Open Mic Recap: Pre-Show Marketing in the New Era of Trade Shows

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What a great conversation during our first Exhibit Marketers Café Open Mic event on LinkedIn! Thanks to all who came on stage to join the conversation and to those who joined us in the audience.

While we aren’t yet able to record LinkedIn audio events, I wanted to provide a quick summary for you. And based on audience response, keep your eye out for more Open Mic events coming this fall!

We started off with a few statistics from an EXHIBITOR magazine survey (from 2017, but likely still very accurate):

  • Nearly half of all exhibitors spend less than 3% of their budget on pre-show marketing
  • Only 20% spend more than 5% of their budget on this category
  • 44% of those who use personalization achieve higher results

Personalization is not that hard to achieve with today’s technology. For direct mail, you can use variable data printing to send custom postcards or mailers. There are even options to send personal greetings online with video postcards! I use and recommend a service called Sendspark (*this is my personal referral link – see details below), but there are others such as Dubb or Vidyard.

And speaking of personalization … here’s an article with great advice on what NOT to do!

Dana Freker Doody shared a recent strategy JUNO used – sending an email teaser the morning the show opened worked like a charm to bring in curious attendees. (It didn’t leave enough time for them to forget they got it!)

I shared the story of how I’ve used a scavenger hunt promotion that created a line of people waiting in my booth to talk with me (with their contest answers in hand). Note: What I didn’t share during the Open Mic session is how that promotion was a lifesaver at a show where traffic in most booths was dismal.

Rama Beerfas gave an example of sending a teaser offering a reward for attendees who took the time to book a pre-set meeting in her booth. As a promotional products strategist, she also advises exhibitors to focus on giving items that create interest in your company and make them want to do business with you, rather than giving something that will be handed off to their kids when they get home.

Martin Luxton brought up an example of an exhibit that offered free food in the booth, but staffers made sure to work the line. (Key point!)

Rebecca Pierce Murray shared a few examples from her experience working shows, and gave a little teaser for this month’s Virtual Lunch on the 27th, when she’ll be our featured guest. (Watch for details coming soon!)

Whatever you choose to use as your promotional draw, focus on what will inspire people to take action (that is, visit your booth), not simply what you or your team thinks would be clever or fun. Here’s a quote from author Nir Eyal that serves as a great reminder:

“The easier a behavior is, the more likely we are to do it.” – Nir Eyal

Do you have a pre-show promotion you’ve seen or used that worked great? Please share in the comments!

And if you’d like help coming up with specific promotion ideas for your next trade show, reach out to me. We can set up a brainstorming consultation to discover the best promotions to motivate your audience.


* NOTE: In the spirit of full disclosure, some products mentioned on this page may be affiliate links, which means if you click on them to purchase I may receive a small commission or other compensation. You will not pay more for buying a product through this link. In fact, sometimes I’m able to offer special promotions to readers. I’m disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations regarding endorsements. Thanks for your support!

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