It’s here – that time of year when businesses gather their crews, pack up everything they own and head down to some cavernous hall to sell their wares to thronging crowds of targeted shoppers. Expo season is officially upon us.
It’s not uncommon for companies to pay for a booth, throw together banners and brochures, grab the nearest intern to stick in the booth and hope for the best. But, there is a better way. To get maximum return on your investment, spend a little time planning.
First, ask yourself: Why are you exhibiting? The reasons vary from show to show and from company to company. Is your goal to generate leads or make sales? Perhaps you hope to establish credibility or increase awareness of your company, product or service. You may be introducing a new product or service, recruiting staff or merely working to reinforce relationships with existing customers. Once you establish why you are exhibiting, it will be easier to identify key messages and activities for your booth.
Your booth should have an appealing environment. Keep it simple and clean. Don’t bring in everything from your office or showroom just to fill your booth or try to show every product you carry. The goal is to have it warm and inviting, not cluttered.
Who you are, what you stand for and how you appear to do business is vividly on display in your booth. Within seconds of seeing your booth, visitors will begin to see in your exhibit a story about your corporate culture, personality and capabilities. Within minutes, your company’s image will be evaluated and mentally compared against other displays and competitors both on and off the showroom floor. The environment you create should reinforce what you want attendees to walk away knowing about your company and their experience with you.
Everything in the booth should be a reflection of the image you have built for your business, including the personnel who staff it. According to The Center for Exhibit Industry Research, 80 percent of what visitors remember most about their visit to a trade show booth is their interaction with the exhibit staff. This is why it is essential to provide comprehensive training for your exhibit team before the show. Tell your booth personnel why this particular show was chosen and its role in the firm’s marketing strategy. Other things to share:
- The specific selling goals for the show
- Why they were selected to make this a successful show
- The kinds of people likely to arrive, and the names of specific target prospects
- Features and benefits of products on display – especially the solutions those products have provided to current customers
- How to answer the most common questions
- Knowledge about competitors – particularly those at the show
One key to long-term success from trade shows that is often overlooked is prompt follow-up. Showcase exhibitors often miss important leads because they have no lead development strategy. According to CEIR, as many as 80 percent of trade show leads never receive any form of follow-up at all.
So create a plan for following up on leads before attending the show. Discuss with your team the qualifications of ideal prospects. Your staff should be able to easily identify qualified leads and differentiate them from those on which they should not spend a lot of time. Designate exactly who will follow up on leads and how it will be done. Write and prepare all follow-up letters and information packets ahead of time so they can be sent as soon as you return to the office. Plan to pick up the phone, mail letters or information or set an appointment within a few days of the event. Given the cost of entry fees, the cost of developing a great exhibit and the manpower expense to run it, immediate lead follow-up is just good business sense.
After the show, assess how well you attained each of your pre-show goals. Make decisions for future show participation. Will you exhibit again? Was your booth in a good location? What changes in strategy are indicated? Keep a file of your observations and decisions. It will help you as you decide which shows are worthy of a return visit and what exhibit tactics are worth trying again.
10 money-saving (and inexpensive) tips for a better booth experience
Do not scrimp on graphics. Use professionally designed signage and promotional pieces. Cutting costs in this area can actually cost you money.
Put your best salespeople in your booth. It is a waste of money to do otherwise.
If you do not have branded shirts, have your employees dress similarly – in black shirts and khaki pants, for example. This way they will look like a team without the extra expense of a uniform.
Don’t pay extra money for gimmicky themes. Keep your booth’s theme simple. Remember, it’s a reflection of you and your business.
Everything looks better with light. You do not need large, powerful overhead lights. Smaller spotlights can show off specific items of importance. Light also gives your booth a warm, welcoming feeling that invites people in. Additional lighting can increase awareness of your exhibit by 30-50 percent. www.exhibitoronline.com
Use fabric to create your environment. Wrap lightweight structures with material, drape tables and pedestals and/or use fabric for a backdrop. This is an inexpensive way to add color and texture to your booth.
Partner with another business to provide the elements you need for your booth. Use their furniture, carpet, plants or a flat-screen TV, and offer them signage in your booth in return.
Don’t fill your booth with papers that are just going to get tossed out later. Limit literature and giveaways to potential customers that are sincerely interested in your business. Give potential customers a place to sign up for more information, then follow up and/or send something to them at a later date.
Use recycled materials. Update your past displays by adding on to them, covering them with a different material or using them differently. Also look into recycled carpet, paneling and other materials to create a one-of-a-kind look. Make use of existing marketing materials such as television or radio spots. Play them in the background for interest and reinforcement of your product/service. Look for a used trade show display instead of buying new. A good place to start is www.findstuff.com.
Think ahead when ordering display items for your booth. Will you be able to use them later in your office or showroom?