This is the second of nine articles written by Matt Michel. This article can be read in its entirety on the Service Roundtable website (www.serviceroundtable.com/freebies). The article gives advice of what to do and what not to do at home shows.

11. Use Passive Promotion Techniques. Create stickers promoting the show, the dates and times, and your booth number. Attach these to all mail pieces, invoices, and other collateral in the month preceding the show.

Promote the show in your email signature. Tell people why they should come to the show, why they should visit your booth in particular, and give the booth number.

12. Avoid the Yellow Pages Trap. It’s always amazing to me that companies spend marketing dollars advising prospects to look for their ad in the Yellow Pages. Are you kidding me? The Yellow Pages? Isn’t that a little like advising your prospects to check out the competition? It’s one thing if they find their way to the Yellow Pages on their own, but you shouldn’t help. In fact, the focus for most marketing is to keep people OUT of the Yellow Pages.

Similarly, if the show is heavily populated with your competitors, don’t push it with your customers or prospects at large. This is especially true if your competitor has a better or bigger booth than you. It’s like sending people to a manufacturer’s dealer locator. Sure, you’re on the list, but who’s listed above you?

13. Promote Yourself To Pre-Registered Non-Customers. Some home shows push hard for pre- registrations and provide lists of pre-registered attendees to exhibitors. These are people already committed to coming to the show. Your mission with these prospects is to persuade them to stop by your booth. But why should they? Contact pre-registered attendees in advance by mail or email. Give people a good reason to visit your booth. Focus on the benefits of your products and services and play your message on WII-FM (What’s In It For Me).

The reason may be more mercenary. Create a promotion, a contest, an ad premium, etc.
Limit the number of giveaways to add urgency to visiting your booth early.

14. Sort Pre-Registered Lists Before Mailing. Don’t waste your money mailing to people who live outside of your service area or that you can identify as non-prospects (e.g., exhibitors). Take the time to sort the list before you mail to it.

15. Market Free Passes. Let’s assume the show is not overrun with competitors and you’re provided with a number of free passes. Market these to a few target neighborhoods or a target zip code. Promote the fact you’re exhibiting. State the reason to visit your booth. Then, state that you’ve got a limited number of free passes for the first X number of people who call your company. In fact, the headline should focus on attending the home show free.

16. Create a Mini Website. Design a one page website about the show and your booth. You can link to it off your website or off the show’s website. Like other collateral, the mini website should give people a reason to visit your booth. Mini websites are especially apt if you plan on promoting the show by email. Link to the site in the outbound email message, in your email signatures, and so on.

17. Design Premiums With Punch. Most money spent on advertising premiums at home shows is wasted. It does little to build the memorability of your brand. That’s why marketers often refer to ad premiums as “trash and trinkets.” Make yours different. Offer useful items, worth keeping. Sometimes useful items are no more than tip sheets, checklists, or audio CDs. Information is valued, but inexpensive to replicate.

18. Offer Thank You Gifts. Better ad premiums cost enough that you may not want to pass them out casually, especially if the show is filled with non-prospects, people from outside your geographic area, and so on. You might want to limit them to the customers who schedule appointments or who are qualified in your booth as legitimate prospects.

19. Use Mobile Billboards. When the Comdex computer trade show was at its prime, companies would rent mobile billboards to circle the various Las Vegas convention centers. For particularly large shows, mobile billboards represent one more opportunity for you to get your message out to people entering the show. The uniqueness of mobile billboards (i.e., specially designed trucks that are truly mobile billboards) is likely to attract attention.

If you live in an environmentally sensitive area, you might want to avoid the mobile billboards. In today’s hyped up environmental world, some consumers are near hysterical about carbon emissions. Parking the billboard would be acceptable. Driving it around the show perimeter is not.

20. Use Your Trucks. An alternative to renting mobile billboards is to use the ones you already own. If you can spare them for the day, position service vehicles near the main entrance to the parking lot, so that everyone who enters must pass by your vehicles. Consider placing banners or signs by the vehicles stating "YOUR COMPANY welcomes you to the show!"

Matt Michel is president of the Service Roundtable www.ServiceRoundtable.com, an organization dedicated to helping contractors prosper. Matt is also the publisher of Comanche Marketing, a free marketing e-zine. Subscriptions are available at www.ComancheMarketing.com You can contact him directly at matt.michel@serviceroundtable.com.
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