It’s not always easy for a business to reach out to a wide range of customers without participating in trade shows. It’s the only marketing channel where business actively comes to you. They can provide a business with an injection of leads, raise brand awareness or help with repositioning and while most would look to them as a source of new business, worked correctly, a trade show can also be used to get deals with existing clients across the line.

Warning – There are a lot of people that say they don’t work. There are many who argue they are a waste of money. There are even some that say they go just to have a presence (16% in fact!)

My thoughts… Well, usually these Negative Nancy’s are also the ones who have skipped a few steps in the planning stages. They claim to have tried a number of tactics, which are all reincarnations of the same and to top it off, they like to blame other people. If someone is saying exhibitions don’t work. They won’t.

Exhibitions are considered one of the backbones in the advertising and marketing of a company’s brand. This is because it is one of the only opportunities to showcase a business, it’s people and it’s product or service in real life. Unlike print media or a cold call, you can run demo’s and visitors can really get to know the people behind the brand. At the end of the day, people buy from people!

I could talk for days about budget and planning aspects to keep in mind while planning to setup your exhibition stands and another month about what to do during a show. Here are some of the important ones to keep in mind if you want want to achieve success and prove the Negative Nancy’s wrong.

Booth Promotion

This is one of the most important areas to concentrate during a show. A lot of business owners fail to promote their booths before trade shows and leave it up to the organizer. Let me remind you that it’s the organizer’s job is to get people to the show. It’s your job to get people to your stand.

If you’re a new business and don’t have a list of people to invite along, you have to rely a little more heavily on your booth design or get creative with some other marketing channels and start to build your list first. The first thing that people see when they come to a show are the attractive booths. Those that have been promoted coincidentally happen to be the busiest.

Make the most of your stand space

Does the size of a booth matter during an exhibition? This really depends on the nature of your business, what you want to display and how you are going to dress it all up. Small booths cost less to book the space and as a general rule will also cost less to dress when talking square metre rates. (I say this tongue in cheek because I’ve known people to up the size of their booths, while reducing their construction budget at the expense of their overall presence).

If your budget won’t allow you to have a big booth, you can still have an amazing stand with some striking graphics. Use a professional graphic designer and let them know what else will be on the stand… There’s nothing worse than seeing a graphic covered by equipment. Remember, the more people that visit your booth, the higher your chances of making a profit.

Encourage brand engagement

How can you get people to interact with your brand? A contest or competition can be a great way to attract potential customers… Who doesn’t like to win something?

Where giveaways are not possible or you want to have really targeted conversations because you haven’t got the staff to manage larger crowds, I recommend brainstorming ways to get people to let their guard down. This doesn’t always mean coffee or food, but can be a demo, entertainment, survey… Get creative! Try to link it back to your brand to make the experience more memorable.

Decide if hiring is right for you

Renting furniture can see you through a show, but it is usually expensive and usually far from inspiring. Before you decide to rent something, think beyond the next show. How many other events will you be doing? If the answer is more than 2, buy it. You maintain a much a higher standard and will save yourself some money.

When deciding if you will hire your exhibit structure or go custom, remember that a custom booth doesn’t mean you need to have the exact same look at each show. A good stand builder will be able to help you plan for these future changes and it can also have the added benefit of not having to start from scratch each time as you will already own key elements (walls, lights, floor) so it’s just up to you to determine how you will dress them.

Make use of the “People Prioritization Technique”

This is where you consider a certain group of people. An exhibition usually attracts crowds of people and this technique calls for a plan that will attract a specific set or group of people to your stand. This usually increases returns as it cuts down the unnecessary costs that would be spent on the rest of the crowd. How often are your staff talking to people that aren’t going to buy from you? Or have already bought from you? … Or each other!

This is an advanced technique and requires both planning and training. If you are going to attempt this, make sure you are prepared.

As you can see, there are a number of contributing factors to consider and when you look at the overall success of your show, it’s never one single thing that makes or breaks it. Orchestrating success at a trade show can seem like an overwhelming task, but breaking it down into manageable chucks and forming a plan at the beginning will help address more areas of each event. Feel free to reach out if you would like help with customizing your own plan 🙂