10 Essential Tips for Trade Show Success - Fleximize

10 Essential Tips for Trade Show Success

Trade shows and exhibitions not doing it for you? Maybe you're doing them wrong...

By Richard LeCount

Given the opportunities available to brands in the digital age, some would say trade shows are becoming forgotten among newer and more innovative forms of marketing.

Alternatively, you may view exhibitions and trade shows as part and parcel of your marketing strategy, believing you have a tried-and-tested approach that has stood the test of time and doesn’t need to be altered.

Whether you exhibit at them because you feel you ought to, or are unsure on whether they are worth the investment, a trade show is an opportunity for you to network face-to-face and reach a wider audience.

According to a study from the Center for Exhibition Industry Research, 46% of decision-makers have made purchase decisions when attending a show, and 77% found at least one new supplier when they last attended a trade show. With 92% of those attending a trade show to specifically find and learn about new products and services, it’s the perfect opportunity for you to showcase your brand and business to an audience that is willing to listen.

To ensure you get the most out of a show, here are some rules to keep in mind when preparing for an exhibition, guidance on what to do when you’re there, and how to ace that all-important follow-up.

Do your research

The amount of research you do before a show can quite literally make or break your exhibiting experience. That’s why it’s crucial to do your homework before deciding which trade show, or shows, to attend.

Of course, a sales executive from a trade show is going to sell the opportunity to you and highlight the ‘best bits’, but it’s up to you, the exhibitor, to do your research and conclude whether the event is worth exhibiting at or not.

If you can, attend the trade show as an attendee before you invest your marketing budget into exhibiting. This way you’ll be able to get a feel from a guest’s perspective, look at competitors' stands and see how your target audience is engaging with the event. These are all invaluable pointers as to whether you should take a stand or not.

Read up on attendees

All good marketing campaigns start with data at their heart, so why should a trade show be any different? The answer is it shouldn’t. Yet, while many think of the data they can gain from trade show attendees, few give thought to using it before they get there.

If event organizers don’t provide you with any data surrounding event attendees and engagement, then ask for it. In fact, it should ring alarm bells if this information isn’t provided before you’ve signed up to exhibit as it’s essential that you understand the kind of audience that attend, and how they engage with the event, before you part with your money.

Guest who?
Guest who?:

To save you wasting your money, try and get hold of a list of show attendees before signing up an exhibitor

Set goals

Typically, businesses have two main objectives when exhibiting. One is to sell and the second is to increase brand awareness. However, the two have very different measurement metrics against them. While you will, of course, be able to track easily how many sales you have made, assessing the impact of a positive brand experience is a longer-term objective.

Or perhaps your goal is to generate leads? Maybe it’s to gain investment? Or to make new contacts, or affirm relationships with old customers? Whatever your desired outcome is, you just need to ensure that you have a clear goal set, and have processes to measure it in place.

Focus on experience

If your plan is to set up a trestle table and pop-up banner, I'd suggest you abort that idea immediately. Experience is everything for consumers, and when it’s estimated that 89% of businesses are expected to soon compete on customer experience alone, it’s an element that cannot be ignored.

Stay true to your brand and consider how your stand will help you to achieve your goal. I’d recommend steering clear of gimmicks as these can become quickly outdated. Instead focus on creating an experience that will add value to attendee’s experience. A lasting impression will have a much greater impact than a fleeting one.

Promote your attendance

While event organizers will have probably sold you on how they’ll be promoting an event, you also need to ensure that you are promoting your attendance.

Whether you use social media or an e-newsletter, get your name in front of your current audience to let them know that you’ll be there. Invite them to book an appointment with you on the day – if that’s something you are offering – or provide them with a special offer to get them to come along.

You should also use it as an opportunity to reach out to potential customers, buyers and press, and offer them the chance to meet you in this setting.

Typically, businesses have two main objectives when exhibiting. One is to sell and the second is to increase brand awareness. However, the two have very different measurement metrics against them. While you will, of course, be able to track easily how many sales you have made, assessing the impact of a positive brand experience is a longer-term objective.

Find trade shows with speaking opportunities

Seek out trade shows where speaking opportunities are available as this will help give you the edge over your competition. Speaking at an exhibition allows you to create another connection with an audience, or reach attendees who may have not visited your stand otherwise.

Whatever you do, don’t use a speaking slot as a sales pitch. Speaking is the chance for you to educate the audience and impart your knowledge and expertise. Inspire them, talk about a problem you overcame or one which your business aims to solve, and share your most helpful business tips.

Talk to attendees

As an attendee, there’s nothing more off-putting than seeing a company’s show team stood talking to one another and making no attempt to entice customers to their stand for a chat. While no one likes an aggressive sales pitch, you need to strike the right balance between inviting and pushy to ensure your stand is a space that makes people want to engage with you. Consider also that an empty stand is likely to remain empty, whereas one that has people milling around it is likely to be more enticing.

Send your best sales staff to the event – those who are personable, can strike up a conversation with anyone, and aren’t afraid of approaching people.

Speak up
Speak up:

You should take advantage of any speaking opportunities as they offer a different way of engaging with your target audience

Prep your team

As the person organizing the show, you’re likely to know it inside out. However, don’t assume that your team do too. Ensure you are educating those working the trade show on the key goals and messaging.

Also go through processes for the day. Who has what role? Are there any key timings they should be aware of? What resources do they have to hand?

Promotional giveaways

You also need to ensure you are providing a takeaway to those who visit your stand. This could be anything from a free audit, which you send following the event, a USB loaded with your contact details and portfolio, or a free canvas bag that attendees can use to carry the other wares they’ve collected from the event. The latter can also serve as free promo for your brand when they are walking round the show.

Whatever you offer, ensure that it is useful and of value to your audience – 77% of event attendees say usefulness is the number one reason they hold on to a promotional product. If you’re still not sure it’s worth the investment, bear in mind that 85% of people have done business with another business after receiving a freebie at a show.

Ace the follow-up

Following up is the most crucial element of managing your post-trade show performance, as you establish how successful the exhibit was for the business, and cement the relationships and sales that you made.

However, it’s important to not be ‘that guy’ following up – the kind who calls every day without fail for a ‘quick chat’. Any follow-up you conduct should have a reason and meaning to it, and be done with consideration of how it will add value to the client or potential client.

About the author

Richard LeCount is managing director of USB Makers, which provides promotional products to a range of blue-chip companies. The company exhibits at a number of trade shows every year.