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Staying Power: Trade Show Collateral That Sticks

By C&EN Media Group

The decision-maker is packing her bag in the hotel room after a busy week at the big science trade show. Space in her suitcase is limited. Does your company’s marketing collateral earn a valuable spot in her bag?

The answer depends largely on the quality of the collateral — its content, appearance, and feel. If the piece seems disposable and doesn’t contain any content that’s valuable or unique, it will probably have a brief life span. To avoid this fate and ensure that people who stopped by your booth keep a token, and can then remember and follow up upon your company’s offerings, follow these guidelines:

Create a premium product.Arrow-Right-256 There’s a lot to be said for the power of perception. Documents that have staying power look and feel significant, and they provide a positive view of your company. You don’t need fancy language – in fact the opposite is true. Science-focused collateral usually requires a lot of technical jargon; strive to make the language you use as clear and simple as possible. Unleash innovative designs, unique formatting, and a premium finish. Think outside the box with shapes and textures, and have a hook that engages the audience by offering information they’ll want to reference again — like hard-to-find industry statistics, perhaps. Also, make sure your collateral is useful. For example, provide an attractive space for taking notes on continuing education courses or storing business cards. Once in the attendee’s hands, documents that don’t tear or easily rip, and offer future value, are much more likely to be conserved.

Arrow-Right-256Be selective. If you walk into a Lamborghini dealership wearing beat-up flip-flops, expect a few screening questions before you take a test drive. Likewise, the car dealer doesn’t leave the keys in the ignition so anyone walking by can take it for a ride. This example is a bit extreme, but the same principle applies to distributing trade show collateral. Having designed a high-quality product, you should deliver it with purpose. A good rule of thumb is to instruct your staff not to hand out premium collateral in the first five minutes of engagement. If the person stays and seems genuine, have a deluxe package to present. This communicates that your collateral is important and something the customer should hold on to. Restricting access also reduces the quantity you will need to produce, which can offset the cost of quality printing and save on shipping.

Arrow-Right-256Diversify your content. Sometimes, the best potential customers have a presentation or poster session to catch, and won’t have time to stop and engage with your staff directly. For this reason you need to be your own wingman, referring attendees to your booth and website with small reminders throughout the show. A great way to do this is through the trades show dailies, delivered into the hands of your customers every morning. They are not the place for inaccessible science jargon and details; instead submit a teaser ad or a removable tip-in for getting more information. Keep the messaging simple, professional, and on point. Finally, have a directive: “Ask for Craig at the booth” or “Request a complementary white paper from our website.” Other ways to diversify and catch a larger audience include electronic catalogues and brochures. Getting a business card or an email address might be all you need to control your own customer follow-up (you can even make it an entry requirement for a booth competition) as long as you make it timely and stay top-of-mind.

Arrow-Right-256Keep branding consistent, on strategy. As with all trade show marketing, the look and messaging of your collateral should be current and consistent with your company brand. This entails far more than matching up the logo and color palette; your messaging also needs to be on point. Before you start designing, narrow down precise goals for the trade show. What products do you want to highlight? Who comprises your ideal customer base? What are attendees really looking for at the show? The answers to these questions will help you develop messaging that speaks directly to the problem you’re solving for customers, and subsequently direct your materials into the right hands.

Arrow-Right-256Connect creative and sales. Creative staffers are experts at designing collateral, but they are rarely present on the trade show floor. Communication between the design and sales teams helps to improve your collateral year after year. Kick off your event with a creative briefing for marketers and sales teams alike. Make sure the ideas and intent behind each document are explained to those staffing the booth. Keep them in the loop with goals, talking points, and directives. But remember it’s a two-way street: your trade show representatives will be absorbing information that can be valuable for your marketing team. Being present at the trade show will also arm them with data and examples of other companies’ successes. Download this information into your creative hard drive through a post-show recap. Adding more ideas and perspectives into the mix keeps material current and evolving with your customer base.


Success with collateral means it makes it all the way home to your contact’s office. It is therefore also important to consider what impression the documents will give as a stand-alone package. Away from the booth, the banners, your staff, and the convention lighting, you want the collateral to help keep the conversation going between you and the potential new customer.

What goes great with exhibitor marketing? A white paper to distribute to attendees. Learn the best ways to create one with our white paper, The Art and Science of Creating a Successful White Paper. 

 

 

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