The other day I posted a blog on choosing the best trade show for your business. If you haven’t yet, you should check it out before you continue with this post.
Once you’ve chosen the right trade show for your business, there are several things you must do before and during the show to ensure it’s a success.
Trade Show Marketing
There is a lot of marketing you can do before a show to get your target audience to come to your booth. Then, once you are there, take advantage of any opportunity you have to expand your reach outside your booth so you can help the visitors find you. In all of your trade show marketing material, both pre-show and during the show, you need to have the proper graphics and the proper copy and make it all congruent so people can easily identify you and your brand.
- See if you can get the attendee list before the show so you can send out a mailing, either direct mail or e-mail, to the list. You can send postcards or other direct mail piece, a link to a unique landing page on your website, or a special coupon that they have to bring to the booth during the show for a prize. Mailing a logo promo product or offering a free gift for visiting your booth also helps increase attendance. By doing this before the show, you will stand out when they come to the show because they will already be looking for you. It’s important that you use some type of color or brand awareness when you do the pre-show marketing, and use these same colors and branding during the show, so that when they do get to the show they can easily find you.
- Make your brand visible throughout the venue. Many of trade shows will have kiosks of business cards or flyers in different areas of the show to help expand your reach throughout the venue. This helps because people might look at the rack and then come find you on the other end of the room. If you have any new products or product releases there’s usually a product area of a trade show as well.
- Advertise in the show directory. People will take the time during lunch to flip through the show guide to see what other vendors are there. If you have an advertisement in the show guide you can expand your reach there too.
Trade Show Booths
The success or failure of your trade show exhibit is heavily based on the traffic patterns that pass by your booth and could come down to which side of the aisle your booth is on
and whether it’s near the food or the bathrooms. You always want to try to pick a booth that has multiple traffic patterns and will get attendees both coming and going, so the corner booth is typically better than an inside booth. And while some would say that having a bigger booth gets you more business, that’s not always true. You can have a ten foot booth designed right in a high traffic area and get more traffic than a 40 foot island, it just depends on the traffic patterns and how you have the booth set up.
What should you do once you’ve chosen your booth size and location? Here are some trade show tips to help you make sure you’re effectively leveraging your time, money, materials and manpower.
- Don’t eat in your booth. The shows are usually long, so bring a cooler and put drinks and snacks in the booth, but either go behind the booth to eat or walk in the aisles. Remember, you’re there to prospect and sell.
- Make your booth open and inviting. Don’t have it set up so there’s a table across the booth because it makes it hard for people to actually engage with you. Set it up to allow people to walk into the booth if possible.
- Effectively use media. Have your graphics high enough so if people are standing in the booth they can still see and read the important marketing messages. Benefit headlines that are viable help attract visitors into your booth. Also, handing out tons of brochures like a carnival barker is a waste of time. If someone is interested, and you’ve asked them probing questions to qualify them… then it’s appropriate to hand out your marketing materials. The key is to capture their contact information, level of interest and identify the next action step.
- Don’t overclutter the booth. You only have a nanosecond for people to decide if they want to stop. If you make your booth too confusing and overwhelming, people won’t stop because it will take too long for them to figure out exactly what it is you’re selling.
- Have your back to the pathway. This a secret. Rather than standing there looking at people, you are better off standing in the aisle and looking at your own booth than you are in the booth. If you are standing there looking at people walk down the aisle then they’ll avoid you because they feel intimidated. By the sheer nature of you standing there looking at your booth, other people will look too. If you have multiple people manning your booth, use common sense… and only have one person with their back to the aisle.
- Have at least two people manning the booth. Depending on the size of the booth you might need more people. You need to make sure someone is in your booth at all times so you can leave to go to the bathroom or grab a bite to eat without missing a lead. If a prospect walks up while you’re gone from your booth, they’ll leave and you’ll never have that opportunity back.
- Have competent and professional people in your booth who are great sales people and communicate well. If your booth is manned by people who don’t know about the product or service they’re representing, your visitors will get frustrated when they can’t get the answers they need.
- Capture leads. There are several methods to collecting leads in your booth. We have everyone in the booth carry staplers and a notebook so when people give us their business card we staple it into the notebook and write notes in the notebook next to the business card – that way we don’t lose the card and don’t have to try to write all of the notes on the card. You could also have a quiz, survey or have them drop their business card in a box for a drawing.
There are several stages of making sure a trade show is effective. Between your pre-show marketing, marketing during the show, booth selection, and working the event, there are many ways to amp up (or if done incorrectly, completely destroy) the effectiveness of the trade show.
What are some trade show strategies you have seen that worked? What are some that have failed miserably?