Alexis Exhibits

Design for Success: Branded Trade Show Booths Generate Sales

surprisedA trade show exhibit is a rare opportunity to surround your key prospects with your brand experience. An exhibit is not an impersonal 2-D experience like a TV commercial. It is not virtual and passively interactive like your company website. An exhibit can be a real 360-degree brand experience, alive with people and almost completely in your control.

When you invite key prospects into a 360-degree brand experience, your booth has a chance to be one of those few memorable moments from the entire show. And the exhibitors who create these memorable moments are almost always the show sales leaders.

Be true to your brand position and personality.

Make sure that you start out with a platform that is consistent with your brand position and personality. If you are a technology company, you can be playful and use a comic book superhero theme. On the other hand, the same theme is probably not appropriate for a health care benefits company who needs to establish credibility and trust. Similarly, if your company manufactures euro-design furniture, your booth can be sleek, experimental and minimalistic. But if your company makes traditional American style furniture with a focus on fine craftsmanship, your booth design should reflect that heritage.

“Surprise and Delight” your target customers.

To create a memorable moment with your booth, you need an overarching theme and concept that will surprise and delight your target customers. You are looking for something that will break out of the endless sea of logos, photos of smiling customers, and product images. Based on surveys of trade show attendees and exhibitors, the memorable booths are not the biggest booths, they are the ones that had one big idea and focused on it.

I can’t give you a list of foolproof big ideas. You’ll need to work with your team and exhibit design company to create the concept. I can pass on one secret – get your internal and external team members to think only about your brand and what would really “Surprise and Delight” your target customers. Don’t be distracted by what your competition did last year or even what your company did last year. Brainstorm first, then evaluate the ideas once you have a list.

Once you have a concept, everything else will fall into place.

One unifying concept will pull everything together. If you have multiple products or divisions involved with the show, use the concept to unify everything. Make sure every aspect of the entire exhibit – accessories, product displays, signage and lighting – builds on the big idea.

And never forget: when it comes to a great trade show exhibit, less is more really applies. Focus relentlessly on your brand and your concept.

Best Practices for Establishing a Tradeshow Budget


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Preparing a corporate marketing budget these days is a daunting task. All companies need to increase sales leads and amp up revenues, but shrinking marketing budgets have forced companies to carefully consider what must stay and what must go as far as budget items. An important component of the overall marketing budget is the portion allotted to tradeshows, which can be a valuable tool to help increase the visibility of your company and boost sales.

tradeshow_budgetThe reality, however, is that no matter how you look at it, tradeshows are expensive endeavors. You have to rent the space, create a display, promote it, stock it, and staff it. So before you decide to undertake a tradeshow, take a comprehensive look at all the costs associated with exhibiting as well as the expected returns.

Establishing an accurate tradeshow budget early is essential to developing an overall strategy that will achieve success and assure upper management buy-in. The amount you allocate to tradeshows will depend upon the scope of your efforts and the number, size and location of the shows you are planning on exhibiting at throughout the year. Though strategies will vary from company to company, the methods of establishing a tradeshow budget remain relatively the same.

Let’s take a look at some of the larger components you’ll need to be cognizant of when preparing your overall tradeshow budget.

Space rental. Exhibit halls will charge your company based on the size of your display so determine early what size booth you will be using so you can more accurately estimate how many dollars to allocate to booth space rental.

Utilities and related booth expenses. There will be a charge for installing and dismantling your booth. Other expenses include electricity, gas, water, and any other items you may require at your booth during a show.

Exhibit display, signage and accessories. This would include everything from display production, graphics, and banners to booth furniture, literature racks and any equipment needed to demonstrate your products. Crating and storage costs should also be added to this category.

Shipping and drayage. This would include all expenses associated with transporting your exhibit and materials to each location. Freight would include charges for shipping your exhibit, literature, and any other materials to the event location and back to your office or warehouse. Drayage costs account for items delivered to and from your booth space from the loading dock of the exhibit hall or conference center.

Travel and entertainment. Try to put together a realistic estimate on what it will cost you and your staff to attend each tradeshow. This estimate must include travel expenses (airfare, taxi fares, rental cars, etc.), meals, and hotel expenses. This category would also include any expenses associated with entertaining prospects and customers during the show.

Show marketing. This would include all the marketing and sales collateral required to support the exhibit. These materials could be used at multiple shows, so keep in mind that these costs will be spread over a number of shows. These might include product literature, handouts, staff training, and show promotional items.

Want to know how to leverage our experience and make your trade show budget go further? Let’s talk.

Calculating a Trade Show’s ROI

Exhibiting at trade shows is a costly and time-consuming marketing activity. Though that is indisputable, the costs are often more than recouped when the show is a success and your company leaves with many promising sales leads that can— with proper sales follow-up —be converted into future customers.

roiSo how do you determine whether a trade show was a success and worth the expenditure? In order to determine if the cost of attending a show was justifiable, you’ll need to calculate the show’s return on investment (ROI). In this case, ROI is the gain or loss from the money spent on various marketing activities (tradeshows, sales promotions, advertisements, etc.) that are intended to drive sales.

Calculating ROI is pretty straightforward. You simply divide the gross sales dollars resulting from the effort, in this case a tradeshow, by the cost spent to execute it. For example, if your company generated $600,000 in gross sales as a result of sales leads generated at a trade show event and it cost $150,000 to attend.

ROI: $600,000 ÷ $150,000 = 4

ROI is expressed as a ratio so it would be 1:4, which means for every dollar invested, your company got back four dollars. The tricky part is that it’s very difficult to determine exactly which sales leads from tradeshows resulted in actual sales. So in this case, you’re estimating ROI, not calculating an actual ROI.

In order to estimate ROI from tradeshows, companies use a variety of methods. Some companies have determined through past experience the average number of qualified leads it takes to get a specific number of opportunities to pitch to potential buyers, and how many of these will ultimately result in a sale.

The number of presentations that close in a sale are known as the “close ratio.” Over time, a company will be able to compute an average close ratio. Once a company has determined a close ratio, it can use leads generated at a show to estimate potential ROI from that event.

Another way to estimate ROI is to perform a sales conversion study. This is a controlled interview technique that is conducted via email or phone within a few weeks of an event. The intent is to uncover buying intentions and purchasing time from a pool of qualified leads collected at an event.

ROI: Gross dollar buying intentions ÷ cost of the event and the cost of the survey = Potential ROI

Don’t overlook the soft benefits

While you are calculating the dollars and cents, don’t forget to consider the benefits of exhibiting that can’t be expressed in numerical terms, like:

  • Strengthening relationships with current clients.
  • Increasing brand awareness.
  • Consumer education efforts.
  • New product introductions.
  • Investor relations and improving perception of your company in the financial community.
  • New market introductions.
  • Public relations including editorial coverage.
  • Competitive intelligence.
  • Customer insight and research.

Though measuring exact ROI is difficult, these techniques can help you estimate your possible return using information that is more easily accessed from your internal sales groups. Using a projected ROI is a great way to strengthen reported results from tradeshows as well as to increase your credibility with upper management.

Putting your Best Face Forward: How to Staff your Trade Show Booth

You can spend lots of money creating an eye-grabbing, elaborate trade show exhibit, but lose potential customers if your booth personnel are not well trained and prepared. Make it an essential part of your pre-show strategy, right along with pre-event marketing and demo preparations. Keep in mind that these people will leave a lasting impression, good or bad, on your attendees and potential customers when they leave your booth, so pick the best and brightest to represent your organization.

Here are a few more tips on how you can ensure that everyone in your trade show staff is show-ready:

Make sure they are well versed. This is particularly important when using temp workers. These people need to know detailed background about your company, its mission, goal, target audience, products or services, as well as your sales and marketing message.

Practice makes perfect. Establish a pre-show training session and conduct them before every show. Prepare a list of objectives and make sure everyone is aware of their role. For example, some people might be assigned official greeters, while others might be reserved for fielding more detailed technical questions.

friendly tradeshow staffChoose friendly folk. This might seem obvious, but the more outgoing and friendly a person is, the better they will be at engaging prospects.

Stick to the script. Training booth personnel should include a well-practiced script that includes a quick introduction of themselves, a one-minute overview of your company and its products; a few questions to qualify the attendee as a potential prospect; and a request for contact info for effective follow-up after the event.

Dress the part. Make sure that booth staff understands what is expected of them in terms of how to dress, proper etiquette (no gum chewing, eating, etc.), the importance of arriving early and being prepared, and how long they are expected to be on duty.

Don’t overstaff. It’s human nature to avoid excessively crowded spaces and nothing is more intimidating then walking into a booth and being besieged by a throng of over-eager salespeople. Proper staffing will depend upon the size of the actual booth.

Put sales staff on the front line. Even if you rely on temporary help at trade shows, it’s vital to have salespeople in the mix and preferably taking the lead in greeting visitors and doing demos.

Listen more, talk less. Companies can learn more about potential customers and how they might be able to help them by taking the time to listen to their needs, pain points, issues, etc. Booth staff should adhere to the 80/20 principle: listen 80% and talk only 20%.

Tradeshow Booth Staffing Tips

Hiring tradeshow talent and booth staff can provide an exhibitor much better returns on investment than in years past, providing that one understands the need, and seeks the most qualified candidate(s) to fill that need.

Pre-Qualify Prospects: Trade Show Talent Acts as an Ambassador for Your Booth

Browse the internet for convention and tradeshow models, and you’ll find that there are hundreds of agencies providing this type of service. With so much to choose from, where to begin? First, prioritize your needs as an exhibitor. The early days of car show models & booth babes have expanded into tradeshow talent that can not only greet attendees but also demonstrate products and engage attendees in conversation. When considering hiring staff, be sure to consider what the role of this hired talent will be.

When Hiring Talent for your Tradeshow Booth, Find a Reputable Agency

tradeshow_presenterIf you expect superior communication skills, good eye contact, and a witty personality, then you shouldn’t just go online and start looking for price quotes. You’ll want to start by finding a reputable agency, preferably one recommended by a display house, that has numerous testimonials and references. Furthermore, you will want to outline, in writing, precisely what you will expect from your hired tradeshow staff. They are, after all, an extension of your sales staff, as the CMT agency states on it’s website “More important than just being attractive, they know and exemplify the fact that being outgoing, friendly, engaging and professional are what matter most on the tradeshow floor.”

Base your search for hired staff on your written outline of criteria. Speak to the agency about the qualifications and experience of each booth model. Ask the agency the tough questions, don’t be afraid to shop around. You will find that some agencies book superior talent, far beyond what might be considered standard or acceptable, including interpreters, product presenters, costume characters or entertainers. Find some talent with more than just a pretty smile. You might find that a well-qualified presenter just happens to be available during your show days, and needs the work. Why settle for a bikini model when you can have an excellent ambassador in your booth?

Include Tradeshow Booth Talent in Your Booth Staff Training

Before the show, outline a plan for your hired staffers. Share it with them well in advance so they may ask questions and get clarification. Expect them to show up well before the show starts each day, and have a briefing about expectations and or goals. INCLUDE THEM IN YOUR BOOTH STAFF TRAINING! You will want to emphasize the importance of pre-qualifying prospects, a major part of booth staff training. At the end of the day, have a wrap-up meeting, and again, include them with your staff. You are, after all, paying a premium – so why not demand a little more? If you make your staffing choices well, you can not only increase traffic and lead generation, you will also ratchet up tradeshow ROI.