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How To Build A Great Pre-Show Promotions List

Pre-show promotions are one of your best methods to get people to visit your trade show booth.  And you need that help, because the average attendee only visits about 20 booths – while the average trade show has about 400 exhibitors!

Pre-show promotions are direct marketing for trade shows.  You use direct mail, email and telemarketing to invite trade show attendees.  And while you have other pre-show promotional methods (ads, social media, room drops), exhibitors have told us in surveys that these three are their favorites.

It’s an old saw for direct marketers that the success of your direct marketing relies first on the list, second on the offer, and third on the creative.  Since list building is the most important (and probably the least discussed!) we’re going to cover it in this blog post.

To build a great list for your pre-show promotions, get names from one or more of these 5 sources:

1. The Show Organizer: This is your best list source, as they know who is actually coming! Get both the list of this year’s pre-registered attendees and last year’s actual attendees, and merge them together.  Order only the part of the list that matches your prospects, filtering the list by industry, job title, company size, and whatever other choices the show producer gives you that help you target your audience.  Filtering the list is more important if you only want to reach a small portion of the attendees.  Most importantly, don’t order the names of your competitors.

If the show organizer doesn’t give you the ability to segment the list before your buy it, consider getting the whole list and then manually deleting at least your probable competitors.  If it’s for direct mail and you have an expensive mailer, take even more time to weed out the wrong recipients.

Append email to your list if the names of the attendees were given to you without emails.  You may have that person’s contact name already in your company database, but knowing they’ll be at the show you are exhibiting at makes them even more valuable.  Even take the time to visit their company website and figure out what the email pattern is for your targets – is it or is it

Do this especially for the very valuable list from the show organizer, but you can also do these steps after you’ve gathered names from all your list sources (show organizer, company marketing database, sales, and other sources).

Some show organizers will not allow you to directly receive their attendee list for your promotions, but will send your promotions for you.  In that case you send them your email and they forward it to their attendees, or you send your mail piece to a mail house, and they mail it for you.

Timing on when you get the pre-registered list is tricky.  Get it too early, and you won’t get the names of the people who will register closer to the event (and that proportion is higher than it was a few years ago).  Get it too late and you risk your mail package arriving after the attendee has left for the show.  (And don’t mail your pre-show promotions standard/bulk rate – send them first class so they get to attendees before the show!)

2.  Your Previous Leads From That Show: Many people attend the same show year after year.  So go back to your own leads database and pull the previous leads you collected from the show over the last three years.  Those same people may be further along the sales cycle and you will have more success with them because they already know you, having visited your trade show exhibit.

3.  Your Marketing Database: Your marketing department may have also built a database of likely prospects, too.  So ask your marketing department (if that’s not you!) to get you a list of clients and prospects that live in the show’s geographic region or who are in the show’s vertical market.

4.  Your Sales People. Your sales people probably know more about the best prospects than your marketing database reveals.  So tell your sales people you are exhibiting at the ABC show, and ask them to set up meetings with their existing clients and best prospects that will be at the show.  Those can be some of the most productive meetings you’ll get from the entire show!

5.  Other List Sources: If you can’t get lists from the show organizer and your company database is anemic, you can also buy names of potential attendees via a list broker.  Ask to get names of people who fit your target market: Industry, company size, job title, and location.  They’ll get the names from the top industry publications, associations, and list compilers.  You may even get names from the media company or association that owns the show!

Combine the lists into one file, and take out any obvious duplicates, so you don’t mail them the same invitation multiple times, which is annoying and expensive.  Check the list for completeness: Put the whole list into Excel and sort the list by various fields, such as state or city or email address.  Find the names that are not complete, look them up on Google, and fill in the missing data.  If you don’t have the time and experience to merge/purge the list, work with a mail house who can.

One last point – almost certainly you have received these names from the show organizer or the list broker for one-time use, the trade show.  If you are going to send multiple waves of pre-show promotions, get permission up front, and pay for that.  But don’t add any rental names you did not already have into your company database.

It can take some finesse to build a strong pre-show promotions list.  But it’s worth it!  You’ll have a much better chance of attendees receiving your great offer and creative promotion, and then visiting your tradeshow display.

How else have you built a great list for your pre-show promotions?  Let us know in the comment box below.

What's Working In Exhibiting White PaperLearn more about pre-show promotions and other key trade show marketing best practices with the What’s Working In Exhibiting white paper, yours free by clicking here.



Creating Effective Trade Show PromotionsIf you’re really serious about improving your pre- and at-show promotions, there is no better source than the 65-page book, Creating Effective Trade Show Promotions.

About the Author

Mike Thimmesch is the Principal at Thimmesch Marketing. For over 25 years, he has created and implemented innovative marketing, lead generation, and exhibiting strategies that profitably grow company sales and brand awareness. Mike rose to Director level at Skyline Exhibits, where he helped generate over a half million leads, resulting in over $1 billion in sales. He published 11 industry white papers and eight exhibiting books, presented over 100 trade show webinars, and wrote over 200 exhibit marketing blog posts.

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