Trade shows are an invaluable part of any company’s marketing strategy. In addition to generating new business, these in-person networking events offer a unique opportunity to interact with your customers, collect instant feedback, and scope out the competition.
Do it right, and you will make a lasting impression on your customer while closing deals — the trade show industry generates a global total of up to $325 billion a year in business sales. On the other hand, failing to stand out from the hundreds of other booths can be a big waste of time and marketing spend.
So, how do you ensure you’re gaining the maximum return on investment from your exhibit? Here are some strategies you can use.
The key to success with any event is preparation, and it’s no different with trade fairs. Though they may be only a few days long, you must start months in advance to be adequately prepared.
Some important tasks leading up to the event are:
- Research: Learn everything you can about the exhibition’s themes, program, attendees, and fellow exhibitioners. This will give you direction on your booth set-up and the messaging on your marketing materials.
- Event promotion: Building hype ahead of the event encourages existing and prospective customers to show up. Plus, a busy booth piques the interest of others. Spread the word through social media, emails, and industry publications.
- Appointment scheduling: If possible, allow registered attendees to book appointments with your sales representatives at the show. This is a great way of sifting out the warm leads from the rest of the foot traffic and capturing customers’ contact information for follow-ups.
- Production of marketing materials, props, giveaways, etc: Ensure your branding and theme is consistent across all visuals, printed materials such as banner stands, sale representative’s apparel, and more. There’s no harm in reusing props from previous exhibitions, just make sure any props are in excellent condition.
Break the monotony of the standard trade show booth and give attendees something to remember by incorporating details that bring your brand or product to life. What do you want people to see, feel, hear, and walk away thinking? These questions are a good place to start when designing your booth.
A simple way to evoke the senses is to let traffic walk around, be close to, and interact with your products. Demonstrations that encourage participation from attendees are also an easy win. Give the crowd a chance to ask questions as you go, so they are fully convinced of your product by the end of the presentation.
If this is not possible for your product, supplement the experience by adding visuals through screens, banners, miniature models, and more. A well-put-together video demonstration is a powerful marketing asset for any brand. Even better if you can include virtual reality (VR) exhibitions that transport a person to a different world.
While at it, don’t be afraid to go out of the box with your activities. For example, people love to win prizes, no matter how small. Games like scavenger hunts and live raffles can make your booth more fun and engaging for attendees.
You might be thinking immersive experiences mean more signage, more visuals, and more of everything. Not quite. While an expansive booth with loud details will draw the eye’s attention, it can be overwhelming, or even intimidating, to your prospective customer. The goal should be to create an environment that fosters relationship-building with your prospective customers.
Instead of spending indiscriminately, invest in elements that make a real difference. Think SMART booth design (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound).
Some examples of this are:
- Using an engaging theme: A furniture exhibitor may use a comfort theme and relate it to various products on show, encouraging booth visitors to test them out. Go for themes you would like your brand to be associated with.
- Meet customer needs: Speaking of comfort, walking the large halls of a trade show can be draining, so booth visitors will appreciate the chance to sit down, have a snack, or even charge their phones while they talk with your sales reps.
- Simple messaging: Complex sales pitches are confusing and hard to remember. Instead of trying to sell customers your entire inventory, pick a goal that best appeals to the audience and sell it with simple, direct messaging. You will have plenty of time to upsell or cross-sell when you follow up with them.
When in doubt, consult a professional booth designer with experience in your industry.
Instead of the usual branded pens, button pins, or the ever-favorite branded notebook, give out items with lead-generating power.
An effective giveaway should draw people to your booth and be useful to them after the show. Think of items such as tote bags, reusable water bottles, cell phone accessories, mini-fans, power banks, and more. You also can’t go wrong with product samples for them to try at home and share with others.
Unique gifts may mean less to give away, but wouldn’t you rather give quality items to quality leads than end up in a random booth visitor’s junk drawer?
Sponsorship plays a huge role in getting your brand noticed. On top of having your brand included in the show’s marketing materials, organizers also make a point of praising the sponsor’s efforts on stage. Such exposure can count for much more than the traditional booth.
Contrary to popular opinion, event sponsorships don’t have to be prohibitively expensive. For example, offering to add your product to the show’s goodie bag can be a way to unload your obsolete inventory. Similarly, providing a service within your company’s expertise will take less investment than competing with other brands for top-level monetary sponsorship packages.
Going beyond the norm is an effective way to make trade shows worth your time and money. However, as the points above prove, a strategic approach is necessary to generate the most buzz.
Always remember to tailor your customer’s experience according to their preferences, and more importantly, your brand.