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The Complete Guide to Successful Exhibition Marketing – Part 2



The-Complete-Guide-to-a-Successful_Part 2

In the first article of the Complete Guide to Exhibition Marketing we examined the first 3 steps of:

  • Step 1: Selecting the Right Exhibition for Your Company
  • Step 2: Setting Objectives
  • Step 3: Target Marketing

In Part 2 we will take a look at the following 3 steps:

  • Step 4: Pre-Show Communications with First Time Visitors
  • Step 5: Pre-Show Communications with Long Time Visitors
  • Step 6: Management Perspectives

Step 4: Pre-Show Communications with First Time Visitors

step_4Contacting this target audience is a matter of choosing between many communications options, but keep this in mind: visitors spend their own money and give up valuable time to be at the exhibition – so you must do everything possible to make their investment worth the effort. Also, use the appropriate language or dialect in your communications.

At a typical exhibition, 40 percent of the audience is attending for the first time. Furthermore, over 50 percent of these important buyers and/or purchasing specifiers will not attend another exhibition in the year ahead. This creates a tremendous exhibitions marketing opportunity for your company. In fact, research shows that 88 percent of your prospects were probably not contacted by one of your field sales representatives in the previous year. So you need to let these new prospects know about your participation. Here are some suggestions about how to do that:

1. Advertise in pre-show publications – both print and electronic – and special show issues of your industry’s trade journals. Remember to mention the important sales features of your exhibit, where it’s located, who will be on the stand, etc. Pre-show advertising can more than double your stand activity during a show, since 83 percent of the visitors use show “previews” to help them plan their visit.

2. Offer “show specials” or other promotions in the stand to positively position your company and its products. And personalize your marketing message to each audience segment: Let them know that if they do business with you, life will be better and they will save money.

3. Take advantage of all the new promotion opportunities on the Internet. Most exhibition organizers provide direct links with your company’s Web site, as well as excellent on-line advertising opportunities. “Banner advertising” or web logs, called “blogs,” can effectively call attention to your stand’s special featuresand its location. Remember to use the appropriate languages.

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Step 5: Pre-Show Communications with Long Time Visitors

step_5Another important CEIR Research finding: 60 percent of a typical exhibition audience has been attending for two or more consecutive years.

The exhibition organizer can help you effectively reach this visitor group by providing mailing lists and other database information. You can then use targeted direct mail to tell these important buyers and/or purchasing specifiers that you are hoping to see them at the show this year. An effective direct mail program can increase visitors to your stand by 53 percent.

Direct Mail

Personalized direct mail is a highly effective motivator, and you should try to send at least three mailings. Research proves that each mailing increases the response rate in your stand: one mailing gets 25 percent visitor response, two mailings generate 50 percent and three mailings create a 75 percent increase. Furthermore, the buyers’ perception of your company’s presence at an exhibition increases positively with each mailing you send.

Specialty Items

Give-aways, or specialty items, creatively used in conjunction with direct mail are also quite effective. Choose a unique item, if possible, one that is memorable and environmentally friendly. Consider this approach: Send one half of a specialty item to these previous visitors and invite them to pick up the other half in your stand during the show.


Advertising to this group is also important because it reinforces your show presence and enhances your company’s recognition. You might even consider some follow-up telemarketing to key prospects and opinion makers; this personal contact makes a very positive impact.

Also, evaluate a variety of advertising opportunities, as each can be effective, depending on your needs: World Wide Web sites, print advertising in show publications, industry journals, local and regional edition newspapers, outdoor billboards, radio and television, hotel video programs, multimedia kiosks or banners placed throughout the exhibition, shuttle bus advertising, and more.


Either printed or electronic, newsletters are another effective way to promote your participation in an exhibition. It should be easy to read and filled with valuable information targeting your current customers and prospects. It can be in several languages, according to the visitor profile, yet focused on techniques to increase profitability. A newsletter permits you to position your company as an expert in your industry sector. It is more effective when sent before the event and post-show, as a final promotion.


Sponsorships are particularly effective in demonstrating your support for an exhibition. Be sure that the sponsorship package offers opportunities for increased exposure for your company. And make sure your target audience knows that you are a sponsor in the exhibition, as it underscores your commitment to their industry.

Finally, don’t leave anything to chance: make exhibitions an integral part of your company’s total marketing mix. Research shows that exhibitors who carefully plan and integrate other marketing media into their exhibit programs are more successful at attracting their targeted audiences and converting them into qualified sales leads.

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Step 6: Management Perspectives

step_6Never doubt that your pre-show activity is worth the effort, since 75 percent of all visitors arrive at an exhibition with a predetermined agenda as to whom they plan to see and very often what they plan to evaluate and buy. You want your company to be one of them and pre-show promotions are the best way to do that.

Also, for the larger mega-shows where visitors must be highly efficient with their time, they are greatly influenced by what they see/hear prior to the show.


CEO Studies

Incomm International (based in Chicago, IL) asked chief executives why they attended exhibitions and their responses were overwhelmingly positive:

  • 84 percent said they attended for personal contact with their customers;
  • 78 percent wanted to assess the marketplace

and exhibitions were the best way to do that;

  • 69 percent wanted to see what their competition was doing;
  •  66 percent came to support their exhibition staff.

Here’s another bit of interesting research: A survey of CEO’s found that 18 percent attended an exhibition because some exhibiting company gave them a complimentary pass. If the exhibition organizer offers complimentary show registrations, by all means use them to further reinforce your participation with this management group.

Finally, a recent study of the most successful companies at exhibitions found that they had one thing in common: they all engaged in pre-show promotion, or target marketing. Some companies mistakenly think that the exposition organizer is solely responsible for getting a quality audience to the event. Smart exhibitors know that they share the responsibility and promotions are the key. The bottom line is that everything you do in advance pays real dividends at the show.

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by Bob Dallmeyer

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