Trade shows can be the best or worse when it comes to getting value for your marketing spend and throughout my business life I have seen and experienced both outcomes. For brands that are known it is both a necessary evil and a great chance to show off the latest and greatest offerings and for those that are not so well known a chance to get some brand awareness and generate leads and business.
Can you afford not to be there? In many cases you have to exhibit and shows can be the main marketing activity you undertake in a year, certainly the one with the biggest budget so it is important to get it right.
Just turning up expecting to do great business because the show organizers have tempted you with high visitor figures is not the answer – there is an art to trade shows – pre the show, during the show and the all important follow-up.
Part one – Before the show
As you run around booking the space, scheduling staff and designing the stand it is important to ask yourself ‘why would someone stop at my stand?’ or if you are attending a large show where only a fraction of visitors would be interested in your company ‘will they be able to find us?’. So here are a few pieces of advice before the show
- Make sure the location of the stand is in an area where your prospects will head for. Being close to competitors is a good thing as trade shows are about researching the products and services on the market and if a prospect visits your competitors and you are close by they will want to check you out as well.
- Tell prospects that you will be there and invite them to come to the stand. Remember the big guys will not only attract their prospects through their brand and a large impressive stand they will invite them, flying them in, putting them up in hotels and feeding and watering them. If they need to go to the trouble to do this you need to at least make sure a prospect knows that it is worth the effort to come and see you.
- Make sure your stand design clearly reflects your offerings. I worked for company that had a beautiful stand built for a big show but the signage and graphics did not show clearly what we did and because the brand was not particularly well known we spent far too much time either explaining what we did to confused looking people or watching people stroll by. Clear signage on a comfortable stand is important if you want to capture those passer-bys. Saying that – if a large percentage of visitors fit your prospect profile another idea is to make sure the design stands out so much that it becomes irresistible. Here are a couple of examples. I worked on a stand for a Natural Toiletries company who had a stand designed as a mouse hole – you almost had to crawl into the stand and everyone wanted to see what was inside and they did great business. Another company I worked for had just launched in the UK and we had no time to get the word out before a very important show so we hired cappuccino machines and offered everyone who walked by a very good cup of coffee – by the end of the show our brand awareness had grown substantially. And I won’t go into the time when we did five minute aerobic sessions on the stand four times a day to attract the punters – it was the 80’s!
- If you have a product launch or something fantastic to say let the press know about it. A press release or a press conference can create excitement and drive traffic to the stand. Hiding your great news amidst hundreds of other stands all as proud as punch about their own offerings will result in your news hitting the market like a damp squib.
Trade shows come with a high price tag and take up a lot of your precious time so surely it is worthwhile to use a little more time to ensure a strong return on investment.