What to consider when planning a trade show
You’ve decided it’s time to represent your business at a trade show to expand your customer base and grow your business. However, the first time planning a trade show can be overwhelming. There are a lot of logistics involved in the process and a lot of things that could potentially go wrong. So, how do you achieve a successful trade show appearance? While there are many things to consider, there are 4 keys to a successful trade show that are paramount:
- Be strategic
- Maximize the time you are there
- Distribute promotional materials
Before you commit to a trade show, do your research to make sure your efforts will be worthwhile. If only a small fraction of the demographic you’re trying to reach is going to attend, don’t invest time and money. You could plan an impressive display only to be disappointed. Also make sure that you project the cost of participating in the trade show to be made up for in new business revenue.
On the other hand, if your business makes sense in the context of the trade show, it can be a great opportunity to connect with potential clients. Once you’ve decided that participating at a trade show is a good investment, it’s time to figure out how to make the most of the event.
Potential clients or buyers come to the event ready to learn about what your business has to offer. However, there’s also going to be competition, so try to get a prime location. Though it costs extra, it’s worth it. Book your spot well in advance because this real estate goes fast. If you plan to attend every year, you might even be able to strike up a discount with the organizers.
Another way to increase traffic to your booth is to market it before the exhibition. Offering an incentive to stop by via social media is one tactic.
Usually a list of registered attendees is available beforehand. Make use of it! You can research these perspective customers to better understand the demographic attending and tailor your presentation to them. Perhaps you highlight specific products or services that you think would appeal to the demographic attending.
Then, once you attract people to your booth, make the most of it. Just like in networking, many people who meet a professional contact have a quality conversation, but then never follow up. If you have a great lead, pursue it! Things might not pan out, but why put in all that effort just to neglect what could become a great business relationship? Make sure you follow up with potential clients within six weeks.
Personalization is also important. Try to incorporate specific information from your conversation at the show when you follow up. It shows that you were listening to clients’ needs and would be responsive if they decide to work with you.
Probably one of the most important keys to a successful trade show is planning. To plan effectively, make a budget, allow yourself enough time, and carefully consider your exhibit.
Make a budget
Doing this helps you evaluate the true cost of the exhibition. Separate expenses into categories. For example:
- Exhibition space rental
- Exhibit design and accompanying technology
- Travel and staffing
Add a cushion to your budget in case anything goes wrong. For example, you could add on 10% of what you think the total cost will be. If you need to replace a computer cord or battery you want the hassle to be the time it takes you to go to the store, not getting approval for the purchase you needed ten minutes ago.
Also, consider using a booth design that can be used for multiple events. This can save you money in the future.
Another way to save on cost is to forego a plywood or laminate booth structure in favor of a design construction that uses poles with stretched fabric. Since this design is lightweight, it’s cheaper to ship. Plus it’s easy to assemble, saving on time. Storing the exhibit compactly is a plus as well.
Allot yourself weeks or even months to plan the event
Figure out what equipment you need so you can place your technical requirements with the trade show organizers to make sure you can be accommodated, especially if things are first come first served.
Ship your exhibit ahead of time. Then if anything breaks in shipment you have time to fix it.
Do a run-through to determine if everything is working. Then you can see if you’ve overlooked something or if technology isn’t working and needs to be replaced.
Think of Plan B and C. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, something goes wrong that is out of your control. If a computer isn’t working or you don’t have an electrical outlet, do you have high-quality printouts of your slides? Is there a way you could improvise and still get your business’ message across effectively?
Also, don’t be afraid to ask exhibit organizers for help. They’ve been doing this for a long time and might know a quick fix you hadn’t considered.
Put effort into how your exhibit is presented
Make your exhibit stand out and include text that is easy to read from all directions. A trade show is not the time to place similar fonts and background colors together to look stylish but that are hard to read from a distance. Just like multiple ads on a news page or in a magazine, all the exhibits are competing for the customer’s attention. Peruse some magazines and see what sticks out to you and draws your eye.
Include a variety of media that appeal to different people. Like in school, some people prefer videos to learn. Others might want literature, such as brochures and pamphlets, to bring home and read later.
Does the display draw in visitors? Does it clearly convey your company’s message?
Maximize your time
Have enough staff available. You’ve invested a lot of time and money to be at the trade show. The last thing you want is to successfully bring in traffic only for potential customers to have no one to make a connection with or to answer questions.
Offer specials only available at the show, advertising it prominently, to make customers more apt to purchase from you during the event. You can engage on social media before the event and have prominent signs to alert potential clients of your trade show promo.
In addition to information about your products and services at your display, also include helpful materials to potential clients. If you become a problem solver, customers will come to you for answers and you will establish yourself as an expert – and gain their business.
This should go without saying, but dress professionally and pay attention to everyone. Like it or not, you are judged by what you wear. On the flip side, many exhibitors brush off people who don’t look important. However, these days you often can’t tell how powerful a person is by clothing. Think of Mark Zuckerberg. If you ignore people in flip flops or a t-shirt, you could miss out on a potentially lucrative client.
Distribute Branded Items
Contests and prizes are a fun way to draw in a crowd and create an atmosphere of excitement at a trade show. Select items that prominently display your brand and that attendees will keep with them for a long period of time, such as mugs, notepads, and pens. This places your brand in their daily lives. Maximize the opportunity by requiring that attendees either take information from you or provide you with contact information in order to be eligible for the prize.
Brand drinks or snacks with your logo. While these items don’t last long they do advertise your display as people walk around.
Unlocking the Keys to a Successful Trade Show
While it might seem daunting at first, planning a successful trade show is doable if you think strategically, plan ahead, maximize your resources, and distribute promotional materials to your key demographic. T.R. McTaggart is here help you plan your events and to brainstorm strategies to selecting promotional materials that are right for your business.
We have expertise in providing comprehensive solutions for trade show success, from planning to promotional materials. Servicing the retail and gift industry as well as corporations and non-profits, for almost four decades, T.R. McTaggart has helped clients find the perfect promotional items to increase brand awareness.
Whether you are looking for something specific or browsing for ideas, we are your one-stop trade show success source. Contact us to discuss your needs in greater detail or to request a quote.
We look forward to working with you!