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Feb 11, 202012:24 PMOpen Mic

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3 ways to boost your event marketing ROI

If you’re like most marketers, exhibiting at tradeshows or conferences can gobble up a lot of your budget. When you’re spending this kind of money on in-person events, you have to look for every opportunity to boost your return on investment. Here are three bits of easy advice that can elevate your response rate at your next tradeshow or conference:

1. Go specific, not generic

It may seem easier and more cost-effective to create one booth display for all your events throughout the year (or use for multiple years). However, if you are marketing to different audiences you may be sacrificing effectiveness in return for those cost savings.

When marketing to vastly different vertical industries, it can be a better idea to create different booth backdrops with unique messaging for each event. Personalized messaging speaks to the audience in their own terms. You can still use the same pop-up hardware for all events, and just reprint the cloth graphic.

You can also extend this to your printed collateral. For example, when attending two conferences, one focused on digital asset management (DAM) and the other on graphic design, we could have used the same generic brochure for both, but instead we made a custom cover for each. The guts of the brochure were the same and both could be printed at the same time, so we still realized cost savings through efficiency, but the message resonated more when tied to the show theme.

2. Use food and drink to your advantage

Always find out where the food and drink will be located at the conference and try to be as close in proximity to it as possible. If there is food on the exhibit floor, choose a booth location near it and you will see more traffic. Attend all networking events and lunches to get casual facetime with attendees. Host private dinners after hours to make connections between your customers and prospects.

Conversely, if there is an absence of food and drink, use that to your advantage. After seeing complaints about the lack of food and drink at previous conferences, we decided to host coffee in branded sleeves and granola bars in our booth to attract attendees.

3. Be strategic with swag

If you have the chance to put something in the attendee bag received at registration, or in a hotel door drop, don’t overlook the importance of this item. Tote bag swag items should:

  • Be useful — something they will use at the show or at home;
  • Be relevant — something that ties into your company’s booth messaging; and
  • Be unique — something that no one else is doing.

Sometimes the best way to do this is to produce your own custom bag drop item. One vendor created puzzle pieces that people had to bring to the booth to try and fill in the “missing piece” in their display. Only a certain percentage of pieces fit, which made them eligible for a prize.

You can also sponsor the actual bags or lanyards given out at the start of the show. Especially if you are a new exhibitor at the conference, it's a great way to make a splash that you are a new vendor that attendees should check out.

As for the swag you give out at your own table, make sure to keep your ideal prospect in mind. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is your audience — men/women, younger/older, techie/traditional?
  • ROI goes up with every impression. What would be front and center of their everyday life?
  • Where do you want to impact your customer — at work, at home, in the car, or traveling?

Starting with the answers to these questions will help you narrow down to items that will resonate better with your audience. These items are more likely to make the trip home in a suitcase than end up in the trash.

Alicia Curtis is a promotional products account executive for Madison-based printer and marketing services provider Suttle-Straus.

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