What stands out at a major trade show or fair? Bright colors, bold designs and simplicity. This is not news yet trade shows remain filled with booths that are too complex and too cluttered – booths that attendees do not recall seeing because they make no impression.
The most common cause of a cluttered booth is trying to accomplish too many objectives. Generally, if you are overly ambitious, you will end up falling short on every goal. But if you are willing to make some choices, your exhibit can be brilliant. Check out Trade Show Exhibit Design: The Creative Brief to determine what will allow you to make an impression.
A focused message
Think about what you really want to communicate with you booth display and write it down. If it is one, focused goal, then you are on the right track. Once you have a singular mission, work with your design team to bring it to life. Focus on your one main message. Carry that message into everything you present at the trade show – your booth, collateral, merchandise presentation, sales pitch, staff clothing, everything.
Keep your booth open and inviting
Eliminate anything and everything that creates a barrier to attendees or will overwhelm them with unnecessary information. A few examples:
- Be clear and straightforward about your company. Don’t tell your complete corporate history – only what is needed to make the sale.
- Present a few products merchandised to showcase your most important products. A booth packed with a deep product assortment will just become clutter.
- Banners graphics can be great unless they are filled with complex graphic images or too many words and logos. If you want people to actually read what is on your banners, limit the amount of information you put on them.
It all sounds so simple, but choices are always difficult.
To create a singular, power statement you have to be willing to make some hard choices. I usually start with an empty space and challenge myself to only put in what is essential. Maybe the product display should only include your newest products. One large multipurpose element can often replace several small elements and eliminate a lot of clutter. Look for ways to build in storage to hide extra sales literature and other supporting materials.
Your trade show exhibit will be more effective and more memorable if it makes a clear statement about your company and your products. Question everything and, if something does not support your core message, do not let it into your exhibit.
If you want your trade show booth to be the star of the show, you have to have one message and it has to have a chance to be seen.
Many marketing executives can’t completely answer this question. They basically repeat what was done in previous years with slight variations in execution. Taking a moment to analyze your trade show goals and results can help you find new ways to acquire more customers and make your trade show investment really pay off.
Trade shows are expensive but they can also be one of the best sales and marketing investments your company makes. Trade show exhibits provide unparalleled opportunities to forge stronger customer relationships, win-back old customers and acquire new, high-value customers. But you should expect this effort to deliver more.
Maximizing your Trade Show Exhibit investment
Have you analyzed your trade show investment? Are you satisfied with your results?
- Incremental sales and profits
Track your results and determine your Trade Show ROI. More information about how to calculate your Trade Show ROI.
If your trade show ROI is not acceptable, then look for ways to make improvements. First, look for gaps in sales and customer tracking to ensure that the data is accurate and complete. Next, make sure that the shows selected were good choices and had significant attendance from your target customers.
Then look for marketing gaps: ineffective or no lead follow-up, insufficient planning, staffing issues and for other reasons that the shows were not productive. Once you identify the issue, you can adjust your strategy and improve results.
- Improved competitive position
Did your company strengthen relationships with current customers, increase brand awareness, launch a new product that differentiated your company, expose your company and products to a new market? Generally, did your trade show investment help position your company for future sales gains and market share increase?
If your trade show exhibit doesn’t improve your market position, then carefully evaluate your strategy. How can you adjust your trade show marketing plan to outdo your competition.
- PR and Investor Relations
Did you generate meaningful press coverage? Did your company’s trade show presence result in improved perception of your company in the investor community? Do you get any significant consumer education opportunities from the show?
If your trade show attendance has not been a PR opportunity, it is a promotional gap that should be evaluated for potential for your company.
- Market intelligence
Trade shows are an excellent way to gain competitive intelligence. They also can be used for market research and provides an excellent opportunity to gain customer insight.
If your trade show isn’t providing your company with market intelligence, develop a plan to maximize this unique opportunity to gather both the latest competitive info and to learn more about your customers.
Every trade show is a public relations opportunity.
Your Trade Show Exhibit plan should be designed to target your target customer markets and the event, but here are a few tips that will help you make a PR impact.
Determine your PR objective
The best PR efforts have a singular, focused objective. Are you trying to increase awareness of your company’s products, services and/or brand? Are you trying to reach new prospects? Do you want to expand your distribution channels and recruiting new distributors or dealers? Are you most interested in maintaining a presence and enhancing your company’s visibility?
What is your news?
If you want press, you need to create a story, you need to have a news hook. Are you introducing a new product or service? Has your company achieved a new milestone?
If you do not have news, looks for ways to create news value. For example, did your company recently complete a new research study about the industry or your products, and can you release some of this information for the first time at the trade show? Can you provide insight into current industry trends? Download our Top 10 Trends in Booth Desing & Marketing for 2011!
Build media interest before the show
Look at past events and see how much press coverage exhibitors received. Generally national and international industry trade shows and conferences get the most coverage. Before the show, contact trade and local reporters who are likely to cover the event. Also connect with any media representatives who are pre-registered for the show. Your overall goal is to secure media interest in your company, and if possible, schedule interviews during the show.
Work with the event organizers
Most trade show organizers engage in media promotion throughout the year. They are often the best source of information about who will be covering the show.
Put together a press kit
At least a month before the show, put together a press kit. Include information about your company, products and services, performance reports, past articles, key executive bios, and other material that will help reporters feature your company and your products. Include one press contact in your press kit.
Arrange to have your press kit in the media room or delivered to reporters. And, always have a few extra copies in your trade show booth.
Issue a press release from the show.
Make your news the focus of the press release and include a senior executive as the contact from your company.
A carefully planned tradeshow PR strategy can help you attract positive press coverage at your next trade show. It can also make your trade show exhibit investment more productive.
You’ve done everything brilliantly. Your new trade show exhibit has arrived and is set up. Your product displays are stunning. Your agency put together collateral that will impress your prospects. Everything is set for the show opening -- or is it?
The majority of buyers only attend one or two trade shows a year, and they come to the show planning to make buying decisions. Plan ahead so you have the right team to close the sale.
Are you properly staffed?
Most people are aware that having a well-trained trade show exhibit staff is one of the keys to trade show success. But it is just as important to be properly staffed.
Make sure you have the right staffing mix at the show. What functions need to be represented? Do you need technical staff or product specialists to support your sales team? Augment your trade show exhibit team with home office staff who are on call and available to answer questions and provide information to key prospects.
Do you have enough staff to cover the booth?
Even in a small trade show exhibit, it is ideal to have at least two people at your booth all the times so that one person is free to leave the booth and interact with attendees as they walking by. If you are trapped in your booth waiting for them to come to your trade show exhibit, you will miss key prospects.
Make sure your team maximizes downtime
There is a lot of downtime at a trade show. Some experts estimate that as much as 90% of the time exhibitors spend at a trade show is wasted. Organize lead follow-up activities so that they can be done from the exhibit floor during these idle periods. Send out follow-up emails to prospects. Gather information to answer questions from prospects and get these answers to prospects before the show ends. Meet with the press to generate some pro-active PR for your company. Have your team communicate trade show news to key prospects who could not attend the show from the trade show floor.
The right team is the essential element
Put the right team in a great trade show exhibit. Give them the training and tools they need to succeed and you will increase your trade show sales.
Trade shows can be one of the most cost-effective ways for your company to reach qualified prospects. And with a little bit of planning you can dramatically improve your results.
- Start planning as soon as you know you will be attending the show. Make your booth space reservation as far in advance as possible so you can select the best location and size.
- The majority of trade show attendees plan their trade show exhibit visits before the show. 75% of buyers arrive with pre-set purchasing objectives. A pre-show marketing campaign is essential to making the most of your trade show exhibit investment.
- Most trade shows are covered by local and industry media. Before the show, invite local media contacts to visit your booth. Find out if there will be any trade press at the show and set up a time to meet.
- Promote the shows your company will be exhibiting at and your booth location on your company website, Twitter and Facebook pages.
- Avoid printing anything at the trade show or at a hotel business center. Ship copies from your office or a printer to the show.
- Put together a comprehensive inventory list before you ship your exhibit. This will check in and out-bound shipping more efficient, and better ensure that any missing items are identified rapidly.
- Bring more sales collateral and business cards than you think you could possibly need. You cannot afford to run out and it is inexpensive to ship it back to your office.
- Bring backup copies of all multimedia presentations on CDs just in case you have an issue with your laptop. You can also store copies of presentations so that you can access them online and download if needed.
- Organize your trade show leads in the downtime during the show and start to follow-up even before you leave the exhibit floor. Send the contact information for prospects to your office from the show and have someone send out requested collateral material to these prospects so it is waiting for them when they return to their office.
- Put together a trade show exhibit emergency kit: packing tape, scissors, pens, epoxy putty, a small trash can, power strips, extension cords, USB flash drives, and cutting tools, and a tool kit. Add in anything that your might need for small emergency booth repairs and replacement parts for anything that can wear out or burn out like light bulbs.
Trade show exhibits are a big investment. Just a little bit of planning and a few tips from the pros, and you are well on the way to having a less stressful and more successful trade show exhibit.
Your trade show exhibit should be designed to focus on your products, not your display. This doesn’t mean that the graphics need to be subdued or your booth needs to be boring. It means that the graphics, colors and lighting should be integrated to draw attention to your product.
Make your products the star of your trade show display
Don’t be afraid to be bold. Use high-impact colors that will stand out at a distance. A bland color palette will blend into the background and not draw attention or focus audience on your product.
Be brand-true. You should support and build on your brand campaign. But your exhibit also needs to go beyond the brand message and convey what your company is about.
Use exhibit graphics to draw in high-potential prospects for your product. People can “read” images faster than they can read words. Use images to clearly define what your company does and to attract your target customers. Images are also an effective way to filter-out people who are not likely buyers so that they do not take up your staff’s valuable trade show time.
Limit your product display to focus on signature products. No matter how large your trade show exhibit space is, it is easy to dilute the overall impact of your display with visual clutter from too many products. If you want to tell an assortment story, organize your products into groups. Trade show attendees are most interested in new products and your most important products. You can use collateral material or electronic product directors to provide information on your full product offering.
Use lighting to spotlight what is important. Lighting can accentuate the most important information and make your products stand out. Be creative in how you use lighting to draw attention to your products. Backlighting graphics, for example, can increase initial awareness and recall of your exhibit.
The design of your trade show display can draw attention to your product. The right graphics, colors and lighting can grab the attention of your best prospects and make your trade show exhibit a true product showcase.