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Sep 08, 2004
Case Study

How to Dominate a Trade Show Floor & Garner Loads of New Sales Leads with a Clever Promo

SUMMARY: The only problem with running a giveaway promo to attract traffic to your trade show booth is that every other marketer on the show floor is doing the same thing. So how do you make your promo stand out? Get inspired by this step-by-step Case Study about a campaign that marketers at Quest Software are running at major trade shows this year. Includes stunning results data, lots of creative samples, and show photos:

Every year, about 150 vendors duke it out for the attention of 8,000 attendees at Microsoft's Tech-Ed conference. "It's our largest show," says Darin Bartik, Quest Software Windows Management Group Director of Marketing. "We were probably one of the top five vendors in terms of space and level of sponsorship this year."

Despite boasting a conspicuous 20x30 booth near the floor entryway that other vendors probably coveted, Quest's marketing team's job wasn't an easy one.

The problem was although Quest is a well-known software brand, the company had recently acquired and re-named a brand that had had a slightly bigger presence at last year's show.

"You can only maintain one brand in a company the size of Quest -- we're $300-400 million," explains VP Marketing Aggie Haslup. "You can't feed and maintain two brands and have the marketplace understand the dual brand strategy."

But, it's hard enough to build a brand in the high-tech space, let alone memorably rebrand one.

Prospects usually don't find merger and name-change news even remotely thrilling. Initiating show buzz about the company transition would take a lot more than swapping out logos and issuing a press release.

Haslup notes, "Acquiring a company is not just buying it and then changing the logo. Most importantly, there needs to be a launch campaign for an acquisition. In our company, an acquisition is treated just like a major new product launch."

So the team had their marching orders -- launch the new merged brand at the Tech-Ed show and get everyone incredibly excited about it.


Just as every brand has a benefit-oriented tagline, so does each of Quest's acquisition launches. In this case the team came up with, "When Active Directory and Exchange Experts come together, YOU WIN!"

To underscore this message, drive booth traffic, and generate sales leads, the team invented a contest for show attendees to enter to win. Here's how it worked...

o Attendees were asked to view a five minute presentation at the booth.

o Attendees who viewed the presentation, and were therefore presumably more qualified prospects, got their badges swiped and also received a t-shirt with Quest's messaging.

o Attendees who actually wore the t-shirt on the last day of the show during any one of three scheduled contest drawings qualified to win a cash check for $2,000, $3,000, or $5,000.

While this is a fairly good campaign, it's also fairly standard. As you'd expect, several other marketers at the exact same show were also running giveaway contests, including one for a new car.

So, the Quest team used five specific tactics to boost their campaign over the edge (they hoped) to greatness:

-> Tactic #1. Three rounds of email

The team sent three waves of email messages to promote the contest. The first two went to Quest's entire related opt-in prospect list, one a month out from the show and one two weeks out from the show. These were HTML featuring the new combined logo, and a short, but pointed message.

Then they sent an email reminder the night before the actual contest drawing. Just folks whose badges were swiped at the show got this reminder. It was in text-only so it would be easily readable on various PDA devices such as Palms and Blackberrys that many attendees carried.

The short message focused 100% on the contest, with no extraneous links or content.

-> Tactic #2. Advertising in show materials

At the show, every attendee packet featured an insert promoting the contest. "Make your insert a non-standard shape and feel," advises Bartik. "If it's just another 8 1/2 x 11, white, or a slick brochure, it will get glossed over."

Quest's insert looked like an oversized $10,000 bill, printed in green on offset (non-slick) paper.

The team also bought a belly-band ad on one of the top trade magazines being distributed at the event. (A belly-band is a printed piece of paper encircling a magazine that a reader must break to get inside.)

-> Tactic #3. Maximizing booth messaging

A top-hatted magician acted as a barker outside Quest's booth, inveigling attendees to step in for the next presentation. "Find out how to win $10,000," he cried in between card tricks. "Just sit through a five minute presentation. It's harmless, it's painless!"

The presentation ran every 20 minutes -- giving the team just enough time to grab a fresh crowd, run through the PowerPoint deck, and garner contact information from attendees as they shuffled out afterwards.

The last eight slides in the 24-slide presentation reminded viewers about the company merger news and the rules of the contest -- especially the fact that folks had to wear their t-shirts to qualify to win on the last day.

Finally, attendees were handed their t-shirts, along with a printed contest rules handout with the headline, "You must be present to win!" as they left the booth.

-> Tactic #4. Design a t-shirt people actually want to wear

Quest dreamed of flooding the show floor with hundreds of attendees all wearing the logo-ed shirt on the last day. But, half the battle in getting folks to wear your shirt is giving them something that isn't just another logo-ed item.

So, the team dedicated the front of the shirt to a giant slogan any attendee would be proud to wear: "Windows Management EXPERT." The Quest merger logo took over the back of the shirt.

All t-shirts were sized X-large so most people could fit into them. (Guys too big for the shirt were told they could hold it up at the appropriate moment.)

-> Tactic #5. Coordinate with other booths' giveaways

The booth giving away that car had planned to announce their winner at the same time that Quest planned their final contest drawing. Luckily it wasn't a direct competitor, so Quest staff were able to negotiate a slight schedule change, allowing attendees to be present at both drawings.


"It was so much fun coming down the hotel escalator that final morning, into a sea of people wearing the Quest t-shirt" says Bartik. "They were all walking ads for us."

Turns out that because the contest drawings were held throughout the day, many attendees decided it was simpler to wear the t-shirt all day instead of slinging it on at the last minute. Others ran back up to their hotel rooms to change when they saw everyone else wearing it.

Every single one of Quest's 45 presentation sessions during the show were standing room only.

In the end, a total of 2,083 attendees (out of roughly 8,000) attended Quest's presentation and registered to win. Bartik thinks he could have gotten another 500 if there had been enough seats or time.

He doesn't have an exact count of precisely how many wore the shirt on that final day, but it's safe to say t-shirts dominated the show floor.

"By 3 p.m., it was insane, quite frankly. So many people were watching the drawing and wearing the shirt. There was a sea of people outside the booth, standing a good 200-feet out. The neighboring booths were a little miffed."

The campaign was such a success, Quest is now rolling it out at seven other events around the world this year.

Useful links related to this article:

Creative samples of emails, the t-shirts, marketing materials, and a photo of the t-shirt wearing crowd at the show:


See Also:

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