There's so much noise and activity at trade shows that if your product is unknown or very technical, you might as well stay home, right?

Wrong, says David March, director of sales and marketing at $30-million Baird, in Bedford, Mass. Baird's products, instruments that perform chemical analyses on metals, don't automatically turn heads. But his unconventional exhibits do.

March attended a show last fall to introduce Baird and a new technology to a new market. His team had searched customer files and discovered clients who used Baird equipment to test cosmetics, jewelry, and children's toys. March ordered giant toothpaste tubes, watches, and crayons for his booth. "People would walk down the aisle, see these huge crayons, and come in to ask, 'What do you people do?" says March, who estimates his booth's traffic was up 400%. Cost: $325 for the props.

At a preventive-maintenance show, Baird attracted the mechanically minded audience with race cars. Through the Sport Car Club of America, March found drivers eager to show off their Indianapolis 500 and Formula One cars. The show's organizers gave Baird the extra space at a steep discount. Cost: $400 for gas and extra space.

A competing exhibitor once experienced the impact of Baird's creative showmanship. March scheduled a drawing for 25 prize watches just before the start of the rival's presentation -- drawing away half the crowd. Cost: $800 for the raffle.

-- Robina A. Gangemi

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What is the trade-show "16% rule"? What are common budget busters? Trade Show Marketing Idea Kit answers such questions and more. For a free copy, call Skyline Displays at 800-328-2725, and ask for Department 12.

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