Trade show exhibitions are a phenomenal resource for a lot of different business types. It’s an opportunity to present new products, make personal connections with decision makers, brand your business as an important player in the industry, and of course make sales. Trade shows are also the perfect opportunity to gather lead information for follow-up communication to keep your business top-of-mind in the future. Outside of sales generation, trades shows are an ideal venue to keep abreast of developments in the industry and to find new vendors and partnerships for your business.
Unless you’re a trade show veteran, we suggest a good deal of pre-planning. Trade shows are typically pretty expensive to attend, so winging it at the last minute is highly unadvisable. To prepare adequately for a trade show we’ve put together these pointers on how to make your next trade show exhibition the best ever.
Know your Goals
Understanding what you want to achieve by participating in a trade show is critical for many reasons. It can help set your own expectations and help you interpret which trade shows would be the best opportunity to achieve the goals. What is your primary aspiration and do you have the strategy to execute? Most companies participate in trade shows for exposure, to make connections, and to introduce new products, technologies, and services. By defining goals, you can better understand if your attendance was a success and make quantified decisions on whether to attend the same show next year.
Is this Trade Show the Right One?
The trade show industry is a juggernaut in its own right. Depending on your unique business, there may be thousands of choices each year. Factor in the cost of attendance. Keep in mind the cost of booth space is just the beginning. Most trade shows require that you purchase tables, chairs, lighting, Internet access, and flooring from them which can add up quickly. Transportation and lodging of your sales staff and equipment is another layer of expense to consider. Depending on your goals, take a look at the likelihood of the attendees being in your desired demographic. As a personal example, we would look at whether there would be a lot of business owners or purchasing agents for schools or corporations to evaluate whether attendance would be a good return on investment. Also proximity to your business will obviously impact the cost of transportation. Always look at the demographic of attendees in the past and think seriously whether this attendee is the type of person that would be interested in what you are offering.
Come up with a Budget
Factoring in all the hidden costs of exhibiting at a trade show is a task. As mentioned previously, the booth price is just a start. Remember to calculate in the cost of staff, promotional materials, giveaways, electronic rentals, food, drinks, and dinners for important contacts you may make. Trade shows are exhausting, so to keep your sales staff fresh and able to energetically engage your prospective customer, you may even have shifts so that’s double the staff.
Plan Ahead with a Checklist
Nobody likes scrambling at the last minute so a tradeshow checklist will help keep you on track with timelines. Purchasing your booth space quickly can help with costs as early bird pricing often provides a discount. Advanced booth purchase will also yield up the best real estate options. Last minute purchases like air fare can blow your budget so that should be high on your checklist priority. Marketing materials like logo branded t-shirts as giveaways printed by DesignAShirt take at least 10-days so to not incur rush production charges, order early. There are a lot of moving parts with trade shows so make sure you understand the time constraints of other vendors that will be part of your trade show success.
Invest in your Booth Aesthetics
If you’re new to trade shows, you might be thinking it’s a booth, a table, and some brochures. To save you from mortification at the show, in almost every case, that conception is a recipe for disaster. Trade shows are a big deal to companies and they invest accordingly. It won’t matter if your product or service is truly the best of its kind if you never have an opportunity to speak with attendees. Exhibitions that garner a lot of interest and attention are the ones that use bright colors and offer a differentiator in the aesthetics. This can be in the form of creative shapes, interactive games, or even marketing stunts like costuming of staff. All of these suggestions can be quite pricey so you’ll need to position it as an investment in your future.
Prepare your Staff
There’s lots for trade show attendees to see and hear so make sure your messaging is on point and concise. Define your best selling points and what differentiates your product or service from the competition. Brevity is key to engage the most people so train your staff to ask the right questions to quickly ascertain if the prospect is a viable customer. Come up with a defined strategy to end these engagements quickly and politely if they are not. Rehearsing pitches even among your most seasoned sales people will ensure messaging is consistent and appropriate for the demographic of attendees.
Swag is King
Everybody loves giveaways so make sure you have desirable event swag to stand out from our competitors. We always recommend t-shirt designs that are unique and present a message that will resonate with your consumer. This can be anything like a funny or quirky tagline. Can your logo be modified in any way to particularly suit the specific venue or demographic? Are there certain colors that would tie in with the theme of the trade show or location? Unless you’re either a huge company like Google or part of the trendy tech industry, simply printing your logo on a t-shirt isn’t going to cut it. If you need ideas we recommend contacting our staff or reaching out to a custom t-shirt designer to come up with a really outstanding design. Choose a quality product to have your event t-shirt printed on. If you wouldn’t want to wear it, your customer won’t either.
Post Event Follow Up
After you’ve made the significant investment of time and money, you’re going to need to follow up with all of the contacts you’ve made during the show. Do this in a timely fashion, reiterate your value proposition. What makes your product or services the best? If it’s a hot lead, make communication as personal as possible by including a personalized video or even follow up with more company swag like a custom embroidered cap, or other higher end promotional materials.