Trade Show Blasphemy! Doing away with Tchotchke Tables

Anita Mitzel PresidentA few weeks ago, we introduced you to a video that GraphiColor Detroit President Anita Mitzel put together when she spoke at an Automation Alley Training session. For the last two weeks, we’ve been looking deeper into the topics that Anita brought up during her session. Today, we’re wrapping up our series of blog posts relating to that video with a rather controversial topic in trade show circles: Doing away with the tchotchke table.

They’ve been a staple forever, those tables that every trade show exhibitor has, full of branded promotional materials designed to make sure that people take a piece of your brand home with them. Pens, sticky note pads, water bottles and mouse pads, all brilliantly multi-colored and emblazoned with your company’s brand. Depending on the size and scope of the trade show, a company’s tchotchke budget may be a few hundred dollars, or several thousand.

But the tchotchke table has spawned a singular type of trade show attendee. The kind who shows up not to build contacts or search out a new innovation for his business. Instead, he’s there for the experience of attending a trade show-and taking home a free cloth bag full of free water bottles, mouse pads, highlighters, and mini-staplers.tradeshow-tchotchkes-Detroit

You’ve seen him. Anita describes him perfectly in her video-his head is down, because he’s not really interested in the brands or booths. He’s scanning the tables, looking for freebies, and hoping he doesn’t have to stand there politely through too many sales pitches before he is able to score the giveaways. He’s looking for exhibits with well-stocked tchotchke tables placed near the front of the booth, because that increases the chances he’ll be able to stock up on some goodies without being intercepted by a member of your sales staff who are trying to work their magic on the trade show floor.

Even if you move your tchotchke table further back to avoid this type of trade show attendee, there’s still some solid arguments out there for greatly reducing the amount of branded promotional material that you give away at a show. In that busy environment, giving away branded promotional material doesn’t carry quite the punch that it used to, and may work better if you hang on to it to give out at in-person sales calls, where the folks you’re handing your goodies to are at least genuinely interested in your product or service. There’s also the sad fact that thrift stores and charity bag sales are full of your branded water bottles that someone threw out because they were tired of washing them.

Instead, Anita suggests holding a raffle in your booth, and converting your branded promotional material budget into a nice raffle prize. Let the show attendees enter by filling out an entry form with  a handful of lead-qualifying  questions. This gives you the opportunity to gain valuable information about their purchasing decisions and needs, because people are much more willing to share that information with you if it’s going to give them a chance at winning something they would really love to have.

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