Thursday, July 31, 2008

Trade show materials: know your audience

Over the summer, I've been fortunate enough to check out a couple of different trade shows; first the HOW Conference in May, where a number of stock photo, paper companies and others gathered to show off their wares, and then the Fancy Food Show, where, well, I got to eat some really amazing food and make contact with Makers of Tasty Things. And during both, I got to see a lot of trade show materials - some that worked, and some that really didn't.

The point of trade shows, quite often, is not just to introduce yourself to the audience at the show, but to a) find good leads to follow up with, and b) give them something to remember you by once the show is over - preferably something that will encourage them to make a purchase. There are all kinds of ways to do this. At the Fancy Food Show, a number of vendors offered samples of their food (I was stuffed within an hour or two!), but little else aside from maybe a sell sheet or postcard.  At any trade show you're going to run into dozens, perhaps hundreds, of vendors - what's there to help me remember who you were beyond that one moment of trying your food?

Other folks gave out free samples that you could take home - which I think is a great idea. Buywell Coffee gave me a couple of free bags of their Screaming Monkey coffee, which I've been drinking iced for a week. I can't wait to find it now - it's amazing stuff. But if I hadn't gotten that sample, I wouldn't have remembered them beyond meeting them at the show.

Other companies had really well-designed, almost keepsake, materials. Chocolate Company Pacari's postcards, in particular, were so beautiful that I put them up on my office memo board. Information about the chocolate was on the back of the card, but the front was completely covered by a gorgeous illustration related to one of the specific chocolates.

Another tactic, which I saw a lot at the HOW Conference, is to give away branded merchandise - from notebooks to bobbleheads to the much-coveted Masterfile laptop bag (which I was lucky enough to get and I still carry around with me). This tactic is a definite winner to me; it gives me something to hold onto, and something I can use, which will remind me of that business every time I use it. I have, however, also seen this tactic used badly - for example, the too-ubiquitous coffee mug or stress ball. I don't know about you, but I have more than enough coffee mugs. Why give someone something they likely already have plenty of - and if they don't have plenty of them, then they probably won't have any use for it anyway?

The key to any trade show giveaway is to know your audience. What are these people here for? How can you make yourself memorable? What will they respond to? In the case of the folks at the HOW Conference, they knew that their audience (professional designers, and the vendors who love them) love getting well-designed, useful, really cool stuff. And the booths that were the most popular were the ones giving that stuff away. Meanwhile, at the Fancy Food Show, the folks who did well knew that, in order to really understand what made their product great, they had to taste it for themselves. 

No comments: