graphic: stock.xchng / Carlos Alberto Brandao

Before we delve into some of the most common mistakes exhibitors make when it comes to promotions, perhaps the biggest one of all is the fact that so many neglect to do anything at all to promote! They somehow think that attendees will just magically show up at their booth, or perhaps that attendees are already aware of — and eager to meet —


Unfortunately, these exhibitors are only fooling themselves. Promoting the fact that you are exhibiting is key to building traffic to your booth, but it doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive.

Here are some other mistakes exhibitors make regarding promotions:

  • Not tying in with the overall marketing message or brand personality – Trade shows are not a separate part of your marketing campaigns. They should be an extension of all your other marketing, meaning that they reinforce your message and bring it to life in 3-D. By enhancing that message, you’re increasing the level of authenticity and memorability.
  • Trying too hard to stay under budget – There are two ways to cut costs: being clever with your resources or coming across as cheap. While there are many low-cost ways you could use to market your presence at the event, remember to stay focused on the message and audience, not the tool. In other words, just because e-mail is basically free doesn’t mean it’s the most effective way to reach people these days. That could be one technique, but if you rely solely on it, you may not get the response you hoped for.
  • Not using social media – These tools are free and attendees are already on them, so why wouldn’t you want to use them? Often it comes down to comfort level. But you’ve got to find a way to either get comfortable with the tools, or recruit someone who is to help. Prior to the show, promote the fact that you’ll be exhibiting and create anticipation for what attendees will discover in your booth. That could take the form of tweets on Twitter, videos on YouTube, or photos on Facebook.
  • Avoiding “old-school tools” – This is the opposite problem, where exhibitors believe there’s no point in using tools such as direct mail and the phone (good old-fashioned phone calls, not just mobile apps). But if you think about it, which do you get more of in a day, e-mail or physical mail? These days, if you want to stand out, your chances are much greater in a person’s physical mailbox. And what about a simple phone call to personally invite someone?
  • Failing to take advantage of the opportunities offered by show management – To correct this mistake, it’s often as simple as asking. Do you know what tools they offer to assist exhibitors? You may be able to access the attendee pre-registration list (or last year’s list), reach out to members of the media at the show, or participate in sponsorships that put your business and message in the spotlight.

The bottom line is you shouldn’t rely too much on any one method of promotion, and don’t assume it’s the show manager’s job to promote for you. Develop a well-balanced approach that includes e-mail, direct mail, personal invitations, social media and other online tools. We’ll be covering promotions in depth during our featured Strategy of the Month calls for July in the Exhibit Marketers Café. You’ll gain lots of creative ideas to build a buzz about your booth without spending a fortune.

What are your biggest challenges regarding promotions? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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With experiences as both an exhibitor and a show organizer, Marlys Arnold has a unique perspective on trade show exhibiting. As an exhibit marketing strategist, she travels the country consulting and training on how to create experiential exhibits that produce significantly higher numbers of qualified leads. She’s led workshops for events ranging from local consumer expos to some of the largest trade shows in the U.S. She hosts the Trade Show Insights blog/podcast, and is the author of Build a Better Trade Show Image, the Exhibitor Education Manifesto, and the ExhibitorEd Success System. Exhibit Design That Works (the first book in the YES: Your Exhibit Success series) debuted in July 2017. She’s also the founder of the Exhibit Marketers Café, an online education community.


    • By Marlys Arnold

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