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Promoting Your Presence
Exhibit Promotion

Trade Shows are a great marketplace for industry buyers and sellers. Buyers come to the exhibition, in many cases, with a pre-set agenda of companies to visit. Utilizing pre-show promotion helps your company get on that "must-see” list of exhibitors.

The SC|05 Exhibits is a fast-paced and exciting forum for discovery. Many new and stimulating events happen during the exhibition, which creates a huge challenge for your company to try to stand out to attendees. Just setting up a booth on-site won’t guarantee your success. Your task is to decide what message and which vehicle will get attendees to focus their attention on your company. While most attendees hear about shows through direct mail, you may find a mix of these mediums to be most effective.

Direct Mail
Direct mail is the most important element you can use to attract buyers to your booth. According to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), 76% of trade show attendees leave home already having decided which booths they want to visit. According to CEIR, the most effective pre-show promotion techniques are:
54% - Personal letter with product information and guest invitation
42% - Personal fax announcing exhibit specifics
37% - Phone call from a sales rep to schedule an appointment

TIP: Purchase pre and post-show attendee mailing lists to promote your participation in SC|05.

Consider the following elements when planning your direct mail program:

Decide what you want to accomplish with your direct mail campaign. You should have a list of specific measurable goals or objectives in mind before moving on to the mechanics of the program. This is the only way you will be able to evaluate the effectiveness of the campaign. Your goal is getting the right people to your exhibit. Once there, what do you want them to do?  See a demonstration of new product or services?  Meet a celebrity or company VIP? Collect a premium? Whatever it is, be sure that it moves your marketing plans forward.

Target Audience
Mailing lists of your best customers, prospects, and the media are obvious audiences, as are those who have expressed interest in your product during the last year.

TIP: Be sure to take advantage of the Exhibits Only Badges. These allow you to invite your clients and prospects to attend SC|05.


What is your message? Buyers generally attend SC|05 for three main reasons: to gather information for purchasing decisions, to solve problems, and to generate new ideas. Make sure you address these points when creating your message or offer. Then define the action you want the attendee to take.

Elements such as photographs, illustrations, and headlines tend to attract attention and prompt readers to read further. Creative use of color and white space helps to increase the impact of your direct mail material.

TIP: Refer to the attendee demographic information in the Exhibitor Prospectus to fine-tune your mailing to your target audience.

Frequency. Experts agree that a single mailing alone will not produce the desired effect. For optimal results, plan to send three separate mailings spaced at two-to-three week intervals.

Make it easy for your customers to find you. Remember to highlight your booth number and location in the exhibition. Always include the name, dates, and location of Show and the SC|05 show logo on your envelopes or postcards. It will increase the likelihood that your message will be read.

Premiums and Incentives

For years exhibitors have given away premiums or ad specialties to promote their participation in trade shows. If there is no specific purpose for premiums, these "giveaways" do not help or support your program.

Take a fresh look at your ad specialties and what they can do for you in terms of promotional benefits. They can:

  • Motivate attendees to visit your booth.
  • Reward them for being there.
  • Communicate a message that lasts long after most other attention-getting devices are forgotten, repeating your message at no additional cost.
To increase the effectiveness of your ad specialties, develop a strategy. Without specific goals, you can't achieve optimum results.

Set Objectives
This first step is crucial. Be specific in setting your objective(s); for example, 800 qualified leads, 400 demonstrations, $60,000 in orders, etc. Being specific is the only way to accurately evaluate your effort after the Show is over.

Be Realistic
Eight hundred qualified leads may not be attainable because of your booth size, number of booth staff, or audience mix. If this is the case, no ad specialty promotion can help meet your objectives.

Define Your Audience
Who are you trying to reach? How many can use your product or service? Are they buyers, scientists, engineers, or managers? What are their objectives, or what's in it for them?

Establish a Budget
A realistic budget is one that allows you to meet your objectives and is based on how much those objectives are worth to your company (return on investment or ROI). Ask yourself: How much are you willing to invest to bring qualified buyers to your booth, to obtain 800 leads, or to receive $60,000 in orders?

Develop a Strategy
This includes themes, slogans, creative tie-ins, timetables and responsibilities (who does what and when), and how you are going to make it all happen. You should begin three to four months prior to SC|05. Begin with a creative brainstorming session. Assemble a group of people for the sole purpose of generating as many ideas as possible to meet your objectives.

All the information gathered in the first three steps should now be used to generate a multitude of ideas for promotions that will grab the attention of your audience. Don't hold back; instruct everyone to use their wildest imagination! You'll find that one idea will inspire another until you have a full list from which to select.

After the brainstorming, your group should evaluate each idea critically to find the best approach. Bear in mind that attendees (your prospects) will be bombarded at the Show with video walls, lights, and other attention-getting devices. Simply handing out a key chain that says, "We're Number One" will not get the job done.

Select the Ad Specialty
Consider consulting with an advertising specialty professional for promotional ideas. Creativity and knowledge of a wide variety of promotional items are their business.

You can comparison shop for ad specialty bargains. But remember it's not a bargain if the imprint is wrong or the material is sitting in a warehouse the day the exhibition opens. It's wise to use ad specialty professionals who know how to avoid problems and manage deadlines unique to trade shows.

The next time you're at a trade show, notice the ad specialty promotions of other exhibitors. You'll soon recognize those exhibitors who gave quality creative time to their ad specialties and those who didn't, or simply didn't know how.

The key ingredient to proper selection of your ad specialties is creativity. By focusing on a concept, and not just a product, your ad specialty becomes part of a program to enhance your overall marketing effort, not just an isolated gimmick.

Create a Promotion
It's a fact that pre-show promotions will dramatically increase your effectiveness and booth traffic. Promotion lets attendees know who you are, where you are, and what's in it for them (the ad specialty, in this case). Tying your pre-show promotion into a booth giveaway increases the effectiveness of both. Here are examples of giveaways that often have a high value for attendees:

  • Free case histories (i.e., other customers' problems you've solved).
  • Entry in a drawing or sweepstakes giveaway.
  • Invitation to an event held during SC|05 (new product unveiling, Whisper Suite meeting, after-hours party).
  • Gifts related to your theme, product, service, and sales process.
  • Article reprints of special interest to attendees that relate to your product or service.
  • A gift certificate, key, or other action-device that recipients can bring to your booth to redeem for an appropriate incentive.
  • A free guide that relates to your product/ service and your prospect's job - something of value to take back to the office and use.
  • “Fast 50” premiums/incentives to the first 50 people to stop by your booth each day.

Measure Your Results
You can now evaluate the Show and whether you've met your objective(s). Did you achieve your desired results? The evaluation continues as you follow up on your post-show leads. This information should then be used in your strategy sessions for the next SC show.


People respond differently to different media. Some only take action after receiving a personal letter or invitation. Others like the succinct approach of a direct mail piece. Still others see an advertisement, and it triggers a whole new thought. Whatever the means, the goals are the same: to create awareness of your company and your products before buyers enter the exhibit floor.

TIP: The SC|05 Exhibits Directory is distributed to all SC|05 attendees on-site, and serves as a valuable reference tool after the show has ended. Click here (link to Advertising info) for more information.

Advertising doesn't need to be limited to magazines. Ad space may be available on billboards near the convention center or along the highway between the airport and downtown Seattle. Ads can be placed on city buses or taxi cabs. As with direct mail, you should consider objectives, target audience, content, design, and frequency when developing your advertising program.

Don't Forget the Show
You increase the number of visitors to your booth when you integrate the dates and location of the exhibition, and your booth number into your current advertisements.

Design a Generic Ad
This type of ad is designed with an open space into which you can insert variable information depending on your needs. For pre-conference promotion your printer can drop the name and date of the show into this space, along with your booth number or any other information you desire.