According to a survey by market research firm Exhibit Surveys Inc., trade shows are critical to marketing-oriented companies. They attract decision-makers, influence purchasing decisions, provide a point of contact for new customers, and make a lasting impression.
Think of your trade show display as the grand launch of your most valued new product or business service. Give customer prospects your best look, and greet them with your most competent sales staff.
Here are tips on how to succeed at your next trade show:
Pick the Right Shows
Select the trade shows that your targeted market prospects and competitors attend. Check out trade show directories on the Web, and get statistics for show attendance and a profile of attendees. Talk to former exhibitors about their trade show experiences at the shows you select.
Determine the space size and dimensions of your trade show booth. Reserve a good location early for your booth by studying the floor plan. Avoid dead-end aisles, freight doors, poorly lit corners, and obtrusive columns.
Attendees usually turn right when they first enter an exhibit hall, and they also look up, so be sure to make your booth visible with dramatic overhead signage.
Once you nail down your trade show booth number on the show management map, be aware of any booth rules and regulations, such as height limitations and any obstructions on the show floor. Do this before planning your booth design.
Allow enough time to select, design, and build a custom trade show display, and take advantage of early show services discounts. You will be able to avoid costly rush charges and better insure against glitches. Identify the date of the trade show and the move-in date for your display.
Set Objectives for Lead Development
Set trade show exhibit goals to reinforce your overall marketing objectives. Make the goals reasonable and attainable, share them with your trade show exhibit team, and set up systems to measure your results and validate your objectives. Accurately qualify and measure your return on investment.
There are software packages that allow you to identify a half-dozen weighted multiple choice questions that will determine how viable a client prospect is.
Identify buyers, filter out those who are not qualified, and measure results. Rank your prospects as “A” (highly qualified), “B” (somewhat qualified), or “C” (poorly qualified). Have your sales force follow up on “A” leads immediately. Measure the results of these leads in stages from the number and dollar amount of proposals made to monies received from actual sales.
Build a Dramatic Display
Before deciding what type of trade show booth you need, determine your space size requirements and determine the number of trade shows you will be attending in the next 12 months. This information will help you decide whether to buy or rent.
If you buy, there are three categories of trade show booths:
• Custom modular
Check out advantages and disadvantages of each.
Lightweight materials are less expensive to operate than the traditional all-wood displays. Use tension fabrics, woods, colored metal, and layered graphics that use fewer shipping containers, have a current design trend look, and save on operating costs. Older traditional trade show exhibit booths can be obsolete because they are expensive to handle due to heavy weight, larger size—and more—shipping crates, and being out of touch with current design trends.
Build Traffic by Being Creative
Start with a dramatic, attention-getting hanging sign. Upon entering the trade show exhibit hall, the first thing attendees do is look up. Your overhead sign should have a unique design, shape, and movement to it. Gobo lights traveling across tension fabric can provide changing color and mesmerizing interest. New technologies bring high drama to your booth. Consider:
• 3D video/laser image displays suspended above
• Your own interactive website on a large screen
• Waterscreen projections
Take advantage of your trade show exhibit supplier’s expertise in graphics, portability, and cost management.
Recruit the Right Booth Staff
Although the sales function of your firm is usually fundamental to trade show exhibit booth staffing, you’ll want to ensure you have representatives who match up well with the positions of those who visit your booth. For example, if engineers visit your booth, engage them with your engineer personnel.
Also, make sure your staff knows how to engage, identify, and qualify attendees as important leads and dismiss those who are not key business prospects.
Send Pre-Show Notices to Attendees
Trade show exhibit surveys report that three quarters of show attendees plan their schedules for exhibit visits and seminar attendance in advance. Set up meetings with clients, prospects, and press ahead of time. Contact them months ahead through direct mail, email, and personal phone calls. Give them your trade show booth number and location, and have an incentive at your booth that will be of value to them. Link your incentive to a direct prospect benefit, and make it redeemable only when they visit your exhibit. One example is to cut a numbered gift certificate in two and send half of it in advance, with the remaining half available only at your booth.
Understand Show Services
You will need to have supplemental assistance from show services at the trade show exhibit hall. These are representatives and union laborers who provide a range of support services, including:
• Installation and dismantling
If you are aware of the nuances of these services and plan in advance, you can save money while avoiding numerous pitfalls.
Consider weight when buying a trade show display. You can save substantially on trade show exhibits by using lightweight materials that reduce the size and number of shipping crates you use.
Follow Up Immediately
The hard work doesn’t end when a show ends. You have to diligently follow up with all your sales leads. It’s best to respond to your top-level “A” prospects immediately after the show. After the “A” prospects are contacted, move on to the “B”-level prospects. Be sure to have a well-planned strategy to close sales with these prospects. Trade show industry research shows that sales leads from trade shows are closed in half the time and at almost half the cost as leads from other sources.