Trade show exhibitors tend to fall into two general categories: The seasoned exhibitors, with well-executed exhibits, and those new to the game, who are starting face-to-face marketing with a limited budget and experience.
If you fall into that second group of people, this is the article for you. The Exhibit Systems team recently exhibited at the Wisconsin Manufacturing and Technology Show, a great opportunity for businesses of all sizes to reach out to this industry. We like this show because it offers an amazing variety of exhibitors, from people selling drill bits to multi-ton machines, many of which were up and running on the exhibit floor.
As we walked from exhibit to exhibit, we collectively came up with a list of ideas to help the little guys, the small businesses who could use a little tie straightening and spiffing up to make the best of their trade show exhibits. And while these tips are for those small businesses, a number of them also apply to businesses across the board.
Here are our top five tips to ensure that you’re maximizing your presence at your next trade show:
A trade show exhibit is a lot like getting dressed for an important date.
In general, most trade show teams do a good job of ensuring their booths look polished and presentable. That’s something that comes with experience. But first timers often overlook the details. After setting up, make sure any visible cords are tucked away. Extra sales materials should be tucked underneath tables. Walk around the booth from all angles to check that tablecloths are square and equal. If you use banner stands, they should be standing tall and not leaning. A few extra minutes spent polishing up the exhibit will improve the image you present.
And what’s the worst thing to do before a date? Overdoing the cologne.
We saw inexperienced vendors falling prey to overdoing their exhibits. Horizontal spaces should be used judiciously to show off your best products, not as a display for every type of sample you’re capable of producing. This dilutes your sales message. Rather, use a limited number of samples to engage trade show attendees, and showcase these targeted samples to your prospect. If you feel it’s important to show off a wider variety of samples, go digital and have a slide show playing on a monitor.
We also noticed oversized stacks of product literature and overstuffed bowls of freebies. It’s difficult to keep your booth tidy with sliding stacks of paper, too many giveaways – which leads people to visit your exhibit just to drop things in their tote bag. Giving away candy? We saw a great idea: Have large canisters of bulk candy and hold a scoop. This gives you some prime time for conversation as you fill an attendee’s hand with a treat.
It’s hard to reach out to customers when they are greeted by the top of your head … or by nobody at all.
Trade show staff put in long hours, and often that involves a lot of down time. But as tempting as it may be, booth time should be focused on selling and reaching out to potential customers. On average, when we walked the floor, at least one out of every four booths had people looking down at their phones or grabbing something to eat. This is a team management issue – provide breaks for staff members to eat, stretch their legs and take time to check their phones outside of the exhibit space, and you’ll have more engaged staff members. And there’s nothing more confusing to an attendee than walking up to an empty trade show booth. Granted, it’s a necessary evil if you’re staffed by a single company representative, but if possible, always have someone in the booth.
Trade shows are team events.
Most exhibitors at this show, as at many shows, wore clothing branded with their company logo. Not only does this identify you as belonging to your booth, it also helps present a polished, team feel when people approach you. If your company doesn’t have logowear, consider investing in badges that include your logo plus your name. By having your team dress similarly – khaki pants and a dark blue shirt, for example – it will create a team feeling.
Trade shows are sales and marketing events.
There’s nothing wrong with demonstrating how your product works as part of an interactive exhibit. In fact, it’s a super way to engage potential customers. We saw some great examples of this at the show. But we also saw a few instances where the emphasis was solely on the demonstration and not on using it to promote their business. In fact, we saw a small businessman simply working on his computer and ignoring the trade show traffic as it walked by.
What’s a better option? Using your demonstration as a way to illustrate the benefits you offer customers. A team approach works well – one team member manages the demonstration and the other talks to attendees. This allows you to adjust the demonstration to the attendees’ interest level and needs, as they will vary with every demonstration.
With decades of experience in the trade show industry, we’re happy to help you with questions about how to maximize your trade show experience. Contact us or give us a call and let us know how we can help you.