As a professional, you’re judged on results. As a marketer, that means showing a return on investment (ROI). As a trade show exhibitor, ROI can mean drawing new leads, raising awareness of your brand or product, or signing new clients right there at the show. Regardless of your industry or market niche, the bottom line is this: Will the time, money, and energy you put into your exhibit pay off in measurable results? Following these trade show booth success strategies will give you the best shot at accomplishing your goals and answering that question with an emphatic yes.
Choose the Right Show
No one deliberately decides to attend an event that will be a disappointment. However, occasionally when attending a trade show, you’ll think, “I was expecting more of x,” or “I was hoping there’d be some exhibits about y.” The same thing can happen when you exhibit: You sign up for a booth at a general industry show, then realize there simply aren’t a significant number of attendees from your target market segment. Or you appear at an event with a narrow focus, but it only has regional appeal, leaving you unable to connect with your desired customer base. Avoid wasted time and effort by doing your homework in advance and figuring out the best show for your specific goals.
Know your options. Looking at an event calendar can give you a comprehensive picture of various upcoming shows across all fields. Do your research and find out which ones are targeted to your industry. Once you’ve narrowed down your list, keep investigating: Which exhibitors have appeared at the show in recent years? How established is the show? How much publicity and press coverage does it usually receive? Does it have a reputation for being well organized? Do the event attendees match your ideal targeted customer base? Ask the company organizing the event to provide you with demographic information about attendees to aid you in your investigation.
Plan Far, Far Ahead
Picking a show is only the first step. Next, you’ll need to decide on the best booth size for your needs and the best location for it on the trade show floor. These are important considerations, and the success of your booth will depend at least partially upon making informed decisions. If your team doesn’t have direct experience working at your event’s venue, it’s a smart idea to partner with someone who does. A top trade show booth builder will have a network of specialists available in all cities where trade shows take place, with comprehensive knowledge of the particulars of major venues. Availing yourself of their expertise will simplify complicated logistics matters and ensure you’re not relying solely on venue staff, who may be unable to devote significant time and attention to your questions and problems.
Make sure your team members are prepared well in advance. Beyond knowing about all necessary event fees and exhibit costs, you’ll want to make sure your budget accommodates your travel expenses. Don’t wait until the last minute before booking flights and making hotel reservations; for big events, hotels close to the venue may fill up months in advance.
Make the Right Impression
This is where a professionally-designed booth created by skilled artisans pays off. While it may be possible to handle your booth design and construction in-house, you’ll reap countless benefits from partnering with dedicated trade show booth builders. By relying on their years of experience and expertise, you’ll be able to avoid costly missteps.
Along with having a wealth of knowledge about past trade shows, exhibit design firms keep on top of all the emerging trends in booth design. A top trade show booth builder will know what strategies will work best to fulfill all your specific trade show needs and expectations. They’ll combine innovation and skill to help you make the best possible impression.
Market Your Presence Before, During, and After the Show
Having a great booth is essential, but marketing will be a key factor in your ultimate trade show triumph as well. Lay the groundwork for success in advance of the show by making sure your customers know you’re going to be there. Get the word about your upcoming appearance out early, then maintain a steady flow of messaging during and after the show.
Before: If you want to make sure a prospective client or customer is going to be at the show, send them an invitation. Set up meetings in advance. Consider the advantages of both direct mail and email marketing, and leverage your social media networks to their fullest. If you’re going to be unveiling a new product or introducing a special guest, make sure everyone knows about it in advance. Generate buzz well before the start of the show.
During: On the show floor, make announcements about your upcoming booth demonstrations, presentations, and giveaways. Keep a healthy supply of promotional materials such as flyers or brochures on hand to distribute to visitors and passersby. Consider featuring interactive activities that encourage social media buzz—a photo opportunity against a unique background, say, or a screen that displays Twitter posts about your exhibit in real-time. Make sure your giveaway items include your contact details, and be sure to have a reliable way to collect information from booth visitors.
After: Make good use of that contact information—follow up on all leads immediately after the show via phone, email, or direct mail. Update your social media accounts with photos and information about the event.
If marketing seems like an overwhelming task, here’s something to consider: Many full-service professional exhibit design companies, ProExhibits included, can help you plan and execute your trade show marketing campaign.
Engage Your Audience
Make sure there’s always a crowd at your booth. Demonstrations, activities, and a striking booth appearance should all work together to grab visitor attention. Train your show staff well: Every representative of your company should be assertive enough to direct visitors to your booth and smart enough to answer in-depth questions about your product or service.
Everything associated with your brand should reinforce its attributes, so avoid making unforced errors. If you’re planning a giveaway, steer clear of cheaply-made tchotchkes that will be trashed before your guests leave the show floor; nobody’s going to go out of their way to acquire a free ballpoint pen or a keychain with your logo on it. Feature clever, unique, or useful swag people will actually want to take home, or hold a raffle for a coveted high-ticket item.
Plan for ROI Measurement
That return on investment we mentioned at the beginning? That starts in the planning stages. Trade show ROI is loosely calculated by subtracting your expenses from your gross profits and dividing that number by the expenses, but if your data is nebulous, this formula quickly becomes unworkable. You’ll need to decide well in advance how you plan to calculate your ROI—number of sales, number of leads, amount of brand exposure—to be able to collect the right data during the show for in-depth analysis afterward. We’ve covered some of the costs involved with exhibiting at a trade show in other posts. Familiarize yourself with the data points you want to review when the show’s over and make sure you have a concrete idea of what constitutes success and a good ROI for you.
Analyze Your Performance
After a show, there’s more you can learn from your exhibit than just your ROI. Analyze your performance after the event to see where you hit a home run and where you have room for improvement. Build on your successes; learn from your mistakes.
If you had overflow crowds at your presentations or demonstrations, consider devoting more space to those functions or increasing their frequency at your next show. If your presentations consistently drew an engaged crowd but resulted in only a few leads, pinpoint where your strategy went astray. Even if your event was a rousing success, there’s always room for improvement. Conducting a thorough post-show analysis will help you make the most of your experiences.
You Don’t Have To Do It Alone
As you can tell, a great deal of work goes into pulling off a successful trade show appearance. Partnering with a top trade show booth builder can take the burden of much of that planning off of your shoulders, freeing you up to devote your time and attention to other matters. In addition to designing and building your trade show booth, a professional exhibit design company can manage many other aspects of your trade show experience, from designing and printing your signs and marketing materials, to creating your event website, to helping you host a special event, to shipping, assembling, and storing your exhibit. With the aid of a trusted and experienced design partner, your trade show booth strategy can lead you to success.
ProExhibits has created award-winning trade show designs for more than 30 years. We specialize in custom designs that help the world’s best brands achieve their marketing goals. If you have a show on the books, we’d like to hear from you. We look forward to helping you make it a roaring success. Contact us today.