For those of you who follow my blog, you’ll notice I’m on a direct response marketing kick. For those who are unfamiliar with DR, direct response marketing is designed to generate an immediate response from consumers, where each response (or purchase) can be measured and attributed to individual offers. This differs drastically from institutional or image based marketing where only the brand or the image of the product or service is promoted. Some examples of DR marketing are QVC and Proactiv, where image based marketing is like the way Coca-Cola and Nike market. Famous direct marketers include Dan Kennedy, Joe Polish, and the late great Gary Halbert. Direct response teaches us that it is possible to optimize our marketing and to be accountable for every dollar that is invested. If you are a marketing professional, you really owe it to yourself and your company to learn more about this style.

In direct response marketing you split-test everything. In sales letters you’d test the envelope design, the offer, the headline, the copy—each and every element could be tested to see what gets the best response. Through testing it was discovered that you could send the very same letter back to the same list of people (minus everyone who responded the first time), and the response to the offer was the same or better. The letter could be resent to the same list until it cost more to send than what was generated in sales. One of Joe Polish’s students discovered that he could send the same letter 15 times before it stopped pulling effectively.

So Anders, why are you telling us about sales letters? How does this relate back to trade shows? I mention this for a couple of reasons. First, I think it’s important that you carefully measure your success on the trade show floor. It’s easier said than done. Whenever possible measure the return on investment of the various elements of your booth. Some of the advanced iPad trade show apps and services allow you to view in real time which scanners are most active to determine the hotspots of the booth. Once you know which elements “pull,” be sure to keep that in your booth for the next show.

The other reason I wanted to bring this to your attention is that I really believe that you should ride your winners and cut your losers. Don’t feel that you need to reinvent the wheel for each and every trade show.

I have to tell you a quick story from a former client of mine. A company had hired one of my associates to work their booth at a security show in San Francisco. For two years in a row they used my colleague’s talents to draw in attendees and pack the booth for their presentations. This past summer they emailed me and said this about my associate, “He is good, but things are getting a little repetitive, and it’s getting a little boring. We’d like to change things up.” My question was, boring for whom? You and your booth staff? First of all, it doesn’t matter what you and your staff think of your trade show entertainer if he or she is consistently stopping jaded attendees and attracting them into your stand. Secondly, with twenty thousand people at this show, there is no way that even 10% have seen him do his thing. To the remaining 90% of attendees, his routine would be fresh and novel.

What my client didn’t realize was that if you are getting a predictable return and filling your booth theater for every presentation, then you should exploit that for all it’s worth and use it until it stops producing.  An oil well nods up and down all day long, but you would never dream of messing with the equipment unless it stopped pumping oil. Well-run marketing campaigns and tools are just like those oil wells. Bleed them dry!

What currently works well in your booth? Did you stop doing something that was effective just to change things up?  Do you have an engaging demo that people like to be a part of? Do you have a giveaway that is always a hit? I challenge you to let the market tell you it’s time to change instead of changing for change sake.

If you have winning strategy, remember: If it ain’t broke… you get the idea.