Measuring the sales return on trade shows is a tricky business; you can't always trace sales back to the show. You can, however, stretch your marketing dollars by targeting your efforts before the big event:

* Contact prospects before the show. Margaret Rodenberg decided to forgo a booth altogether in favor of a preshow campaign. Rodenberg, head of sales and marketing at Viteq, a maker of computer-power supplies in Lanham, Md., banked the $80,000 she would have spent. Instead, weeks before the show, she sent 180 prospects a catchy direct-mail piece -- a box in a box -- that cleverly packaged product literature, a sample, and a card to send in to receive a premium.

"It's a jaded market, and we knew that just sending a number 10 envelope wasn't going to make it." While 22 people responded, all 180 got calls from Viteq's regional sales managers, who further qualified prospects and set up 27 appointments at the show. Within four months Viteq closed long-term deals worth $130,000 with 8 of the people. The cost, from direct mail to hotel limo service: less than $12,000.

* Know your goals going in. Callaway Golf wanted to introduce its new club, Big Bertha, and position itself as a big player before the widest possible audience of buyers. So during the 1991 PGA show in Orlando, the Carlsbad, Calif., company bought a full-page ad in the Southeast edition of the Wall Street Journal, extolling the virtues of Big Bertha. The paper, with a sticker on the front page directing readers to the ad, was delivered to attendees' hotel doors. "The entire golf world was sitting in one town, and half the people thought we did the ad nationally," says CEO Ely Callaway. The $12,000 black-and-white ad went a long way toward helping the company more than double its sales in 1991, to $54 million.

-- Susan Greco and Tom Richman

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