The single most important qualification of any company undertaking your graphic requirements for ANY type of advertising, trade shows included, is to either understand direct marketing theory and practice, or at least not get in the way of it.
It's Your Message First and Foremost
The unvarnished truth is that if your advertising is ugly but the message catches readers and/or listeners, the advertising is going to be successful. Many an advertising agency has sacrificed the current successful advertising campaign for an amazing looking but useless ad campaign that looked great, artistically, but fell flat when it came to promoting the product or service the hiring company wanted promoted and paid big bucks to a 5th Avenue-style ad agency to do, when a firm that understands marketing and what people want could've done it for a tenth of the cost and got 10 times the results.
The Concept of Direct Marketing
Direct marketing works across all platforms of advertising from billboards to television to Google's AdWords ads. The basic theory of direct marketing, which also works with trade show displays, booths, and collateral material in the booth, asserts that by testing various offers and verbiage, one can know for certain which phrases and offers resonate with clients, within a fraction of a percentage point.
How do they do this? Originally, if you had a product you wanted to advertise in 1900, you'd have advertised in a catalog or newspaper, put a code in the ad, and then run another ad in the same periodical, and after six or eight weeks you'd tally the results. Ad number one may've had a 1% response rate, based on the circulation and readership of that particular newspaper, whereas ad number two may've pulled 1.3%, so it is what the direct marketing industry calls the "control," which simply means that it is the ad to beat.
In the next go around, maybe ad number three out pulls that ad by 1.6% to 1.2%, so there's now a new control. And so it went. Now, the same thing that used to take months can now be done via advertising online to a much greater audience. And it can take a day or a week instead of months.
What to Do When Partnering with an Ad Agency
So, when you're looking to hire an advertising agency, first, educate yourself on what works in advertising. Dan Kennedy, Jay Abraham, Rich Schefren, Perry Marshall, and other in the modern era are solid direct marketers, using mail, internet, and other media to promote products or services, and they learned from marketing greats like Claude Hopkins, David Ogilvy, and other early direct marketers who built empires based on the copy they wrote for ads, but especially their headlines.
When you're looking for that special company to head up your trade show booth advertising and marketing, it would be wise to learn what you can from the above mentioned writers, then if you have time, implement some testing of your advertising online if you haven't done so already. Once you've done this, and have a pretty good idea of what's working, now translate that to your trade show booth graphics. If it can also be pretty, that's a bonus. But don't waste your time and money on trade shows and graphics if all you can do is make a pretty booth, as it'll just be expensive, look nice, and lose money.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Barry K. Brown has been in the Sign, Banner, Decal and Display Business for over 20 years. It isn't what he thought he'd do with his life, but he says he knows too much now to do anything else!
He has been marketing these products online since 1998, and the company he was general manager of in 1998 was the first sign company to be listed on Yahoo!