Exhibiting at a trade show is a major investment. So how do you make sure you get the most bang for your buck? First, you need to consider what you hope to achieve at the show. “Many exhibitors don’t have a plan,” says Susan Friedmann, a professional speaker known as The Tradeshow Coach. “They think they have to be at the show because their customers are there and they’ve always gone in the past.”Instead, she says, consider your goals for the show. Do you want to build brand exposure? Get as many leads as possible? Showcase a new product in your offerings? Answering these questions will help you create a plan of attack. Once you’ve got your goals in place, use these smart tactics to drive attendees to your booth:
Communicate. “Pre-show communication comes in two flavors,” says Ruth Stevens, president of consulting firm eMarketing Strategy. The first is outbound communication via email, mail, phone and social media to pre-registered attendees. The second is doing a pre-show promotion to your own list of customers and prospects that are already in your database. Both are necessary to get people to your booth, she says. One hot promotional idea: Send customers half of an item (such as one branded flip-flop) and invite them to come to your booth to pick up the match. You also might use products to segment attendees in advance. For example, Friedmann says, one company sent out individual branded playing cards to customers and prospects in advance of the show. Regular customers got kings, current prospects got queens and people who hadn’t bought yet got jacks. The people who got the cards were urged to bring them to the booth for a prize. “Once the cards were presented, the booth reps knew exactly who they were dealing with and how to market to them,” Friedmann says.
Use Promotional Products to Educate and Attract. “Placing freebies on your booth table for everyone to grab can be a waste of money,” says Friedmann. “Branded promotional items should be part of a strategy that helps you reach you goals.” For example, if you’re hoping to give demos to qualified prospects, offer a logoed item with high-perceived value, such as a USB drive or a tool kit, to everyone who completes the demo.
Make Appointments in Advance. Stevens says that one of the most important trade show strategies is setting up qualified appointments in advance. “There are only so many hours in a day and only so many reps at your show, so every minute should count,” she says. “There are lots of unqualified audience members prowling around the floor and you want to make sure you’re talking to people who really matter.”
Be an Expert Speaker. “If you’re an expert on your product or your industry, arranging to be a trade show speaker is a great way to gain creditability with attendees,” Friedmann says. She advises having some handouts prepared (a white paper, perhaps, that includes your company’s logo) and telling attendees that copies are available at your booth.
Pay Attention to Booth Design. “You need to know in advance whether your trade show floor is going to be filled with likely prospects,” Stevens says. Many trade shows in the fashion industry construct their booths with four walls so that only qualified prospects with appointments may enter. Others have a private area where salespeople can have conversations with hot prospects.
Put Some Thought Into Booth Signage. Don’t overwhelm attendees with too many messages and signs. “Make sure your booth signage is very clear about what you have to offer, to whom you are offering it to and why they should care,” Stevens says. “Think of it as a benefit statement that walkers by will instantly grasp.”
Set Yourself Apart from the Competition. Friedmann offers the example of an enormously successful idea the city of Montreal came up with to wow attendees at a travel fair: Attendees who stopped by the booth could sign up for free breakfast in bed at their hotel the next morning. “When the time came, a chef and a Montreal rep arrived with your breakfast along with a copy of ‘How to Be Romantic in Montreal.’ They generated a crazy amount of qualified leads,” she says.
Published in Successful Promotions Vol 115