Seasoned promotional products professionals know how to navigate a trade show. But for distributors’ clients, experience and success as show vendors and exhibitors may be more elusive. Whether they’re launching a new product or introducing themselves to a new audience, clients from all industries can benefit from promotional products.

Of course, even the best promotional product will go unnoticed if your clients can’t get their prospects to the booth and keep them there. Lee Ali with United Kingdom-based Expo Stars Interactive Ltd. helps exhibitors get the most from their presence at trade shows with the AIDA principle, which stands for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action.

Ali sums up the tenets of the AIDA principle like this:

• Attention. Get attendees’ attention with visual campaigns, engaging conversation and a warm, welcoming presence.
• Interest. Find out what attendees’ interests are through pre-show research, and fuel their interest in your product or service onsite by asking open-ended questions to discover their pain points and goals.
• Desire. Cultivate desire for your offering using the 7-38-55 rule: 55 percent of success in brand communication comes from body language and posture; 38 percent comes from staffing your booth with employees who can engage and interact; the final seven percent comes from what you actually say to your visitors.
• Action. If, through attention, interest and desire, you are qualifying your visitors for future business, the appropriate action is to follow up immediately after the show with qualified attendees.

Improving employment rates and higher consumer spending this year are just two ingredients in the recipe for success in the trade-show industry. The industry is comprised of roughly 4,800 exhibit companies, some with multiple locations, with a combined revenue of about $14 billion. The U.S. is the world’s largest trade-show market, followed by Germany and China.

Despite a flat fourth quarter in 2016, researchers at the Center for Exhibition Research (CEIR) anticipate a 2.4-percent increase in the U.S. trade-show industry’s growth over last year. Looking ahead, the organization is projecting 2.8-percent growth in 2018 and a solid three-percent growth in 2019.

Marketers love trade shows, for several reasons. Among them: a unique value not found in other marketing media; 51 percent of marketers surveyed by the CEIR said they value the opportunities to meet prospects and customers face to face in a trade-show setting. CEIR research also finds that the average company will allocate just over 30 percent of its total marketing budget for events and exhibiting opportunities; more than $24 billion is spent by U.S. exhibitors on trade-show displays each year.

Interestingly, 70 percent of the exhibitors who participated in the CEIR research revealed that they have no specific objectives for their trade-show efforts. With four out of five attendees at trade shows wielding buying power for their respective employers, using promotional items and custom displays to attract new customers can provide measurable and remarkable results for exhibitors.


Getting In On The Ground Floor

Marketers are often the primary contacts for discussing trade-show opportunities with large and mid-size companies, but small businesses are often represented by the owner/principal. As exhibitors and vendors, foot traffic and qualified leads are important; focus on what your client wants to achieve, and with whom, in order to offer the best bang for their marketing bucks.

Carol Weathersbee of Plant City, Florida-based distributor TC BEE, Inc. says she tells clients to choose promotional products that will help them interact with event attendees. “Rather than setting out promo items on your table  for ‘grab-and-go’ or tossing your items in the goody bag that gets handed to each attendee, consider the event and engage those prospects you’d like to convert to customers,” she says.

Weathersbee cites an example of a dry-cleaning store client that exhibited at an expo for quinceañeras, a traditional Hispanic celebration for young girls when they turn  15. “These young women wear a beautiful, Cinderella-style gown at their event, so it was an ideal expo for our customer to participate in,” says Weathersbee. “Flowers are a big part of quinceañeras, so I suggested a silk flower lei that featured a plastic round medallion with my customer’s logo and a discount printed on it. I suggested that his staff members greet each guest by placing a lei over their heads.

“This definitely helped our customer stand out at the event, thus attracting more attendees to his table,” she says. “It successfully engaged the attendees and gave the staff those precious few seconds of sharing the dry cleaning and preservation services with the attendees.”


Case Studies From The Industry

Walk This Way
A mortgage banker wanted to give out something that would drive traffic to his booth at a banking trade show. Distributor D and S Designs collaborated with the client to select a varnished walking stick with a leather strap and printed it with his business name and contact information. Once the client began giving out the walking sticks to visitors at his booth, other people saw the recipients walking the show floor with the sticks, and headed to his booth to get one for themselves.

The client leveraged this attention in a creative way; he used the opportunity to collect data on new prospects, telling them he had run out of the walking sticks that he had brought to the show (which he had) and asking if he could make an appointment to stop by their office to bring them one after the show. A large number of attendees said yes.The result for the mortgage banker was that he booked more appointments at this particular trade show than he normally would have because of the requests.
Source: D and S Designs


Write Up Success
A technology company ordered 2,700 Shinola journals, which are offered exclusively to the promotional products industry through Delray Beach, Florida-based supplier The Book Company, customized with a foil stamp logo on the cover, to distribute to attendees at their exhibit booth during a large, multi-day trade show.

The end user was thrilled by the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the journal giveaway; the client ran out of journals before the show ended and attendees who missed out requested a journal be mailed to them after the show.

The Shinola brand is known by many for high-quality, American-made watches, so many recipients were excited to see that Shinola also is manufacturing journals in the U.S. As a result of the response, the technology company plans to reorder the Shinola journals for future promotions.
Source: The Book Company



Don’t Count Out Pre-Show Marketing

85% -- percentage of companies that use at least one form of pre-show promotion to generate ROI
on their exhibition investment

1 out of 10 -- number of companies investing more than 10 percent of their exhibit budget on pre-show promotions

82% -- percentage of companies reporting that pre-show marketing tactics brought increased traffic to their booths

Source: Exhibitor


Top Industry Sectors Enjoying Trade Show Success  in 2016

Communications and Information Technology
Building, Construction, Home & Repair
Sporting Goods, Travel And Amusement

Source: CEIR


Professional Partners

• Center for Exhibition Industry Research
• International Association of Exhibitions and Events
Trade Show Exhibitors Association
Professional Convention Management Association


Show Trends To Watch

Industrial design elements
Booths are taking on the look and feel of the industry they represent. From wood-like finishes to screenprinted brick facades, displays are a snapshot of the workplace setting.

Virtual reality
VR devices such as Oculus Rift are used to show booth visitors a ‘real-life’ demonstration of how products and services are used.

Digital ordering
On-site ordering capabilities allow attendees to select and order product before they leave the floor.


Campaign Collateral


The innovative Suction Power Bank secures to the back of a phone, tablet or laptop with a powerful gripping material, so recipients can charge devices without worrying about misplacing the power source.
BIC Graphic USA / PPAI 114187 /


Be ready with a display at a moment’s notice, thanks to the Shox™ Automatic Pop-Up Podium. The podium stands three feet high and comes with a custom-printed 200g stretch polyester sleeve. Weighing less than 20 pounds, the kit includes hardware, a graphic sleeve, carrying case and instructions.
Above All Advertising, LLC / PPAI 235100 /



Give attendees a first look at the latest in products and services with a spyglass decoder. Imprint prize messages or contact information on accompanying cards for a revealing booth giveaway.
Rainbow Symphony, Inc. / PPAI 149988 /



Generate excitement and engage visitors with a lighted Big Prize Drop. The large playing board is mounted with sturdy pegs for dropping the three included orange pucks, and the light control lets you change the pattern of flashing white lights.
Games People Play / PPAI 255096 /



Make health-related trade shows cooler with a Transfusion Chill Patch. The phthalate-free cold pack is shaped like a transfusion bag but filled with soothing gel.
Alpi International, Ltd. / PPAI 111221 /



Bring back nostalgic entertainment and give it a digital twist with Flippies full-motion flip books. The vintage flip-book concept has been cleverly reengineered to play back video clips. Use Flippies
as interactive brochures and engaging conversation pieces.



Illuminate brands and products with a backlit fabric display that’s available in three sizes: 2-by-4 feet, 3-by-5 feet and 5-by-7 feet. The 100-percent woven polyester fabric is dye-sublimated, and the display can be left freestanding or mounted on a wall. The six-foot-long cord has an on/off switch.
Showdown Displays / PPAI 254687 /



The lightweight, versatile aluminum tube-frame banner kit enhances the professional look of any display and takes up minimal space, thanks to its black steel base and sleek frame. The kit includes a two-sided banner that can be printed with any image, from solid color to separate images. Carrying case sold separately.
Quinn Flags / PPAI 360359 /


Engage booth visitors with a little friendly competition. Table Top Games can be made for a variety of games and sports, including basketball, hockey, bowling and soccer. Produced from sturdy quarter-inch and eighth-inch medium-density fiberboard (MDF), the games are printed with lead-free inks and are made in the U.S.
MAC Specialties, Ltd. / PPAI 112420 /