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The 5 Principles of Guerrilla Trade Show Marketing

Getting your business to stand out at a trade show is perhaps the most daunting marketing task. It’s unfortunate that although you and your team have invested all kinds of resources into setting up a display, you may leave the event sad, because of failure to meet your marketing goals.

That is why some businesses abandon the old cliché of marketing and go for an unconventional tactic that is more cost-effective. This is where “guerrilla marketing” comes in, a concept coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book. This concept has since gone ‘viral’ in the marketing space and is especially popular among trade show exhibitors.

Guerrilla marketing, when done right, leaves a lasting impact among attendees. However, due to its bizarre nature, doing it wrong is cringeworthy, and there’s a high chance that it could lead to your downfall.

Aside from creativity, you need experts to execute your vision seamlessly. At ExpoMarketing Group, we offer sustainable custom trade show displays to both small and large enterprises worldwide.

Here are the five principles every business should know when it comes to guerilla trade show marketing.

  1. You don’t need to try too hard

This rule is something that Seth Epstein, the CEO of SocialStay, learned the hard way. He hired a group of ninjas during a hospitality event in 2011 that turned out to be a huge marketing fail. It ended up scaring the attendees. The Austin Police even received a call about a terrorist-like group.

During an interview with John Greathouse from the Rincon Venture Partners, Seth Epstein shared what the experience had taught him.

  • To never ignore your instincts. Just before the event, Seth recalled seeing how one of the ninjas seemed to be inattentive when he was giving instructions. If he hadn’t overlooked this, then maybe things could have gone differently.
  • Never assume anything. Seth realized this the hard way. One of the reasons behind the marketing fail was the aggressiveness of these ninjas. Seth Epstein realized that he should have confirmed whether his vision was clear by doing a ‘mock’ skit. Also, he should have been present during the entire planning process.
  • It is okay to fail. Even though this experience was a setback, Seth Epstein believes that his marketing fail shouldn’t deter businesses especially start-ups from making bold decisions.
  1. Focus on closing

At the end of every trade show event, the team always sits down to discuss whether they achieved their goals. For start-ups, the main measurable outcome is revenue. It’s therefore not enough to have people come and interact but not close a deal or show any signs of deeper engagement. Thus, as a business, your goal should be getting an attendee to pull in their bosses. If this happens, then you are confident that it will culminate in future discussions post-exhibition.

  1. Be Strategic, not cheap

Even though guerilla marketing is seen as a cost-effective approach, it shouldn’t be an excuse to take the cheap route. Find a balance between being economical while still being able to execute your strategy.

  1. Be Original

As a start-up, the pressure to succeed can, at times, make you lose sight of who you are. You must remember that people can always tell when someone is not authentic.

  1. Be on-brand

Look beyond grabbing people’s attention and make sure your message is clear. If guerilla marketing prevents you from sending out your message, then maybe you should consider going the traditional marketing route.

The only way to ascertain whether guerilla marketing works for you is by trying. Do your research and plan well to avoid making errors. Once you have decided on particular designs, you should reach out to our team at ExpoMarketing for highly customized trade show displays.


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