Tradeshow 101 is an area where we will try and provide you with some simple guidelines and tips for exhibiting at tradeshows.
Exhibiting at Trade Shows
Trade shows allow for a reasonably cost-effective way for direct marketing and sales. They help expose your company to targeted customers who are ready to buy.
People who attend trade shows are trying to find solutions to problems, choose and purchase products, learn about the latest industry developments, and meet industry and technical experts. You can take advantage of trade shows to demonstrate, sample, and sell products & services.
Trade shows are about business. Exhibiting is expensive, and without proper planning and follow up, trade shows can be a waste of money and time. Make a plan: In order to succeed you should identify your goals, schedule & coordinate all marketing activities, use creativity, and always follow up.
Planning For the Show
The main share of work involved in exhibiting at shows happens in advance of the event. Trade shows are an investment and should be given plenty of time and attention. The sooner you begin preparing for the event the better the outcome will be.
The information provided by show management in the exhibitor kit is subject to change. Keep in contact with them and the show's general contractor to confirm the show schedule. Advanced receiving dates for your booth materials as well as the show move-in dates can and do change as do the move-out dates and times. This information should be conveyed to all staff involved in the project as well as any affected vendors you may be using for booth design, booth shipping, as well as your installation and dismantle company.
Choose Your Marketing Goals
Outline overall and specific measurable goals for each show. Some common goals include:
- Selling your product or service
- Launching a new product or service
- Retrieving potential customer leads
- Meeting your customers
- Establishing relationships with new distributors
Determine how you will measure if you were successful in reaching your goals. This will help in planning future shows.
Which Shows to Exhibit At
There are trade shows for every industry. To learn about what shows are out there, refer to trade publications and trade show directories. Do some research at the library, or on the Internet. You can also check with the local chamber of commerce or travel and convention bureau. Ask your customers and suppliers which shows they attend. Check out your competitor's website to see what shows they attend. A great resource is tsnn.com.
Hints when selecting shows:
- Show's Purpose & History. How closely does the show's name and subject match your business? Is it a well known and publicized event? If not, check the history of other events handled by the Show Management company in the past.
- Budget. Total the costs for the booth itself, the graphics, showsite labor costs, shipping your booth, promotional giveaways, travel & hotel accommodations, and entertainment to the cost of booth space.
- Audience. Historically, how many attendees are there at the show? Is it an industry specific business to business show or a consumer or general public event? What are the show's demographics?
- Location. Do you do business in the city the show is being held in? Will your target customer be at the event?
- Competition. Will your competitors be exhibiting at the show? Check out how they are marketing their presence at the event.
- Timing. How do the show dates relate to your company calendar? Are there industry related events that could affect your success, such as busy seasons where travel may be difficult for your target audience? Also consider if your new products or services will be ready to to go to market by the beginning of the show?
Booth Space Considerations
Once you have chosen the shows you will be exhibiting at, select a booth space from the floor map and sign the contract. The most important thing to remember is to read all show materials, including the Show Kit sent by the Show Management company carefully and completely so you meet all necessary deadlines. These items can also offer pre-show discounts which you should take advantage of.
- Size of Your Booth. The average booth size is ten feet by ten feet. Larger tradeshows will often have larger booths, generally ten feet by twenty feet, and some are even bigger. You have to decide how large a space is needed. Take into consideration rental costs, the size and layout of your booth, your products, and how many people you expect to have in your booth space at any given time. If you will be doing demonstrations or having entertainment in your booth you need to take that into consideration.
- Type of Booth. There are many variations to choose from. There are smaller tabletop displays, pop-up displays as well as customized booths. Make your decision based on how much you want to spend, size, product requirements, booth portability, set up, and style. Keep in mind how you will be presenting your products or literature about your products and services. You can purchase a new exhibit, rent one from the show, or buy used booths.
- Graphics. A focal point of your graphics should be your company name, product or service details and key benefits with signs and high quality pictures.
- Booth Services. The show management company will usually send you an exhibitor kit for the show which will contain order forms for carpets, electricity, rental equipment, telephones, furniture, florists, cleaning, security, labor, exhibit transportation, I & D and so on.
Marketing Your Presence at the Show
Before the Event
You must do a lot of pre-show marketing. This will get the word out as to who your company is and that you will be exhibiting at the event. This will maximize your ROI as you will increase traffic at your booth space which will result in more new customer leads and sales. Some options for pre-show marketing:
- Mailers. You can send pre-registered attendees invitations to your booth. Flyers or postcards about target products and services being highlighted at the event are also an option.
- Free Show Passes. Offer a certain number of potential customers free passes to the show. Or you can reward existing clients with them and use it as a tool to gain additional business from them.
- Ad space. Buy advertising space in various industry publications announcing your presence at the event and be sure to include your company name, your booth number at the show, and contact information.
- Telemarketing. Call your clients and notify them of your upcoming trade show schedule. This allows for a better gauge on current customers who will be attending the event.
- Use Your Website. Put a notice about the upcoming show as well as your full trade show schedule on your website. Make sure to include the booth number.You can also create an e-mail campaign to promote the show.
- Use Social Media. Build anticipation on Facebook and Twitter. Post photos of on-ste staff on Instagram to build familiarity. Make sure your event information is posted on your LinkedIn company page. Post YouTube videos with intros to new products with full disclosure to be given at showsite. Video your travels to the show and post to social sites to keep folks interested. Use as many social media sites as you can.
- Forms. Put a statement on the invoices you send out to your clients as well as putting a line about the show on fax cover sheets.
Marketing During the Show
- Literature. Have a large supply of inexpensive flyers and product slicks to give to everyone and have available a number of higher-end brochures and pamphlets for serious prospects. A third promotional brochure different from the above should be available to mail to qualified leads after the show.
- Giveaways. Pick items that will allow for the most name recognition after the show. Make sure they are logo'd and have a contact number on them. Try to find items that will be used long after the event. Less expensive giveaways can be given to all attendees but you may wish to have a number of nicer items that can be offered to potential new clients willing to speak with you, watch a demonstration, or give you completed lead information.
- Press Kits. If you have press kits available, make sure to bring some to the show's press room. Contact the press representatives and schedule meetings with reporters attending the show.
- In booth Entertainment. A great way to draw additional attention to your booth is by using beautiful models, celebrity spokespeople, magicians and other performers. When allowed, contests can be very successful to draw attendees to your booth as well.
- Social Media. Many events have assigned hash tags on Twitter, Use these to announce your attendance at events during the show, to announce special presentations or contests in your booth, and where folks can interact with you to learn more about your product but also to interact with others at the show who are also using the hashtag in their posts. Make sure to post to Facebook, LinkedIn, and other sites, too. Some events also host Google+ hangouts. Utilize as many social events and networking opportunities as you can. You can reach a large number of people with little effort. Don't forget to get permission to use videos when necessary.
- QR Code Use. You can incorporate QR Codes into your graphic design, literature, badges, etc that will give attendees the ability to scan the codes for contest sign-up, to view product literature, or to direct them to specific landing pages on your website.
Getting Leads and During / After-Show Follow Up
When planning for the show you want to design a lead sheet or obtain software/apps that will allow you to obtain the maximum of useful lead information without being too cumbersome on the show attendees. Not only do you need the potential client's company name and contact information, you also must know their budget, the timing of their purchase and a better understanding of their needs. Gathering attendee business cards as well as using badge readers as they do not always give you enough of the information you need.
After the show, the key to making your show investment worth while is to follow up with all leads as quickly as possible, within a week at most. Make sure that all additional brochures requested at the show are sent out as well. You may want to follow up with a "Thanks for stopping by our booth..." mailer. On-floor software and apps sometimes allow for immediate electronic literature distribution or even for a request to be submitted to your corporate office for literature to be mailed immediately from there. The software and apps also can automatically schedule an email to go out to the lead at a specified time interval after they have left your booth space.
The last part of follow up is reporting on the results of your trade show investment. This information will help you decide if exhibiting at the same event next year will be beneficial as well as helping to determine the need for changes in the handling of the show in the future.
Show Floor Employees
All staff at the show should always be enthusiastic, knowledgeable employees who can best represent your company. You will need to submit your employees names for show passes and badges. Train them on your lead retrieval process and materials.
Make sure that all employees understand the goals for the show. Make sure all travel itineraries are established complete with dates, times, locations, meeting places, dress and conduct codes, and booth assignments.
It's Show Time...
Plan to arrive at the show early. Many times, badges may need to be acquired upon arrival. Have all vendor contact information available to you while on the floor. Confirm that your booth materials have arrived at the trade show venue. Also, confirm the installation and dismantle labor is scheduled according to plan or that their arrival is adjusted according to any last minute changes needed. There are many parties involved in making the trade show happen and anything can go wrong. Be as prepared as possible.
Get plenty of sleep, don't forget to eat, and drink a lot of water. Just don't do any of these things while in your booth. Working a trade show booth can be very exhausting. You will be on your feet for hours at a time. Make sure to have very comfortable shoes.
Be attentive to your booth visitors. Don't get distracted reading your own booth literature, you should have read it in advance of the event so you can explain it to them. Be excited to have them there and get there lead information as quickly as possible. Don't spend too much time on any given visitor as you need to be available to all who come by.
There will be many parties and receptions. Make sure you do not overindulge at these events. It can ruin the company image you worked so hard to present while in your booth. It will also make working the booth effectively the following day impossible!
At the End of the Show
It's not over yet. You need to make sure your booth is dismantled and packed up for the return back to your company facilities. You MUST acquire a straight bill of lading (Material Handling Agreement) from the show's general contractor at their service desk. Be sure to verify that the name of your trade show shipping company is placed in the correct location on the form so they can recover the shipment from the show. Make sure that all shipping cases, crates and cartons have shipping labels on them that note your company's name and address on them. The bill of lading must then be presented back to the show contractor at their service desk. If this is not done, your exhibit can be "forced" to a different carrier resulting in added shipping costs and possible delays in its return back to your company.
Make sure that the leads recovered during the event are gathered together and brought back to your office for immediate follow up.