It’s an indisputable fact that millions of business deals are finalized on a trade show floor each year. For this reason, trade show events remain a key aspect of any strategic marketing plan. But once your company commits to attending a trade show, how do you maximize the event in order to receive some serious ROI? To help answer this question, below is a list of trade show best practices you might want to consider implementing to help turn any event into a great success.
When it comes to trade shows, pre-show preparations can be even more important than what actually takes place during the show. However, pre-show planning is usually the first thing left out when it comes to trade show strategy. On the show floor, bigger and flashier booths might have the advantage when it comes to garnering attendee attention. But when it comes to marketing your company pre-show, booth size and location don’t matter in the slightest. It’s all about creativity and spreading the word.
- Plan early and often. Let’s face it; trade shows have been known to cause some anxiety around the office. So relieve some of this stress by getting preparations underway early. Put a timeline together and stick to it, and make a list of all the assets you need – products, literature, graphics, etc. Also, don’t wait to the last minute to send in your show order forms. The longer you wait, the higher prices you will have to pay.
- Market yourself. If no one knows your company is exhibiting at an event, how will they ever visit your booth? So, market yourself pre-show; reach out to attendees and let them know when and where you will be showcasing your products. Use email to spread the word about your event. And when possible, advertise in show materials before and during the show.
- Confirm meetings. Prior to the show set up some meetings with existing and potential customers. Make these meetings about networking, not necessarily selling product. If necessary, offer to provide free tickets to the show to get to your customers on site. It’s easier selling to those you know verses those you just met.
- Determine success. Predetermine what a successful show means to your company. How are you going to measure this success? Is it in sales? Holding a press conference? Gathering new leads? Setting a goal will help determine ROI and provide your sales team working the show with some clear direction.
It goes without saying that booth design is essential to the success of any trade show. Grabbing the attention of attendees can be challenging, especially when you only have a few seconds to make a visual and emotional impact. Ultimately, it’s this impact that will encourage attendees to interact with your booth.
- Use simple signage. First impressions are everything, so it shouldn’t take more than a few seconds to read any of your trade show graphics. If it does, simplify. Keep text short and impactful.
- Stay on brand. Keep a consistent brand look throughout your entire booth. From booth design to graphics to giveaways, keep it brand consistent. Use a coherent color pallet on all your materials.
- Use your name, everywhere! Your company name should be visible throughout your entire booth. Any attendees walking by, or that enter your booth, should immediately be able to recognize the booth belongs to your company. So, use you company name and logos as often as possible. Keeping a consistent brand message also helps attendees quickly identify your booth.
- Unclutter the mess. Make the most of your space and use of every square inch of the booth, but do so effectively, efficiently and without clutter. Clean up the mess and make sure your booth remains clean – empty the trash bins, sweep the carpet and clean the displays. Banners, displays and graphics are nice, but too many of these things can make your booth look cluttered, keeping attendees from entering your space.
- Make it light & bright. Trade show venues are often dark and dingy, with very little natural light. So make sure to add lighting to your booth. A bright area feels warm and inviting to attendees, and displays that are light and bright stand out on a crowded trade show floor.
- Make it interactive. Create an experience in your booth by making your displays interactive or by using touchscreens. Virtual reality demonstrations are another great way to share your products and services with attendees. Your booth should be educational, yet fun and playful.
During the show
Having a great looking booth is a major aspect to having a successful trade show, but it’s essentially just one cog in the overall trade show wheel. It’s actually many of the intangible things you do during the show that can turn a waste of time, money and resources into a positive experience with some great return on investment.
- Extend your reach. Giveaways and sponsorships are an excellent way to extend your show presence far beyond your booth. Promotional giveaways should be easily visible all around the event – hats, shirts, bags, etc. Don’t just give away a small item of swag that will end up in the trash or in an attendee’s pocket. Also, sponsor something at the show if your budget allows, like a charging station or refreshment zone. This helps keep your name in the forefront of attendees’ minds at all times.
- Bring your A game. Let your top sales people attend the event. After all, one of your main goals should be to sell your product. Making connections and gathering potential leads are great, but nothing beats closing a deal right on the trade show floor. You could even create a friendly competition between the sales team manning the booth. The one who sells the most, wins!
- Give something away. No, not just swag items, but something bigger that attendees actually want like a TV or iPhone. This not only helps create a buzz around your booth, but it can also help in the collection of attendee contact information.
- Collect attendee data. If someone walks into your booth, and you don’t get their information, then you’re doing something wrong. When you’re meeting potentially hundreds of people a day, it’s hard to remember whom you met and what questions they had. So take notes, and use the digital recorders offered at the show to streamline the process. Additionally, consider sharing your visitor list with another company who was at the show. Sharing the wealth can go a long way when it comes to growing your company’s contact lists.
- Present yourself. Many trade show events offer forums, educational sessions and/or guest speakers. Take advantage of these offerings and present something about your company to attendees. Again, the more you can spread your company presence outside of your booth the better.
- Feed the animals. Don’t forget to offer booth visitors some water, coffee, snacks and more. Treat booth visitors like guests and make them feel comfortable. Keep them in your booth as long as possible.
Okay, so the trade show is over. Does that mean that all trade show specific work stops? Not quite.
- Measure success. Take a look at the predetermined goal you established before the show. Did you hit your target? If not, why? Hopefully, you tried some new things at the show. Did those work? Measuring success after the show is one of the most important things you can do.
- Follow up. This cannot be stressed enough, make sure to follow up with booth visitors post show. And do it quickly! Give them a call or send them an email.
- Make upgrades. When doing your post-show analysis, take a look at the status of your booth. Is it time for an upgrade? Refreshing your booth is key to making a splash at any event. But make sure to plan for the upgrade, setting aside some budget money in order to make it happen.
Attaining a positive ROI from trade show events can be tough. But it doesn’t have to be. Especially if you follow some of the best practices outlined above. Doing so will provide your company with a much better chance of experiencing success at your next event. Good luck, and happy exhibiting!