Think Outside the Booth, Part 1

Dos and Don’ts of Effective Event Marketing


This is part one of a two-part series.

By definition, effective event marketing should be an opportunity for your audience to experience your brand. However, if you have ever attended a trade show, fair or sporting event with exhibitors, you know that often the focus at a booth becomes the free swag. So how do you take your next booth beyond those free pens, mints and stress balls?

I’ve planned conferences and trade shows on four continents, and I have seen booths that excel and booths that fail. Below, I’ve outlined some tips for taking event marketing beyond the four walls of your booth.

Don’t … Skip Setting Goals or Set Too Many Goals
Are you trying to create brand awareness, introduce a new product or drive sales at your booth? It’s important to have a clear understanding of your goal, because this is how you will measure success at your booth. Your goal will guide your decisions on what specific events to attend and which strategies to implement. Every decision you make should be driven by your goal.

As important as it is to set one-to-two measurable goals, keep in mind that too many goals can lead to unsuccessful results and clutter your message. Your target audience’s time at your booth is limited, and introducing too many messages can leave them confused.

Do … Understand Your Audience
You’ve done your research and you know that your target audience will be in attendance. Now, it’s time to consider how to bring them to your booth. Consider what their wants and needs are at that very moment they pass your booth. What will make them stop and stay?

I attended a trade show that took the saying, “put yourself in your target’s shoes,” almost literally. The trade show drew thousands of meeting planners for several days of scheduled meetings with hundreds of vendors from around the world. The audience was busy and many were exhausted from travel and long meetings. One of the most popular booths, a resort-style meeting facility, offered hand and foot massages for tired meeting planners. In addition to understanding the target’s feelings at that very moment, the resort created an environment that showcased one of their offerings, put planners in a good mood and created an extended period of time for staff to connect with the target audience.

Don’t … Make it Ordinary
The example above showcases a booth strategy that is anything but ordinary. The most memorable booths are those that create an environment for interaction.

Unique giveaways can draw attention and be conversation starters. Relevance is key here. I once witnessed a marketing software vendor with a rack of superhero capes. People were instantly curious. The capes were also intricately tied to the vendor’s message – “our marketing software will make you an office superhero.”

Raze Bball SignsInteraction does not have to be limited to giveaways. Booths can be an opportunity to allow your target to get creative. One of Fahlgren Mortine’s clients, Raze, West Virginia’s youth tobacco prevention organization, sponsors high school basketball tournaments. We developed a plan (more on that plan in next week’s post) to provide a station for teens to create their own team signs. While the teens were drawing, our staff had the opportunity to talk to them about tobacco prevention and getting involved. We didn’t want the interaction to end after the teens left the booth, so we took photos of groups of teens with their signs and posted these to our client’s social media channels. Every teen received a card with our client’s social media channels listed so they could see and share their photos.

Hosting a successful event exhibit requires a thoughtful investment of time and resources, but with proper preparation, you can create many lasting impressions with your target audience. Next week, I’ll  share more tips to help you think outside the booth.

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