It’s finally time for the trade show you’ve been preparing all year for. This is a unique opportunity for you to interact with potential customers face to face, the richest communication method in the world. You set up your beautifully designed booth, fill the candy bowl and wait for the show to begin.
Lots of visitors pass by, but nobody comes to talk to you. You try to flag people down and ask if they’re interested in your product or service and they say, “No thanks. I’m good.” Why does this happen?
Even though the purpose of trade shows is promoting your company to others, research shows that 75% of attendees determine in advance what booths they want to visit. A well-designed display is very important in having a successful show, but you can’t rely solely on that to generate traffic.
If they don’t know about you or what you have to offer, you won’t be on their agenda. Let’s fix that.
You need a pre-trade show marketing campaign
Exhibitors who do a pre-show campaign 1-2 months before the show can increase their attendance by up to 50%, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research.
Your competitors will likely use digital media to announce their attendance at the show (i.e. emails and social media), but a multi-channel strategy that features direct mail is the standout way to promote your exhibit because it’s less common and has a much higher retention rate. It would be like a personal invitation.
Unlike digital media, direct mail uses the sense of touch for engagement. You can enhance it with textured paper or a custom shape, perhaps even a Shape-Cut envelope to engage your audience in a way digital never could.
NextPage CEO Gina Danner once said in a podcast interview that direct mail can target individuals based on what type of information they’re most interested in through variable data.
Give them an incentive
If you really want direct mail to prompt a visit to your booth, you need to include something for them to bring to the show like a raffle ticket, pin, or product sample.
Trade show expert Marlys Arnold says she likes to use scavenger hunts in pre-show campaigns. Her direct mail pieces list five questions and give a web address where attendees can print off an answer sheet to fill out and bring to the show.
The first time she tried this, people lined up at her booth with their filled-out sheets while the booth next to her remained vacant, hoping their logoed stress balls would do all the work.
As with any direct mail campaign, you want to make sure you target qualified leads. Start by sending a personalized invitation to your current clients and prospects. Then, get a list of registered attendees from the trade show organizer and target the ones who you think would be interested in your brand.
Always use first-class mail to ensure the piece arrives before the show.
Here’s an example
An independent copywriter named Mark Johnson relied heavily on networking events to engage new clients. He once had a trade show in Las Vegas and decided he needed to create an eye-popping pre-show mailer, unlike anything his competitors would do.
His target audience was subscription newsletter marketers who love to read case studies from their peers for inspiration.
Johnson built a website specifically for newsletter marketers and then printed cards that read, “Read about possibly the most successful newsletter promotion ever created, at www.newslettercopy.com. Log on to see the campaign plus a free offer for Las Vegas conference attendees.”
The free offer was an exclusive 30-minute consultation with Johnson to review their current marketing campaigns. He learned through experience that people often go to trade shows to discuss their strategies with professionals.
Johnson rented the association’s membership list and mailed the card to only the qualified leads five weeks before the show. Out of 400 pieces mailed, 406 people visited his site.
Johnson said the campaign resulted in the best trade show he ever had and generated five solid leads.
To learn more about how direct mail can help you with your next campaign, download our free eBook, The NextPage Guide to Direct Mail Success.