As an exhibitor: Learn how to benefit and maximize your return.
By Verna Lee
"Lights, Cameras, Action.”
You are not on a movie set.
Rather, you are in the halls of an illustrious trade show—and what a show it is! Looking at the exhibit hall, it is no surprise that you think that you are on the grounds of Universal Studios because many of the booths showcase grandiose sights befitting royal productions.
Companies invest thousands of advertising dollars into the design of their exhibit displays to create lasting and memorable impressions. Videos that resemble miniature movies are produced. Unique gimmicks and innovated, promotional giveaways are featured, and stages are set to lure attendees to their booths. Exhibitors set out to capture your attention and, oftentimes, they do!
Despite all of the pomp and circumstance, the bottom line and overall purpose of the tradeshow is to publicize, promote, unveil, market and showcase a company’s products and services. After all, that is why people go to exhibitor’s row.
Many trade shows provide educational seminars that feature nationally recognized speakers and celebrities. Unquestionably, the residual value and marketing impact are great. It is not surprising that the trade show industry is responsible for billions in transactions and sales annually.
It’s value is set—here are some tips to help your next trade show!
Below are marketing checklists primarily centered on preplanning, executing the plan, delivering the message, and facilitating the results for participating exhibitors. Summarized, it is a “things to do list, and provides an itemized approach for planning and success.
Step One: The Preplanning phase –
Things to do before you leave:
- Commit and register early.
- Select the most proficient and experienced team to attend.
- Take along an adequate supply of business cards, company brochures, and promotional giveaways.
- Remember that your logo engraved promotional giveaways become your company’s walking billboard. Carefully select these items for optimal results.
- Download the exhibitor directory and strategize beforehand.
- Do research on companies with which you have limited familiarity.
- Establish and prepare a "hit” list.
- Target companies to obtain the highest impact.
- Determine who will host your exhibitor's table and who will prospect; rotate as necessary.
- Utilize pre–trade show marketing strategies by notifying prospective clients that your company will be an exhibitor; provide your booth number and extend an invitation.
- Pick a prime location that will give your exhibit booth optimal visibility. A corner booth is ideal. Placement near a refreshment / coffee break area also drives traffic. Being located next to a prominent or national, non-competing company can be a bonus and draw additional traffic.
- Ship the exhibit display and promotional items early preferably utilizing the trade show-shipping vendor so that all items will be delivered to your booth space. The shipping service will ship the items back as well.
Step Two: Executing the plan and delivering the message –
Things to do while there…
- Take time to professionally "decorate" your exhibit space and table. Do not exhibit clutter. Place all unnecessary items under the table. An advanced preparatory sketch will produce a professional crafted display that delivers the desirable marketing message.
- Produce a sophisticated, carefully orchestrated display that draws attention and projects powerful marketing messages. Photographic renderings, graphics, videos and continuous running power point presentations should be maximized.
- Showcase a professional uniformed look by wearing your company's imprinted logo apparel that will enhance your corporate branding.
- Wear comfortable shoes because of the long hours, extensive walking and standing.
- Bring minimal items to the exhibit hall as you will be collecting information for later use.
- Carry exhibitor directories as they become key informational guides and your exhibit hall road map.
- Use your ingenuity; sophisticated gimmicks draw attendees to your table.
- Put on and maintain a happy face at your exhibit display.
- Employ the fair exchange model before distributing promotional giveaways.
Offer your business card and always ask for theirs.
- Take a moment to make a notation on received business cards to rekindle your memory for follow up communication, if time permits.
- Start the marketing dialogue. Invite yourself to visit their company or establish a form of engagement for follow up.
- Visit your competitor’s booth. Collect promotional items from other companies. Take mental notes for comparative purposes. Pick up ideas and tips for future planning.
- Attend selected social events to continue networking.
Step Three: Facilitating the Results –
Things to do after you leave.
- Develop a detailed objective driven follow up communication system.
- Remember that each business card represents a valuable contact and a prospective client.
- Gather your collected business cards as they become your navigational guide for follow up purposes and possible engagement.
- Place and organize business cards in a portfolio system labeled by the event.
- Assemble your business cards by designated categories in terms of the importance of prospective clients.
- Develop a tracking system by using specialized marketing software or an excel spreadsheet to capture basic information.
- Personalize your communications if possible. Do reference a comment from your business card notations, if available.
- Communicate initially by email. Follow up by telephone. Send a qualifying document, capability statement and a company brochure. If email personalization is not possible, use a form letter that it is succinct and well written.
- Continue communications aimed at developing a “preferred client” relationship.
- Be persistent. Remember that you are in a numbers game until you differentiate yourself.
The “Value Added” Touches -
Step Four: Things to do and continue year around:
- Seek to highlight members of your team as featured speakers at upcoming trade shows and conferences.
- Keep reinventing your exhibit booth until you make it a state of the art display. Evaluate your current promotional items in terms of effectiveness; eliminate and upgrade your lineup accordingly.
- Stay current by investigating the latest innovations, such as the Quick Response (QR) Codes, the new wave of the future for trade shows.
- Determine marketing to sale effectiveness and return on investment.
- Learn, grow, regroup, and improvise. Then, head to the next show.
Step Five: Things to do that will give your company extra publicity:
- Consider sponsoring an event at the trade show.
- Participate in raffles and gift drawings.
- Advertise in trade show announcements.
- Seek to be featured on trade show websites and magazines.
In conclusion, I must confess that I was “bitten by the trade show bug” while attending the 2012 National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) in Denver. It happened at the Office Max booth. I did not go to their booth to examine paper stock or view electronic equipment. Instead, I ventured over to their display to have my photo taken with President Obama. Make no mistake, the President was not there but with the ingenuity of photography, I was photographed next to him. I stood in the line like everyone else to have my photograph taken with our 44th President. Proudly displayed in my office is a photograph of President Obama and me! Thank you, Office Max!
Vernalee is President of Lee Enterprises Ltd. An entrepreneur for over 25 years, Ms. Lee is also an external marketing/business development consultant for McTech Corp. Her specialties are Marketing, Human Resources, and Retail consulting. She has written numerous articles for trade magazines, local newspapers, and journals. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org