Virtually every industry holds trade shows. What better way to get your products and services in front of your target audience? It’s a chance to see the latest innovations, network with other professionals, check out demos and hear from seasoned presenters.

The public safety industry is no different. Every vendor wants to draw potential customers to their booth in the exhibit hall. Flashing lights, full-sized apparatus, shooting simulators, the chance to touch and even try on turnout or tactical gear—checking out the latest and greatest equipment is a big part of the show.

While flashing lights and flashy displays draw traffic, keeping your products and services top of mind is vital after the show ends. And to do that, tradeshow marketing for public safety often focuses around the swag bag. Everyone loves free stuff. For sponsors, it is a chance to offer a free bag at the registration table emblazoned with their brand and include everything from free event t-shirts to pens, mugs, magnets and other trinkets.

Giving away swag is great in the moment, but how many of those goodies make it home?

All too often, novelty gimmick items end up lost or discarded after the show. Even if you provide something highly useful, like a branded flash drive with your company’s logo on it, will that really motivate potential customers to follow up with you after the show? Often, given the nature of our products, it’s hard to come up with a free sample that really summarizes our business or makes a connection with our prospects.

It can be particularly challenging if you are selling a service. Let’s face it. It’s hard to make insurance policies, software, legal services or training systems exciting, especially when you’re competing with a shiny new ambulance or tactical gear in the booth next to you.

Given the nature of our products, it’s hard to come up with a free sample that really summarizes our business or makes a connection with our prospects.

While you may be tempted to offer drink koozies, ball caps or mouse pads (how many mouse pads do you really need?), why not offer thought leadership instead? Free (useful) advice will always be appreciated, especially if it aligns with the services your business offers.

What should you offer? That depends very much on what you’re selling. If your product is software-based or a technology solution such as CAD, reporting software or a mobile citation system, a popular option is a SWOT analysis of the agency’s current system (or lack thereof). SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It’s an opportunity for an expert to review the prospect’s needs and helps you identify how your product or service can solve their problem. Help them discover what they are doing well, where they need improvement and potential ways to retool or adjust. Identify potential liabilities or other challenges the agency might face as a result of their weaknesses.

Your SWOT analysis should not masquerade as a sales pitch. You want to keep this consultation short and focused and let the customer walk away with something of value without being asked to make a purchase. It is equally vital that you do not give away too much. Simply spending a few minutes on a follow-up video call to help point out what an agency is doing well and where they could use improvement is invaluable. An outside perspective may open a chief’s eyes to a problem they didn’t even know they had.

If you are in the business of insuring public safety agencies or providing life insurance or worker’s comp and have in-staff writers who post blogs to your company site, why not offer a free blog post or article customized for the individual agency? In the case of worker’s compensation, perhaps one of your experts could do a brief safety walk through of the fire station or police department to identify potential safety risks.

Another great approach is to tap your in-house experts to create a few short videos (5 minutes or less) tied to a popular training topic. Offer the video in exchange for scanning the attendee’s badge. You’ll get the lead; they’ll get free training content. For instance, let’s say your company offers evidence management software to law enforcement agencies. You could put together a video on common evidence room practices that inadvertently increase agency liability. Boom, the agency has their rollcall training for the next few days.

Additional ideas include a white paper, case study or article from other experts. The information doesn’t need to come from a celebrity, just someone who has established themselves as a subject matter expert within the public safety industry. If you do not have access to such a person, it might be worth your time and the investment to build relationships with a few key “influencers.”

Tradeshow marketing for public safety doesn’t have to be all about the t-shirts or the chance to meet Randy Mantooth. Knowledge and free expertise are a powerful tool. Providing a brief walkthrough, analysis or information from a trusted source may be far more valuable to public safety leaders than a bottle of branded hand-sanitizer. Better yet, why not offer both at your next trade show?

Sold on the idea of thought leadership giveaways but not sure where to begin? Lexipol’s media marketing professionals can help you create compelling content and devise a deployment strategy. Contact us today to get started!.

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