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Promotional Product Strategy
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Are You Getting the Most Out of a Trade Show 


The trade show is hardly a modern institution. Trade shows follow the tradition of the trade fairs of medieval Europe. Farmers and craftsmen would display their wares, allowing potential customers to view and sample the finest that they had to offer. 

And, so it is today. In essence, the concept has not changed much. Trade shows are organized by specific industries, allowing companies in that industry to showcase and demonstrate their latest products and services, either to the general public or members of the trade. It is an opportunity to study the market and see what the competition is doing as well as what the public wants.  

There is no question that an exhibition at a trade fair is a major marketing investment. Participation in a small, regional show may cost several thousand dollars while a display at a national or international trade show can carry a bill of tens of thousands of dollars, if not more. In this era of recession cutbacks and "essentials-only" spending, the question is often asked if trade show participation is money well spent. 

Surveys conducted by the trade show industry continue to demonstrate the strong value of trade show participation as a powerful sales strategy. Proof of the power lies in the numbers. Industry surveys indicate that more than 80% of attendees who visited an exhibit had no contact with that company within the previous 12 months. 82% of booth visitors are interested in the product or service displayed and 49% of booth visitors plan to buy the product or service within the next year. Furthermore, 77% of exhibit visitors have buying influences for the exhibitor's product or service. 

Obviously, a trade show provides a dedicated market. Still, the statistics may be applicable even if attendance is sparse. Attendance, though, is rarely a problem. Trade shows are big business, an industry valued at $19.4 billion annually. Organizers take great care to attract record crowds.  

Now that you have the attendees, how do you capture their interest and leave them with a lasting impression, beyond your product or service? Promotional merchandise is vital to this effort. Besides the psychology that says that people like to get something for nothing, well designed promotional products have the power to reach your customers and have been proven to increase traffic to exhibitors' booths. 52% of those who have received a promotional product do business with that company. Moreover, 76% recall the name advertised on the product. An appropriate promotional product is not a throw-away; it is your calling card! 

When planning for a trade show these are the 6 questions I ask to ascertain what is the most effective way to promote your business at the trade show - 


  1. What is your major product focus for the event (try to limit it to no more than 2 or 3)?
  2. Are you launching any new products?
  3. Do you have any supplier partnerships you want to do a  promotion with?
  4. Are there any other events at the conference we could use to link a theme in with?
  5. How many attendees are expected for the trade show?
  6. What dollar amount per attendee do you want to commit to have a lasting impression on each attendee?

Trade shows are definitely an intrinsic part of a company's marketing strategy however just exhibiting is not enough, you must have a well planned definable strategy to achieve real financial outcomes.

Typical Trade show products

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