Exhibiting in a tradeshow is a major decision and a big expense. So once you’ve committed a significant chunk of your marketing budget, you’ll want to be sure to get as many prospects into your booth as possible. This can be quite a task, because a smaller business can’t compete with the huge advertising dollars the big companies have to spend. You can use direct mail prior to the show for your customers and inner-circle target market, but what about the rest of the potential prospects?
Here’s an innovative idea I’ve heard about: Most tradeshows have special room rates for attendees at nearby hotels, and blocks of rooms are set aside just for attendees. Contact the marketing department of each hotel and offer to supply door keys for free for all the rooms that will be occupied by attendees. The hotel will know who these people are because the rooms will be identified in the computer when the guest checks in. On the front of the plastic key, have your company logo and a “Welcome to the X Show” message or some sort of colored graphic design. You could also put a phrase stating your booth number and that if attendees bring the key when they visit your booth, they can enter a drawing for a prize. On the back, below the magnetic strip, you can include a line saying, “Thank you for staying with us,” and include the name of the hotel and the phone number.
The hotel should love the personalized welcome for their guests that they probably wouldn’t buy themselves. And where else can you get the type of advertising that the attendee carries in his or her pocket or purse and looks at five or ten times during the visit? The cost to do this for three or four hotels should be approximately $1,000 to $1,500 for four-color printing. But you can’t buy this type of exposure for many times that cost. While the big companies are spending $25,000 or more on advertising, you’re paying a small fraction of that. Plus, your way is unique and sure to catch the attendee’s attention.
Many people don’t turn in their keys when they check out of the hotel, if only because they’re afraid they’ve left something behind and might have to go back and check. So offer a discount after the show if the attendee’s order is accompanied by the door key with your logo on it. Make the offer good for only 60 days so the attendee won’t forget about you. The hotel won’t care if the person takes the key, because it won’t be used after the show is over, and the hotel didn’t pay for them anyway.
But now that the secret is out, you must be quick. As soon as you pay your deposit on a booth space, contact the hotels immediately, before someone else use this idea. And even if you find that another company has beaten you to the punch, try the secondary hotels for the show and others nearby.