7 Tips for Promotional Success at Auto Shows

I’ve been to a lot of auto shows over the last 10/15 years. A LOT of auto shows. I’ve been an attendee, exhibitor, and even the production crew at times. Cue…”I’ve Been Everywhere” (Geoff Mack/Johnny Cash)

One of the more enjoyable aspects of going to these shows is all the free stuff you can walk away with. One of the biggest let downs of going to these shows is running into the booth that settles on business cards and brochures…oof. The adult-version of ringing the doorbell of your neighbor’s house on Halloween only to find that they’re handing out pennies, or worse, Necco Wafers.

“Attendee John” is childishly disappointed. I know that I’m not there for the free stuff but I’ve spoken to 50 exhibitors before you, I have another 100 on the docket after you, and I have a branded draw-string backpack full of awesomeness to distract. If nothing in that bag has your brand’s name on it, our conversation better be REALLY powerful.

“Marketing John” is cringing. Business cards and brochures aren’t memorable. A great ten-minute conversation with a perspective client or customer at a show can easily become a complete afterthought after two more days of visiting with other exhibitors, and probably a few whiskies at the networking happy hour.

Here are 7 things you should consider when choosing the right promotional marketing materials for your next auto trade show…

1. Make Sure It Has Staying Power

Staying Power is a product’s ability to remain visible (not thrown out). What will your consumer keep on their desk? What will they hang up in their garage? There is a better-than-good chance that flyer or brochure doesn’t even make it on the plane with that quality lead you spoke to for 15 minutes.

Spend a little more on a metal shop sign and watch it hang in your customer’s garage for the next 20 years. Still think giveaways aren’t effective?

2. Portability is Key

In theory, a branded cooler is an ideal portable giveaway for this target demo. In reality, that thing is a real pain in the a$$ for the 95% of people who have to fly home. You know what isn’t a pain to fly with? A custom hat; and think of all of the impressions just from other passengers on the plane. Think portability.

3. Make Them Work For It

Play a game, make them spin a wheel, make them play Giant Plinko or cornhole, make them snap a photo and share on their social channels. Whatever you do, make it an experience. People like to be given things. People love to win things. This will also make your engagement more memorable.

4. Make It Work For You

Last year I received a good quality Jeep t-shirt at the Charlotte Autofair. I wear it a couple times a month. Inevitably someone will ask me if I drive a Jeep. I do not, but it always turns into a quick story about how I acquired the shirt. I bet I’ve had that conversation 10 times. I don’t work for the Jeep brand, I don’t even own a Jeep, but I’ve delivered Jeep talking points to at least 10 people – all because they asked about the shirt.

That, my friends, is what we in the business call “amplification.” It’s when your experience lives beyond the event. That t-shirt is still paying dividends for Jeep over a year later.

5. Think About Your Event

If you’re exhibiting at an auto show, you won’t be the only exhibitor giving away key chains, I promise you. Is it outside? In the summer? Is safety one of your main selling points? Hand out branded sunscreen to remind attendees that your brand is always thinking about their safety.

6. Don’t Be So Literal

See point above – tool manufacturers don’t have to hand out tools to deliver their message. Creativity is key. Think about what else your customer uses with your tools. How about a nice pair of branded mechanic gloves?

7. Reconsider Your Budget

Think about cost per impression rather than cost per unit. Giveaways are advertisements, and should be budgeted as such. 58% of U.S. consumer own promotional t-shirts. MAKE THEM COUNT. A $5 “cheap” t-shirt never worn = $5/impression. A $9 quality t-shirt worn 50 times and seen by 100 people each time = $.0018/impression. That’s almost 2x better than a video ad ($.003)

In summary, don’t be the “brochure and business card” booth. Be the “King-Size Candy Bar ” booth. Be memorable. It might require slightly more allocated funds in the upfront but the ROI will be exponentially greater.

If you need more tips or ideas on how to maximize the effectiveness of your next auto show, or need help with your giveaways, email me any time! jrussell@promocentric.com

You can also check-out some additional thought-starters I’ve put together.