When an iPad is a Bad Raffle Prize

October 5, 2011 / by Michael K. Redman

This week I was flabbergasted to see mind numbing, non descript marketing at a trade show in Vegas.  I was there to meet with a great client and also to further investigate his market space.  Some of his competitors were there, and many of others selling in that same industry.  The attached word cloud demonstrates a really good reason how mind numbing it was.

Raffle Word Cloud

This cloud is taken from the program that lists all the vendor raffle prizes offered at the show.  Notice how large iPad is?  It is followed up by American Express and Kindle.  The more times the prize was offered the larger the word became in the word cloud.  iPad showed up more than any other word by far.  Translation: most companies were offering an ipad as their raffle prize.  Now, you might be thinking,“This sounds great to me!  I have more chances to win an iPad and I’ve been really wanting one.”  Well as an attendee it is good news but think with me for a moment on the purpose of a raffle at a tradeshow.

Purpose of a Trade Show Raffle

It is to get your attention to come over and listen to their “shpeel” about... whatever they have that you probably don’t need.  Why give something away?  Because people really don’t want to talk to you and as a company you are trying to, “entice them” to stop by and have a non threatening conversation while you try to have an invasive conversation with them.  Your goal as a company is to ask them where they're from, maybe say something polite and interesting, and then launch into your “Carney” like sales pitch to possibly qualify them and get permission to scan their badge so you can either call them or send them the unsolicited emails after the show.  Which most of them don’t want.  That is why you need a raffle at a tradeshow and most companies know it, while they wouldn’t put it as crass as I have.

So there I am, walking the trade show gauntlet with the carnies barking from all sides, trying not to look anyone in the eye, and give them reason to start talking to me.  I was studying the booths and looking to see who stood out.  The answer was very few.  They all used the same types of displays and the same copy. My favorites were, “Talent Management” and “Innovation starts here.”

The word cloud was a useful tool that revealed what I had noticed on the floor. Most of the companies that were trying to stand out were saying and offering the same thing as everyone else. There is no fascination or sence of urgency to act if you can get the same thing everywhere.  This was marketing suicide for most of these companies and money wasted to boot.

Rule # 1 in marketing: State what you can do for the customer and then tell them why.
Rule # 2: Tell them why you're different, and you need to have a good reason.
(so, these aren’t really the number one and two rule of marketing but they should be.)

Yes, sometimes I’m just looking for a hamburger and I want to know who sells one but when two or three are on the same intersection they need to tell me why they are different, significantly different or else I go with the least painful option.

These raffles aren’t a bad idea.  Sometimes it’s just fun to offer something to potential clients, but if your trying to stand out then by all means, take a minute to think and then stand out.  I really wonder how these companies will decide if this show was a success for them but somehow I think they're measuring the wrong thing.

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