Trade Show Sales 1I registered to attend an upcoming trade show, so naturally I’ve been deluged with postcards and letters from exhibitors beseeching me to visit their booth.

Most of the messages have been along the lines of “Come learn all about our super-cool, revolutionary, state-of-the-art, game-changing, mega-awesome product or service.”

News Flash: I don’t care about your product or service. I care about me.

A few exhibitors have tried to tempt me with offers of a free mouse pad, case studies, a sample of their product or a demo version of their product. While these items are perfectly fine to give away to booth visitors, they’re not enough of an incentive to get people to seek you out.

If you want to ensure that trade show visitors hunt you down, you need to offer them something they really want. Which typically has nothing to do with you.

So what would really excite your potential visitors? Here are twelve ideas:

1. Books
What books are on your target prospects’ reading lists? What’s the next hot book for their industry or their job title? Books have a high perceived value. You can buy books at a discount from the publisher, or sometimes, directly from the author.

2. CD’s
As popular as mp3’s are, people still listen to CD’s. Especially if they’re educational. Most professional speakers have CD’s with attention-grabbing titles that your prospects will want to hear. And you can often get them very inexpensively when you buy them in bulk. For an example, click here.

3. DVD’s
As with CD’s, there are a wide variety of DVD’s available on topics your target market wants to know more about. And DVD’s have an even higher perceived value than CD’s.

4. White Paper
The danger of using white papers is that they’re frequently perceived as being boring. So if you’re going to use one as an incentive, it’s got to have a really provocative or engaging title. And it can’t be about your product or service. It must focus on your prospect’s industry or job.

5. Planning Guide
People want to be able to do their jobs better, with less effort. So if you can offer them some type of tool—like a planning guide—that will enable them to do one or the other (preferably both), that’s an attractive incentive.

6. Tickets
Events can be powerful incentives because so many people value experiences over things. As long as the event is really cool: a private concert, a hot party, an exclusive tour, etc.

7. Subscription
If there is a magazine or newsletter your prospects would value, a free subscription can be attractive. Be advised, however, that due to the overwhelming amount of information available everywhere, subscriptions are less valued than they used to be. Which means the information source needs to be particularly focused or exclusive to be effective as a promotion.

8. Contest
If you’re going to use a contest to lure attendees to your booth, you need to give away a prize that people will get excited about. (Not a previous-generation iPad, as some of these exhibitors are doing.)

9. Meet a celebrity
The opportunity to meet—and possibly get an autograph from—a celebrity is an experience many people value highly. They’ll even wait in line, giving you an opportunity to expose them to your message.

10. One-half of a set
What’s a better incentive than a gift? Half a gift. Send your best prospects one sandal, one glove or one-half of any type of set. People will feel compelled to find you so they can complete their set.

11. Seminar
People won’t spend their time sitting through a seminar about how to use your product or service. They will, however, flock to a seminar that promises them solutions to their challenges or ways to gain an edge in their work, businesses or lives. And if you provide solid content, you can slip in a little information about your offering at the end of the program. As with white papers, the seminar must have an intriguing or provocative title. Consider hiring a professional speaker—they’ve got great content and know how to engage an audience for maximum impact. Want some ideas? Click here.

12. Food
If you work for a restaurant, hotel or caterer, your food can be a unique and powerful incentive to visit your booth. State specifically what you’ll be serving at the show. Make people’s mouths water in anticipation.

Keep in mind that these tactics will merely get attendees to your booth. What happens once they’re there is another story.

You need to make sure you’ve got enough people to staff your booth and that they’re trained effectively so they can engage visitors in conversation. You and your staff need a process for identifying actual prospects and quickly discovering their wants and needs. And you need a follow-up strategy for after the show.

A trade show is a big investment with a huge sales potential. Getting attendees to your exhibit is an important first step in making the most of it.

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