Alexis Exhibits

A Perfect Tradeshow Vendor Relationship

Finding the perfect vendor to support your tradeshow program can be challenging, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but with the right things in mind, you can hit your target. As with any other decision, the preparation you put into it will greatly affect your level of success.

Typically, the decision for an exhibit supplier is made during the purchase of a new display. It may seem logical that the company that built the display would be the best choice to manage it. Sometimes that may be true, but often the problem is that the companies that do the best job of design and presentation are not always the best at program management. Their company’s focus might be on designing and building new exhibits, leaving program management to take a back seat.

A good start in your search is determining how much help you will need, and the size of your program:

  • Pharmaceutical companies might exhibit in over 100 shows per year, not including other events that are a large part of their face to face marketing. Auto manufacturers exhibit in 65 or more shows in the span of a few months. These types of companies usually prefer to deal with the largest exhibit companies.
  • Companies that participate in fewer shows each year in smaller configurations may not get the level of service that they need from a huge exhibit company, and often end up being the proverbial “small fish in a big pond.”

In order to find the best match for your needs, give some thought to how much support you will need from your exhibit company. Some companies need only basic assistance, such as storage, preparation and minor repairs. Others rely more heavily on an exhibit company to handle the entire show including show services, graphic design, shipping, etc. Be sure to consider how important your scale of business will be to your new vendor and whether you will have access to senior management in the event that problems occur.

While experience in your specific industry is a valuable thing, use caution in looking for a company that has several other clients in your most important show, as you may find that they are stretched too thin to provide the best service. Also, there are many other factors that contribute to the success of a vendor/client relationship, but a vendor’s efforts to become the best partner should always involve a willingness to listen and adapt to the client’s preferred ways of doing business.

Are you considering changing tradeshow vendors? Let’s Talk.

Staff Your Trade Show Exhibit to Win!

Anyone who has attended a trade show can tell you that the best booth, in the best location, with the best promotion, may not get the sale if you do not put together the right team to represent your company.

Overall, you are looking for people who are fun to be with and who can help bring your booth to life. Here is a checklist of critical factors to consider when selecting your team.

  1. Make sure you have the right number of people to staff the booth. It depends on the type of show, your business sector and the type of promotional campaign you plan. A good rule of thumb is one person for every 50 square feet of booth space, including break coverage.
  2. Make sure that the people staffing your booth have an appearance that is consistent with your brand and trade show campaign.
  3. Look for people who are naturally friendly and outgoing, and who smile. You want people who are eager to meet attendees.
  4. Select people who are good listeners and who know how to ask open-ended questions that encourage prospects to talk about their needs.
  5. Choose team members who know your business sector or who can be quickly trained to knowledgeably answer questions. It is best to select people who know your product, your company and its capabilities, and who know the competition.
  6. Think about attire and set a dress code. Don’t leave this critical element to chance. Make sure your entire team is willing to follow the dress code.

Once you have selected your team, make sure they have the tools they need and are properly trained to represent your company, qualify leads and secure sales.

Tips for Selecting the Right Trade Shows

Making the decision to exhibit at a trade show is a significant commitment—in both time and expense—for any size company. Trade shows can deliver significant bottom-line benefits by generating valuable sales leads, increasing company awareness, launching new products or services, building brand recognition, finding new channel members and gaining media attention. In order to successfully achieve any of these, however, you must first select the right trade show for your company.

If you are the person tasked with this selection process, the burden is on you to make an informed decision, selecting shows that will deliver the right target audience for your marketing message. Here are a few questions to ask when evaluating your trade show options:

What are my goals? You first must determine your objectives for the show so you can choose the show that will give your company the best return on investment (ROI) in terms of your goals. If your goal is on-site sales, picking a show where there are dozens of competitors selling similar products will be a bust and a colossal waste of money.

Who will be there? Your first step will be to quantify the total number of relevant prospects, buyers, and influences who will be interested in your company’s products or services. Obtain an Exhibitor’s Registration Kit and look at the attendee profile of previous shows, including job title, industry representation, type of business, and geographical distribution.

Does size really matter? Bigger isn’t really necessarily better. Really. The size of the show should match your goals sales leads, units sold, etc.). If you’re a smaller company, it might be difficult to stand out at big trade shows, whereas at a smaller one you might be more noticeable. Smaller ones, however, won’t generate the same high number of leads as larger shows so you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of both and how they relate to your overall objectives.

Will your competitors be there? Though you might not like competing for the same mindshare, the proximity of competitors in one place can be a boon for your business. Find out in advance which of your competitors are going to be there. This actually can help you formulate a winning strategy and effective marketing message specific to that show. What new products are you introducing? And, how and why are they better than your competitor’s?

Is it the right choice? Though you’ll never know for sure in advance whether a trade show is going to deliver a return on your investment, there are some ways to hedge your bets. Ask yourself whether this show is well aligned with the core competencies of your business or just one facet of its offerings? Is the right audience going to participate? Can my company stand out and be unique on the show floor?

What about media coverage? Ask for last year’s press list. Do any of these publications reach your target customers? Do you have a compelling story to tell them? If so, this show might be a good fit.

Make your Trade Show Exhibit a PR Showcase

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 recruit 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?

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.

Trade Show Strategy: Plan it Like an Expedition

I like to think about a trade show like an expedition. I’m headed off to some exotic land in search of treasure. I will be deep in the jungle, cut off from civilization for days. It will be hard to get supplies. I know that my team should expect no outside help. The fate of the entire expedition rests in the hands of the people I choose to man the booth, careful planning and how well equipped we are to meet the expected – and unforeseen – challenges.

The treasure is, of course, new customers and sales. And getting those new customers requires an action plan.

Plan your targets in advance

About 75% of show attendees plan booth visits and meetings before the show starts. Review the attendee list in advance of the show. ID your targets. Start to invite people to visit your booth a few weeks before the show. Personal phone calls are most effective and harder to ignore than e-mails and mailings. Think about pre-show communications that will create anticipation of your booth – it can feature a special promotion or some buzz about a new product release.

Make sure you and your team are outfitted for this adventure

Select clothes that look professional or that support the theme of your booth, but also make sure that everyone will look great all day. Plan on it being either too hot or too cold – attire with a jacket that can be removed is a great choice. And wear comfortable shoes. (One of the biggest mistakes I ever made was wearing beautiful, brand new shoes that were not a great fit to a trade show.) It is almost impossible to really smile if you have been standing for 6 hours and your feet hurt.

Have enough staff or find a partner

Ideally, you will have enough staff in your booth to meet with prospects and give your team breaks. If you have limited staff or have only one person at the booth for a show, find another larger company to partner with. It is best to do this before you select your booth location so that you can be located next to each other or share a larger space.

Pick the right team

Who you pick for this “expedition” is essential to making it successful. Fill your team with high-energy people who have an upbeat attitude. And make sure that everyone who is representing your company has deep product knowledge.

Plan your sales material carefully

People who attend a show are bombarded with information and the best way to be remembered is from your sales literature. Make sure it is easy to carry and packed with valuable information – your goal is to make sure people take your material back to their office. If you have a really valuable prospect, make sure to get their contact information and send material to them after the show.

Carefully select your bait

Over 90% of exhibitors bring a premium or free sample to give away at a trade show because offering an attractive free gift is great way to attract people to your booth. You will be the best choices and can usually save money if you plan this in advance.

What do you do before a show to make it more successful?

Tradeshow Exhibit Packaging 101

Tradeshow exhibits can be packaged in a variety of ways including:

  • Crates
  • Skids or pallets
  • Molded plastic cases
  • Or no packaging at all, (pad wrapped)

Crates

The vast majority of custom or modular trade show exhibits are packed in crates. Properly constructed crates reduce the likelihood of damage and can greatly enhance the useful life of the display. The downside of crates is the cost (usually around $1,500 each for average sizes) and the weight of the crates (around 300 pounds each). While properly designed crates will take full advantage of the space in a truck, their weight will add cost to shipping (if based on weight) and material handling. Crated displays can usually avoid the “special handling” fees charged for material handling.

 

Skids or Pallets

Skids are essentially crates without sides or a top. They are easily moved with a forklift and are commonly used when the items are too big or bulky to fit in a crate, e.g., structural beams, truss, furniture and rolls of carpet and padding. The disadvantages to skids are that they are difficult or impossible to stack, increasing storage and shipping costs, and they do not afford the protection that crates do. Skids do reduce shipping weight when compared to crates.

Molded Cases

Manufactured exhibit systems and portable displays often pack in molded plastic cases. In some instances, the cases are compartmentalized to secure the individual parts of the display. Manufactured displays break down into smaller pieces that lend themselves to being packed into these pre-engineered containers. They are much lighter than crates and are very durable. Some displays that are packed in multiple molded cases are then stacked on skids for ease of handling on the show floor.

Pad Wrapped

Some exhibits are shipped as individual pieces without crates or skids. The items are wrapped with packing pads and loaded into moving vans just like household goods are handled. This process adds considerable time to the packing, loading and unloading process and increases the likelihood of damage, but might be worth considering in some cases.

Trade show display packaging is not as simple as it might seem, as there are many variables involved in deciding which method will be most cost-effective. Your exhibit supplier should be able to describe how your exhibit is going to be packaged and why. A detailed cost comparison of each option, accounting for all potential areas of impact on cost, might be of value before you make a decision.

Trade Show Planning: Creating a Timeline

Organizing your company’s participation in upcoming trade shows can be stressful and requires precision and strong organizational skills. To make it a tad less stressful, prepare a timeline of things that must get done and when they must be accomplished. This alone can help you stay on track, reduce some of the nail-biting and prevent missed deadlines that can cost you down the road in lost discounts, rush fees and missed opportunities.

There are deadlines for choosing an exhibit space, for ordering show services, and for creating your exhibit. There is no one right way to create a timeline, as they can be organized in a myriad of ways (deadlines, tasks, etc.). However, once you come up with one that works for you, use it as a master template for creating timelines for all future shows.

Here are some general guidelines to help you in your planning:

12+ months out: Determine your objectives

Identify the role that trade shows will play in your overall marketing and sales plan. Will trade shows be primarily used to generate sales leads and prospective customers?

Conduct research on what shows will best achieve these objectives.

Determine a budget and project your return on investment (ROI).

9-12 months out: Initial planning mode

Compile a list of specific objectives for each show, such as number of leads, number of products sold, amount of publicity sought, etc.

Identify the booth size needed and type of display, along with marketing collateral and promotional items.

Register for the show and reserve your space with show management and request full details of exhibit requirements (deadlines, shipping information, etc.).

Create a trade show marketing plan that uses a mix of promotional methods to reach sales prospects.

6-9 months out: Fine-tuning your message

Develop your sales message that will communicate a compelling story and deliver the key points you want to make in as short a time as possible (preferably less than 30 seconds).

Choose an exhibit company to help create and deliver an exhibit that will fit your needs and budget. Research their capabilities, experience, and design talent, and be sure and check references of past clients.

Determine what promotional strategies, such as giveaways and attractions, you’ll use to draw attendees out of crowded aisles and into your booth.

4-6 months out: Tying up loose ends

Order promotional items (giveaways, takeaways, prizes, etc.)

Confirm delivery dates with your exhibit company to assure your display will be ready on time.

Determine who will be staffing your booth at the show, develop schedules, and plan training sessions.

Make travel and hotel reservations, if you haven’t already.

Determine how your exhibit and accessories will be shipped to the show.

Launch pre-show marketing initiatives.

1-3 months out: Check and double check details

Assemble packets of information for post-show marketing follow-up.

Contact show management for any last-minute details, changes, etc.

Finalize production of display, promotional items, and marketing materials and confirm shipping date.

Schedule dinners, briefings, or other meetings with customers, media, or sales staff.

Re-confirm hotel and travel arrangements. Last minute snafus are costly and can be eliminated by doing one last review of all your staff’s travel plans.

One week out: Crunch time.

Wrap up staff training of booth personnel.

Confirm shipping arrival dates for your display, marketing materials and promotional items.

There’s always going to be that one thing that completely slips your mind, however, having a timeline can help you stay focused, and more importantly, stay on schedule.

Trade Show Strategy: Quality Displays Matter

When you exhibit at a trade show, the quality of your display really matters to increase booth impact. A brilliant concept or a great design will fall flat if the booth is poorly designed, manufactured from inappropriate materials or poorly constructed. Smart exhibitors establish very specific quality criteria before they start to work with a design company on their booth.

How do you define quality?

Quality can be the combination of many factors: design, durable materials, craftsmanship, use of innovative technology, low environmental impact, and so on. Quality is based on your needs, your company’s or organization’s goals and your target customers’ values.

Here are a few things to consider when you develop your exhibit quality criteria.

  1. Quality Graphic Design
    Great graphic design is critical if you want to present your company in the proper light. No matter how much you spend on booth production and construction, if the graphic design is not first-rate, it will not matter.
  2. Specify Quality, High-impact Materials
    You may not be able to specify exact materials for your exhibit but you can require that the materials used are high-impact materials that are suitable for the handling, wear and tear you expect for the exhibit.
  3. Review Sample Work to Evaluate Potential Firms
    Look at samples of design firms’ work to evaluate each firm’s production quality and attention to detail.
  4. Everything in the Exhibit Deserves Consideration
    The quality standards should apply to every part of your exhibit: displays, sales collateral, premiums, even the exhibit staff’s apparel.
  5. Structural Integrity
    If your booth exhibit incorporates large, constructed elements, make sure that they are properly engineered to eliminate any risk of structural failure.
  6. Installation and Takedown
    Poorly managed installation and dismantling can undermine every investment in quality you make. Make sure you have a professional managing both installation and takedown.
  7. Quality Packing and Shipping
    If your exhibit is poorly packed, it is more likely to be damaged in transit. Think about including quality crates or cases in your budget. With proper packaging, your booth will be properly protected when shipped and you many actually save money in the long run by reducing operating labor costs.

Buying Versus Renting Tradeshow Exhibits

Many organizations don’t realize they can test the waters when it comes to tradeshow exhibits, renting before they commit to buy. For some companies, however, especially those that know they will be exhibiting multiple times throughout the year, buying might be the best and most cost-efficient option.

Let’s take a look at some of the rationale behind why companies choose to rent over buying and vice versa. There are pros and cons to both approaches.

Why rent?

If your company has never before exhibited at a trade show or are fairly inexperienced with trade shows, you might want to consider renting the first time around. After your first experience, you’ll have a much better idea of what your company’s needs will be for future shows in terms of space, size, design, functionality, etc. You’ll also have a better sense of whether participating in trade shows will help your company meet its marketing objectives.

Renting the first time will also give you the opportunity to check out what your competitors are doing as far as exhibits. You don’t want to have the exact same booth as your competitor. Your company needs to stand out amidst the sea of competing exhibits to drive traffic and draw in prospective customers.

Another reason to rent may be that your company simply cannot reasonably afford to buy its own exhibit. Tradeshow booths can cost thousands of dollars, so unless your company has a proven track record of success at trade shows, it may be wiser to rent. Hopefully, after a few successful forays into trade shows, your organization will be able to financially justify the purchase of its own trade show booth.

Why buy?

If your company regularly exhibits at trade shows, even if it’s twice a year, then it may not make sense not to own your own booth. Rental fees quickly add up, so if your company is committed to participating in multiple trade shows or events throughout the year, purchasing your own booth makes good financial sense.

Experience at past trade shows also means you have a solid understanding of what type of booth your company would require; overall footprint and layout, the size of actual booth space your company is reserving for each show, and overall type of design. Chances are you also have checked out your competition’s trade show exhibits and know what your company will need in terms of its own booth to stand out.

Keep in mind that many exhibit companies will allow you to put the money you spend on a booth rental towards the ultimate purchase of a booth. In this way, renting before buying is a great way to experiment with different booth designs and see what works for your company before diving in and making the investment in your own tradeshow booth.

Trade Show Strategies: 5 Ways to Cut Cost and Make a Big Impression

It’s just smart business to look for ways to get more from your trade show budget. Since your competitors are probably getting creative with their budget too, it’s the perfect time to take advantage of the situation with some out of the box thinking.

There are lots of ways to save money on your trade show budget – from managing travel and entertainment expenses to strategies for consolidating shipments to the show – but I’ll leave all of that to you. My focus is on ways to save money on your trade show booth without giving up any marketing impact. Here are a few tips on how your trade show booth can be high-impact for less money.

  1. Reduce transportation costs with a new lower-weight booth
    Trade show design has really changed in recent years. High energy and transportation costs pushed design houses to rethink their approaches. New booths are constructed from light-weight, high strength materials, are less expensive to ship and also have a sleeker, more contemporary look.
  2. Design for easy assembly
    As designers began to work with new materials and modular components, hard-to-assemble booths built with rigid infill panels and wooden construction have gone the way of the dinosaur. Find a design firm with a proven track record of creating booths that have big graphic impact but do not require a cast of thousands to set up.
  3. Rent – don’t buy
    Many large trade show design firms rent trade show components and booths. If your company only has one or two trade show events each year, or you need to get a larger booth just for one annual trade show, renting can be a great option.
  4. Buy a Used Trade Show Booth and Accessories
    Some companies trade in or sell off trade show displays frequently in order to update their display to match their latest ad campaign. A smart buyer can pick up a like-new display for a fraction of the original price. If you take this route, be sure to buy from a provider who refurbishes and customizes displays.
  5. Update your current Trade Show Display
    If your company already has trade show booths, take an objective look to see if they can be updated to fit your current needs for an affordable price. Be careful about investing in an outdated booth that is very costly to transport, assemble and operate because it can represent a false savings. However, sometimes the most cost-effective path is to update graphics, fabric and add new components to an existing booth.

If you’re ready to save money on your trade show budget, Let’s Talk.