Alexis Exhibits

Staff Your Trade Show Exhibit to Make the Sale!

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 are 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 proactive 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.

Putting the Show back into Trade Show Exhibits!

ExhibitorOnline published a case history about a trade show exhibit that brilliantly executed a complete 360 degree trade show exhibit. The exhibit was presented by PayLock LLC, a manufacturer of a self-release car-booting system called the SmartBoot at the International Parking Institute Conference & Expo (IPI) in Las Vegas.

Since the company’s 2004 launch, PayLock’s president, Cory Marchasin, hoped to snuff out traditional car boots. “My partners and I acquired a car-boot company in 2004, but rather than continue with this traditional technology, we looked for ways to develop a competitive edge and differentiate ourselves from the competition,” Marchasin says. “As part of our creative process to build a better boot, we decided it wasn’t actually the product that needed refining so much as it was the business process itself. Traditional boots and the process associated with them just didn’t seem to make sense anymore.”

PayLock decided to bury competing products with a funeral-based booth theme. Their exhibit including everything from in-booth caskets to after-hours wakes, PayLock’s “morose strategy used dead-pan humor to rub out the competition — and slay its own expectations in the process.” Here are a few highlights:

  1. The entire trade show exhibit and program was infused with product messages and tongue-in-cheek tactics to keep the laughs coming.
  2. Pre-show promotion: An obituary for the traditional boot ran in the show directory, available starting the day before the show opened.
  3. Two memory boards with images of the traditional boot and the paper permit paid homage to the Smart-Boot’s “deceased” competitors.
  4. Following the show’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, PayLock pallbearers hoisted the coffins onto their shoulders and led a processional to PayLock’s booth. A five-piece jazz band accompanied the processional, recreating a New Orleans-style funeral march.
  5. The two coffins were positioned near the back of the exhibit. Monitors above the coffins displayed the time of the next funeral presentation along with whimsical images during the eulogies.
  6. Tissue boxes, black carpet, and casket sprays adorned the surreal 16-seat in-booth funeral parlor.
  7. PayLock staffers read the eulogy, which explained the traditional boot’s fate through excerpts from the traditional boot’s journal. Attendees that read pre-scripted eulogies of their own were entered into a drawing for an iPad.
  8. After the funeral, the bereaved filed past the caskets to pay their respects and collect free T-shirts.

The exhibit was not a hit with competitors, but was very popular with show attendees, and, most importantly, generated a lot of qualified sales leads. The most impressive aspect of this exhibit was how it seamlessly integrated the company’s sales message into an unlikely and memorable branded event.

You can read the entire case history at, click here!

Developing an Effective Tradeshow Marketing Strategy

Establishing an effective marketing strategy for a trade show is essential to converting the money spent on exhibits, booth space, and the travel expenses to increased sales. Companies must plan and begin executing their trade show marketing strategy before the show begins and continue after the tradeshow until the last lead has been followed up.

Once a strategy has been devised and bought into by upper management; it’s time to get a plan in place to deploy it. Make sure that your marketing goals are easily measurable so you can easily assess the effectiveness of your plan after the show and determine the role trade shows will play in your future marketing plans.

Here are a few things that can help you develop and deploy an effective trade show marketing strategy so that you can be the “talk of the show.”

Before the show

Trade show organizers will supply you with a list of ppre-registeredattendees. Use this list to contact registrants via phone calls, written invitations to promotional events at the show, direct mail, and emails. A teaser that gives attendees a reason to stop by your booth (free giveaways, enticing entertainment, etc.) can help boost traffic. Well before the show, be sure and add sections to your website such as forums, event calendars, and newsletters to reach a large portion of customers and leads.

During the show

These marketing activities include live demos, in-booth entertainment or attractions, audiovisual programs, tradeshow giveaways, and free food and beverages, if permitted.

Effective marketing during the show is contingent upon having a well-trained and professional staff manning your booth. Getting attendees to stop by the booth will only get you so far. After that, it’s up to your employees to welcome them, introduce themselves, and give them a quick overview of your company and its products or services. Be sure that booth workers take notes and obtain contact information along with information specific to that person that might come in handy when contacting them after the show.

After the show

This is where many companies fall short. If you want to convert sales leads into actual sales, this needs to be an essential part of your marketing plan. Thanking attendees and following up with them is important if you want them as future customers. Follow up within a week of the show by sending a personalized note, along with any marketing material you deem appropriate for that particular prospect.

In the weeks following the show, attendees will be besieged with emails, sales collateral, and sales pitches via social networking sites from exhibitors. Set your company apart from the sea of competitors by making personal phone calls to promising sales prospects. This extra effort confirms your company’s commitment to service and establishes a pathway to building a relationship with a future customer.

All these marketing strategies should be built around establishing and reinforcing your company’s commitment to quality and customer care. Implementing a trade show marketing plan that focuses on relationship management and personalized attention to prospects as well as current customers will go a long way towards growing your business and increasing sales.

Trade Show Exhibit Strategies: Be the “Talk of the Show”

Become the “Talk of the Trade Show”

Every show has that one exhibitor that everyone talks about – the “Talk of the Show”. It is not always the biggest or most expensive booth, but it is often the booth that has the best marketing idea. Here are some ways that unlikely exhibitors became the “Talk of the Show”:

  1. Rare autographed merchandise that appeals to the target customer.
    Pick the right item and the right celebrity for your target customer and, if used as part of a themed exhibit and contest, your exhibit could be a show standout. Select a rare, one-of-a-kind item to be used in a prize drawing, add some related, less expensive items to make the contest more exciting. Then come up with a themed contest and exhibit to make the entire concept and booth an entertainment event.
  2. Film a live show and make attendee the stars.
    Most people love to see themselves on camera. Set up a Live Cam and Web Cam from the show floor and put on a show. Broadcast your “show” on monitors so people can watch their colleagues be stars. At one trade show, an exhibitor created a talk show set and broadcast live at the trade show and online. They had a “band” with a couple of musicians and recorded music, a show host and invited attendees to be their guests on the show. Guests could be interviewed about the product or sing favorite songs with modified lyrics that integrated the featured product. The program got the highest ratings at this show.
  3. A housewares magic act.
    Many exhibitors hire magicians or entertainers to attract exhibit traffic, but every now and then a company comes up with an act that breaks out of the ordinary. A ceramic knife manufacturer took a knife throwing act to a new level – pitting their ceramic knives against the competition. The knife throwing act demonstrated that while some ceramic knives shattered easily, the company’s knives were truly shatter resistant and could survive even knife throwing.
  4. Extreme Demos.
    If you have an extreme product, consider having an extreme demo. At one trade show, Taser offered to shock attendees, and hundreds took up the offer and ended up on the floor.
  5. Great food.
    If you are exhibiting at a non-food show, think about offering a crowd-pleasing, made-to-order food item. The trick is to avoid the commonly offered freshly baked cookies and coffee drinks. For example, at a tech show, Fios, Inc. of Portland offered smoothies – and had people lined up for hours. While attendees waited for their smoothie, the booth staff scanned their badges and introduced attendees to Fios e-discovery legal support services and software.

There are many ways to attract attention – prizes, demos, entertainers and free food are common – but when done in an unexpected way, it can make your booth the trade show exhibit that everyone talks about.

Unleash the Power of PR at Tradeshows

One initiative often forgotten about at trade shows and conferences is public relations (PR). Obviously tradeshows are an excellent way to increase visibility of your company with a targeted audience of potential customers. Most companies are well aware of this and focus their efforts solely on garnering the attention of attendees in order to generate sales leads.

What many companies fail to recognize is the vast potential to also grab the attention of the media covering these events. Magazine editors, writers, consultants, and bloggers attend shows to gather information and become educated on what’s new in that particular industry. They want to know what products are being introduced, what new technologies are emerging, what companies are partnering together, and what new services are being offered.

In order to get their attention, companies must be proactive. Tradeshow organizers engage in promotional activities that include the media so be sure and look for opportunities to get your company included in any pre-show newsletter or press release distributed by show management. Contact the show’s PR staff and ask for any opportunities to contribute industry information or research, or provide industry “experts” at your company to participate in panel discussions, give speeches, or to teach product- or technology-specific classes.

Several months before the show, put together a press kit that includes: a one-page company overview; a press release on whatever you’re introducing at the show; product spec sheets on each product or service; case studies or user stories demonstrating the real-world benefits of your products or services; recent news articles; and a CD of images of your company’s products that the editors can use for publication. Also be sure and include the business card of the person within your company responsible for PR. Put press kits in the show’s media room, as well as in your booth.

A few weeks out, obtain the list of all members of the media who are pre-registered for the event. Contact the key members of the media and schedule a time for them to come to your booth and meet one-on-one with a company representative to get a demo of your product and an overview of your company. Make sure you have something newsworthy to share with them: research findings, significant new technology or products, market news, etc.

If you have significant news to share, you might consider holding a press conference. The show management can assist you in obtaining a room outside the chaotic show floor and can also help with preparations such as food or drink you might want to offer weary members of the press.

Keep in mind that good PR is about building relationships with the media and positioning your company as a thought leader in your industry. If an editor likes you—and as a result, the company you represent—he or she will be more likely to contact you for information or interviews with key personnel when they are writing an article on a topic with which your company can offer some expertise.

How to Choose Effective Trade Show Giveaways

When attendees at trade shows leave your booth, you would like them to leave with a great lasting impression of your company and its products. Giving them a great pitch on your company and an impressive demonstration of your products is an effective way to do that. Another way is to give them something to take home as a way of thanking them for their time and in the process something that will remind them of your company and its products.

These so-called “giveaways,” or promotional gifts can be super marketing tools when chosen carefully. Attendees love the idea of getting something for free, whether it’s a tote bag, a mug or a random ballpoint pen. Note: yes, attendees will take pens even when they are not intended to be giveaways. Gift giving can build goodwill, be an incentive, communicate a message, and create awareness.

Giveaways should be used to reinforce a company name, core benefit, and image, create a positive feeling, remind attendees of the company name, and to obtain contact information of prospects. Be sure that whatever item you choose as a giveaway, make sure your company logo or name is on it. Enhance your positioning strategy even more by including a branding message, slogan, and phone number as well.

So how do you choose the most memorable ones to use as tradeshow takeaways? One good way is to cross-reference your own promotional ideas with retail items that are trending high at the moment. Do this by surfing through gadget catalogs to see what’s being featured. Some item might be all the rage, and while your marketing budget might not be able to splurge on that actual item, popular accessories (a holder, portable speakers, etc.) with your company logo might be.

Also, keep in mind your objective and who exactly will be receiving the giveaway. Will it be used to enhance a theme, convey a specific message, or educate your target audience? Determining a purpose of the giveaway will go a long way towards helping you select the right gift. If you’re still stuck, consider consulting a promotional specialist to help you make the right selection.

Another important consideration will be your budget, as giveaway items will vary greatly in price, with quality, quantity, and special orders all impacting overall cost. Once you’ve determined how much you have to spend, you might also consider ordering the same item for several different shows, as the greater the quantity, the lower the individual unit price will be.

Unique trade show giveaways can help draw prospects to your booth, so make sure your sales prospects know about it in advance. Send them a teaser invite with details of the giveaway, or create a two-piece premium, sending one part out to key prospects before the show and directing them to collect the other half at your booth.

Deploying Online Marketing Strategies to Promote Trade Shows

The Internet is called the “Information Highway” for a reason, as it provides an easy way to quickly to find information on an endless array of topics. It also provides an ideal vehicle by which to educate and communicate with vast numbers of people. For all these reasons, the Internet is a great way to promote your company, its products, as well as its involvement in upcoming trade shows.

Deploying a web-based strategy can help you maximize the chances of trade show success by increasing your exposure and message frequency to your target audience. It’s important to integrate e-marketing techniques to promote trade show participation before, during, and after each event.

Before the Show.

Devote an entire section of your company’s website to highlight your participation in an upcoming trade show or event. Cross-promote this particular page and your site in traditional printed marketing materials, such as brochures, newsletter, or advertisements.

For people who are attending the show, provide an online form for them to fill out to schedule a demo, then follow up by phone to confirm the time. Have another form for people who are unable to attend the show—but are still interested—so you can provide them with information.

Contact the show’s management and seize any opportunities to utilize marketing vehicles it uses to promote the show, such as websites, publications, or newsletters. If the show has a website, look at web advertising, such as banners, links or any type of promotional copy, to lure site visitors to your site.

Generate some pre-show buzz by promoting a contest, quiz, drawing, game or other incentive on your website. Contestants should be directed to your booth during the show to receive their prize, find the answer, etc.

During the Show.

Promote your online marketing resources. Ask visitors to your booth for contact info so you can add them to your online distribution list for newsletters, e-zines, etc. These online resources provide them with helpful tips so be sure and present this as an opportunity for them to receive something of value, not just advertisements and junk email.

Give the winners of promotional contests or quizzes some face time on your web site. Highlight photos of winners collecting their prizes at the show. And, let visitors to your web site who were unable to attend the event register for contests, drawings, etc.

Update your web site with daily highlights from the show. Include news, product launches, customer interviews, speaker summaries, etc., to keep everyone who couldn’t attend the event up to date.

After the Show.

Update your web site immediately. Add streaming videos of product demos or customer testimonials from your exhibit. Your customers can often tell a more compelling and credible story than your sales people by explaining how your company’s product solved a problem for them. Prospective customers often can relate to your other customers because they possibly share the same problems, concerns, and issues that need to be resolved.

Integrate new prospect email contact info into your database to develop an ongoing web-based communications program that includes email, e-newsletters, e-zines, and other important corporate announcements.

Make sure your site is continuously updated and stocked with valuable, useful content for your existing users and potential customers. The web is an excellent place to gather information about new products and technology. Seize the opportunity to use your web site to position your company as a thought leader in its industry.

Long after the Trade Show is Over Where Will the Swag Be?

Swag is a part of the DNA of every trade show booth. Some items have been worth their weight in gold, due to the attendee’s reaction to them, while some were a waste of money. Will the promotional product make it home or will it be left in the hotel room? There are many questions which should be posed and answered as you consider the worthiness of this endeavor.

The ultimate question is: does that Tchotchke really matter, and will it move the person along the sales funnel? Depending on your target market and what they expect, answers can vary. Below are some questions to consider when reviewing the options for your giveaways.

Questions, Ideas to Consider When Choosing a Tchotchke

  1. How useful is it? Is this item something you would truly use after the show is over?
  2. How does this piece relate to your company and its brand? Will it reinforce your brand image?
  3. How can this swag be tied to the overall booth theme?
  4. Will this item be kept at the recipient’s office? Or is it a fun item that will be given to someone at home, like a child?
  5. Is there a way that this item can share your unique sales proposition?
  6. Can this item easily go through security at the airport?
  7. What types of conversations can the booth staff build around this item as it is being given away?

All of these questions should be reviewed to determine what to choose or pick out. Unfortunately, due to the hurried nature of getting ready for a show, the selection of the “right” promotional product is at the bottom of the list of tasks to accomplish.

Kathleen Hanover has written a post titled: Trade Show Marketing Tip: How To Choose Smart Swagwhere she presents a great idea:

“Let’s say your company sells a breakthrough solar panel that is 27% more cost-efficient than anyone else’s. Why not give away a small, solar-powered calculator? And what if that calculator had a formula printed on it that the recipient could use to calculate her cost savings over your competition? (Needless to say, it would also have your logo, tagline, and other pertinent details.) The possibilities are endless.”

Think about two different types of giveaways. Use a less expensive, but effective, giveaway for the freebie vultures for those people that come by your booth looking for the free giveaway. Don’t totally discount these people because they may actually just be trying to get your information and the giveaway will cause them to think of you whenever they use it. The second giveaway should be something a little nicer. It is a reward and thank you for a visitor stopping and engaging in genuinely interested conversation regarding your product. You definitely want to give them a reason to remember you.

Consider a Charitable Gift Rather than Swag

Depending on the audience at the show, a contribution to a charitable cause might gain more recognition for your firm than a giveaway. The show might have a cause they are supporting, like a food bank or a local animal shelter. You could coordinate your efforts with the show to add your contribution along with theirs. Let the press know what you are doing in lieu of spending money on giveaways and you might be able to gain positive exposure for your efforts. The press would be seen by show attendees and those who are not there.

Choosing the appropriate gift is often on a trial and error basis. Consult with a promotional products expert to discuss the wide range of options at your disposal. They can guide you in selecting the right item which will meet and possibly exceed your goals. Walk the show aisles to see what other exhibitors are using. You might see something which can be used for another show.

The good news is you have many options to choose from which can allow you flexibility in meeting budgetary considerations. What has been a great giveaway for you in the past?

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.

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.