Why Halloween’s #1 Rule Applies to Trade Shows

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lizhenry/2990037101/sizes/o/in/photostream/
Courtesy of Flickr

When you think of Halloween, you might picture hordes of youngsters at your door, on their crusade for free candy.  One thing all those kids will have in common is that they have to earn it, by shouting “trick or treat!”

When you’re exhibiting at a trade show, sometimes working at a booth can feel like that as well.  You’ll see tire-kickers coming from across the hall, “trade show trick-or-treaters”, with large branded totes full of free pens, stress-relief-balls and, of course, candy.  They’re probably not planning on doing business with very many vendors; they are scouring the show floor, looking to fill their bags with free stuff.  What’s an exhibitor to do?

Obviously, you’re not going to ask trade show attendees to say “trick-or-treat!”  However, you should try to get them to earn the free item by having a conversation with you.

Consider these ideas to make the most of your promos:

  • Keep free candy & giveaways towards the back of your booth, to avoid “hit & run” behavior.  Put these items on display, but compel the attendee to enter your space and interact with your salespeople.
  • If you tend to give out candy, consider serving mints, as these are inexpensive treats that can help to ensure your booth staffers have fresh breath, too.  (This is Face-to-Face Marketing, after all!)
  • Use promotional products as a conversation–starter.  Something as simple as “Have you seen one of these before?” can break the ice and quickly pivot into a chat with the attendee.  This is a perfect chance to build rapport for a future business relationship
  • Ideally, promotional gifts should be branded with your logo, be an item with some usefulness & be relevant to your organization.  (Hint: use something more creative than a pen or sticky-note pad!)
  • Use this opportunity to qualify leads before inviting them to take a gift.  Collect business cards & ask to scan badges; take notes about their company’s needs, schedule a follow-up if appropriate.
  • Focus on distributing your giveaways to the most valuable prospects you meet.  Let’s face it, the freebies really aren’t free… your company had to pay for them, hoping that future business would come your way.

The most important lesson here is this: don’t let the “trick or treaters” distract you from your goals of meeting prospects, writing orders & obtaining leads.  A disciplined approach to handing out free items should help you to engage with more clients at your next event.  Remember, giveaways can have an important role in your trade show strategy, as long as they are targeted to the right people.

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