Category Archives: Hanging Signage

How to Cut Your Trade Show Costs — Part 1

Tradeshows are one of the most important marketing investments companies make to promote their products. To maximize their tradeshow marketing ROI, it’s critical they do everything possible to manage costs. Fortunately, most companies can reduce their costs with a little planning, knowledge, and discipline.

In Part 1, we’ll focus on saving money by optimizing your trade show exhibit design. See Part 2 and Part 3 for more tips.

1. Modular Design

Modular design is a great way to save money for companies that exhibit frequently and in multiple configurations, such as islands and inlines. Modular design lets you transition from a larger to a smaller exhibit––and vice versa––using the same basic structure.

The term “modular” is often misunderstood, but a modular exhibit can be a portable, hybrid, or custom display. It simply means it’s reconfigurable. If your exhibit marketing goals are flexible, owning a modular design will save you the expense of owning several unique static designs for each size––10 ft., 20 ft., or island.

When considering modular design for your next booth, consider incorporating an attached overhead sign to replace a hanging sign. You’ll get the same visibility as a hanging sign, but without the expense of rigging charges. They can be expensive, but incorporating them in your design from the beginning can save you money in the long run.

2. Rental Exhibits

Exhibit rentals have come a long way with expanded design options. Renting an exhibit is a great option if you have a limited budget or simply want to test the waters at a show. Your options are nearly as varied as if you were purchasing an exhibit, but without the fixed upfront cost. Walk any major industry show … probably 15-20% of the exhibits are rentals, but it’s unlikely you be able to tell the difference.

The other advantage of a rental is design flexibility from show to show. Rentals make it easy to change your message, the structure, or the size. It allows you to experiment. Plus, there is a lower upfront cost, and you’re not responsible for maintenance or storage. This allows you to focus only on your trade show marketing program. You can also look at components in your booth as rental options––like monitor stands or reception counters. A combination of rentals and ownership can save you money.

3. Tension Fabric vs. Direct Print Graphics

Fabric graphics dominate the trade show scene. And they should. They are vibrant, lightweight, and durable. Recent fabric print innovations make them nearly identical to direct prints, without the hassle of complicated crating or special packaging. The key to fabric graphics is to insist on HD quality. Printing technology is evolving very fast. What was acceptable three years ago appears muddy by comparison to newer printing techniques. Do your homework, ask for details about their equipment, and get quotes from several sources.

Does that mean that direct print graphics have gone the way of the dinosaur? No. They are appropriate for small graphics, dimensional applications, and where the chance of damage is minimal. However, in the long run, fabric graphics will likely last longer. And they are easier to clean if you get them dirty.

4. Pre-Wired Electrical & A/V

Everybody makes this mistake. It happens. We’re so focused on the exhibit design that we don’t  consider all the electrical components and wiring going into the booth space. If you’re going to have monitors or laptops in your booth, or need to have a particular lighting configuration, all of these things need to be considered in the beginning while the exhibit is being built.

Once the exhibit moves from the shop floor to the show floor, the costs to make changes to your booth not only increase exponentially (sometimes by a factor of 10) but the final solution is also rarely as elegant as one that would have made sense during construction. Plan for where the lead retrieval device will go. Think about all the computers, laptops, and monitors. Make every effort to prewire the lighting. You’ll save time, money, and headaches, and avoid damaging your exhibit at the show.

5. Crate or Case Design

Yes, the actual design of your new exhibit is important, but so is the design of the crates or cases. Make sure that you’re using space in the most optimal way possible. You know you’re going to bring literature and promotional products to the show––is there room where you can potentially pack them in the crates or cases rather than sending them in separate shipments?

Having these conversations in the beginning can reduce your drayage bill significantly. Talk about the size of the crate and what goes in it. It’s much cheaper to have monitors, promotional products, etc. packed in the crate rather than sent separately.

6. Complete Setup Instructions

No one expects you to read the owner’s manual for your new toaster. You get a pass on that. However, the setup instructions for your booth is a different story. You need to review them and determine if they make sense before the show––both how the booth is assembled and how it’s disassembled and repacked.

If you don’t understand the instructions while on the show floor, you’re going to waste both time and money. If you find mistakes in the instructions, go back to your exhibit house and ask them to make corrections. We’ve all experienced the moment during installation where three to four people are standing around trying to make sense of the next step. Sometimes that’s a minute or two. Other times it’s much longer, and the clock is ticking on your labor bill the whole time.

7. Reusable Packaging Materials

In many cases, the packaging materials you receive with your booth components are designed to be used once, like foam padding and bubble wrap. And at the end of the show, you’re left wondering how you’re going to re-pack your booth for shipping and storage. Don’t let that happen to you. You deserve better. Your expensive exhibit deserves better.

Insist that your exhibit house provide reusable packaging materials from the beginning. They make all the difference––less damage and faster setup and packing. “Numbered” components go where they belong in the case or crate. There’s a logical progression. You see, and your team sees, if something is missing immediately. You paid a lot for the display. You should demand that it looks pristine for as long as possible. That’s much more likely to happen with logical, well-made, reusable packaging materials.

If you start thinking ahead about these ways to reduce costs during this early design phase, you will save yourself a lot of money and headache down the line. Questions about any of these ideas or tradeshow exhibit design in general? Let us know. See Part 2 and Part 3 for more tips.

Article Author:

Mel White

Trade Show Planning

Trade Show Planning

There’s no shortage of articles about pre- and post-show trade show tips. Follow those tips and you’ll not only have more qualified leads, but you’ll turn them into sales by roughly a bazillion percent. Check the research at CEIR and let me know if I’m wrong about that statistic.

Even if you maximize your pre- and post-show planning, it’s possible to miss potential sales because your planning didn’t include right before the show opens and right after the show closes. Every day. On the morning of the show, especially on Day #1, we are nervous, tense, and uncertain about what the show will bring. So we clean, vacuum, organize literature, drink coffee and eat giveaway candy. That’s not to say those aren’t important. They are. But there are other trade show tasks that need to be accomplished before that first wave of attendees descends on your booth.

As a solid Type-A exhibitor, you’ve already had multiple meetings with your team before the show. That’s what makes you wonderful and a pain in the ass. It’s now one hour before the show opens, not just on Day 1 but also on Day 2 and Day 3. It’s time to:

Before the Show Opens

  • Review the show goals for the team once again.
  • Remind everyone how “we” plan to meet and exceed those goals
  • Discuss roles. Do those roles need to change from Day 1 to Day 2 to Day 3?
  • Equipment. How does it work, who has the login information, who is the “Oh Shit” expert, and what’s the backup plan?
  • Who is expected in the booth today? Are they a customer? A prospect? What’s the plan?
  • Did anything happen during dinners, meetings, conference gatherings that the team needs to know?
  • Does the “message” need to change based on conversations with attendees or announcements from competitors?
  • What’s the break schedule?

Good job! You scheduled a team meeting each day with a specific agenda to review. Your team knows what to expect, has answers, and is prepared for another successful day on the show floor.

Four to five hours later, the show closes for the day. You and your team are exhausted. They are ready to relax, have a drink, and leave the show hall. BUT… you’re not done yet. It’s time to review what happened that day. Resist the urge to do it in a bar, restaurant, or in the hotel lobby. Do it now. In the booth:

North American Trade ShowsAfter the Show Closes

  • Review the leads and determine next steps and priorities
  • Add notes to the leads (while they are still fresh)
  • Discuss any missteps and changes for the next day
  • Share critical news from attendees, clients, competitors, and suppliers
  • Cover plans for dinners, meetings with clients, and conference events
  • Lock-up and store any valuables
  • Is anyone leaving to return home? How does that effect staffing and roles for the next day?
  • (On the next to last day) What’s the plan for disassembling and shipping the exhibit after the show? Does any rented equipment need to be returned to the show contractor?

Now, that wasn’t so hard. It just took a little planning, patience, caffeine, and the promise of food and alcohol.

Article Author:

Mel White
Classic Exhibits Inc.

If Kittens Ran Tradeshows and Events

11 Reasons Why Our Lives Would Be Better

Shows would last no longer than one (very intense) hour.

Two hour naps would follow.

We would play nice with others.

Unexpected freakouts would be OK.

Every booth would have toys.

Eating in the booth would be a “no no.”

Being cute and adorable would be a given.

Experience would be respected.

Diversity would be embraced.

We would respect those who feed us (and our families).

AND . . . We would ALWAYS trust our instincts.

Feel free to add more! 😉

Article Author:

Mel White

Trade Shows, Banner Stands, and Potato Chips

The Guy in Aisle 400

Call me a foodie. Call me a trade show snob. I love good food and admire smart trade show marketing. Both take careful, thoughtful preparation. Both give back as much as you put into them. And both, when done well, are experiences you want to share.

Last week, I was walking a local trade show… Mostly 10 ft. and 20 ft. inlines with a mishmash of budget, mid-price, and a smattering of custom exhibits. Then I came to “the guy”in Aisle 400.” I’m embarrassed to say I stopped and stared.

In the 10 ft. booth space there were two VERY cheap banner stands with fuzzy, curled graphics and a logo. No discernible message. No features and benefits. No “why we’re better than the other company.” It was for a bank, a well-known bank in our region. The guy was sitting behind a banquet table with a table throw (which wasn’t too bad) and on the table was the obligatory literature and giveaways — pens, rulers, key chains, and notepads.

To Be Fair

The guy probably didn’t know any better. He was told to “man the booth” during the show. And he did exactly that, while checking email, Facebook, and sports scores.

I have nothing against banner stands or table thows or promotional products. They have a place and a purpose in events, trade shows, lobbies, county fairs, and concerts. But, and here’s the “but,” at some point they’re the equivalent of snack food — quick, salty, and unhealthy. We eat them because they’re convenient, tasty, and cheap. As a teenager, we willingly gorge ourselves. As an adult, we regret those last six handfuls of potato chips.

So why does this happen? To be blunt, it’s because someone in charge was lazy or ignorant or cheap or the magical trifecta of all three. They didn’t value trade show marketing. Their experience proved time and time again that it was a colossal waste of time and resources. Why bother cooking a meal when a Slim Jim and a Slurpee are only $2.50. It’s not like it’s going to kill you… today.

Sadly, the only way to change this perception is to change the trade show marketing program. How do you convince someone to put down the equivalent of a Little Debbie Cosmic Brownie and eat a balanced meal? I’m not sure. What you hope for is turnover in the Marketing Department or that a knowledgeable trade show professional offers some tactful advice.

Find a Mentor

When it comes to trade shows, nothing replaces experience, either learned through “hard knocks” or from someone who has already made all the mistakes. The second option is well worth it’s weight in gold. You can glean some knowledge by reading trade show tips and tricks articles on the web. At least on a big picture.

Eventually, if you want to succeed at trade show marketing, find a mentor. Work with a colleague who understands the “ins and outs” of trade shows or hire a knowledgeable professional. Eventually you’ll become the mentor and can pass your wisdom along to the poor soul working the trade show equivalent of a 7/11 taquito.

Eat well. Show well.

Article Author:

Mel White
Classic Exhibits Inc.

Conducting Product Demos at Trade Shows

Product Demos at Trade Shows

  • Nothing sells a product like a convincing demonstration
  • Invite audience participation
  • Tap into the fives senses and keep the demo under 10 minutes

Brochures and promotional items are nice, but nothing sells a product quite like a convincing demonstration. Consider the history of Tupperware, which was first introduced in 1946. Sales of the innovative product were flat until the first Tupperware party was held two years later. These in-home demonstrations introduced a generation of consumers to an unfamiliar product. Similarly, infomercials would not occupy so many timeslots if they did not tap into our fascination with the art of the product demo. Who doesn’t know Ron Popeil and the Pocket Fisherman and Showtime Rotisserie?

Find a Charismatic Presenter

Choose a presenter who is charismatic, articulate, and familiar with both the product and its pitch. Let the presenter know that it’s not enough to simply repeat a spiel from memory, and its okay to ad-lib. Invite one or more of the audience members to participate in the demo as well. Back in the 1980s, Bruce Springsteen would invariably invite a female audience member onstage for a dance during his concerts. Bruce knew it was a sure fire way to make the audience feel included. Come up with a role suitable for audience participation. Remember to keep it simple and safe. No audience members handling sharp cutlery at a food industry show! Consider using games or fun quizzes as a way to involve attendees in demonstrations.

Keep It Between 2-4 Minutes

Try to tap into as many of the five senses as you can with your demo. Don’t exceed the ten minute mark if you want to hold people’s attention. An optimum length of time for a demo is more in the realm of two to four minutes. You can opt to hire a professional to deliver the demo, but it would behoove you to find someone in your company who can do it if at all possible. The Home Shopping Network failed to move Joy Mangano’s “Miracle Mop” until the plucky housewife turned inventor began hawking them herself. Now she’s a millionaire! There is something to be said for the personal touch. Regardless of who conducts your demo, they need to be relaxed, confident, well prepared, and above all have fun!

For more infomation about trade show or event marketing, give us a call or send us an email. We welcome the opportunity to assist you with your next event.

Article Author:

Mel White
Classic Exhibits Inc.

Branding and Corporate Identity: Trade Show Marketing 101

Branding and Corporate Identity

  • Present a coherent corporate image
  • Think beyond company colors and logos
  • Consider a theme
  • Hire a speaker to present at your booth
  • Hanging signs are an excellent method of getting your corporate branding noticed

When designing your trade show booth, it is critical to present a coherent corporate image. Every element of your booth, including booth designgraphicssignage, promotional literature, color scheme, and giveaways, must be united by a recognizable signature that is unique to your company.

Think Beyond Company Colors

Company colors and logos can easily be incorporated into your trade show exhibit and carpets, and can be imprinted on your promo items and literature. Thinking beyond company colors, color can be used to reinforce a corporate identity. Suppose your company is technology based. In that case, you may wish to employ a metallic silver or gray color scheme in order to suggest scientific progress and the spirit of the future.

If you decide to go with a themed booth, try to keep it consistent with your company’s image. Think about an anniversary year tie in. For instance, if your company was incorporated in 1926, you might consider a roaring twenties theme to commemorate eighty plus of service. Your designer can easily create an art deco display for your booth. It doesn’t have to be too elaborate, just enough to suggest a theme. Period clothes can easily and inexpensively be rented from any local costume shop. Attendees visiting your booth will associate your business with stability and longevity.

A few years ago at EXHIBITOR, a trade show for the trade show industry, an exhibit manufacturer created a park-like theme with grass, park benches, and statues. The theme emphasized that working with the manufacturer was easy and carefree, “Like a Walk in the Park.” The theme was well received because the depiction was accurate and a clever depiction of a familiar cliché.

Hire an Expert to Speak

If you hire a speaker to present at your booth, again make the choice consistent with your company image. Consider a local author who has written a book about your industry. Most authors will jump at an opportunity to promote their book and are accustomed to public speaking while on book tours. A timely tie in with a thought provoking book will stimulate discussion and interest in your booth.

Hanging Signs

Walk through any trade show and you will see attractive hanging signs throughout the convention center or pavilion. Hanging signs are an excellent method of getting your corporate branding noticed. They come in two-dimensional and three dimensional shapes, such as circles, pinwheels, and tapered triangles. There is no better compliment than when a trade show attendee says, “I saw your company’s sign when I walked into the hall and wanted to hear more about your product.”

Consistency is the key when planning your booth. Make sure all elements of your booth include some clue, visual or otherwise, to your brand or identity. A unified presentation will make an indelible impression on your customers.

For more infomation about trade show or event marketing, give us a call or send us an email. We welcome the opportunity to assist you with your next event.

Article Author:

Mel White
Classic Exhibits Inc.

Now That You’ve Decided to Rent Your Display

Now That You’ve Decided to Rent Your Display

  • Think ahead about future shows . . . you’ll save time and money
  • Graphics are just as important whether you rent or own your exhibit
  • Be proactive about wire management. There should be a plan
  • With all the talk about “Green Displays,” nothing is “greener” than a rental exhibit
  • Make sure you have clear, detailed set-up instructions

There are lots of articles about the benefits of renting vs. buying a trade show display, but, I don’t recall ever reading an article that discussed the do’s and don’ts once you’ve decided to rent. After 20 years of managing exhibit rentals for clients, including the past five managing the Rental Program for a large display manufacturer, I’ve learned that deciding to rent is the easy part. The hard part comes after the rental decision has been made. With all humility, please allow me to share these tips from someone who has experienced his fair share of rental bruises over the years.

Think Ahead about Future Shows

You’ve decided to rent your exhibit. Now take it a step further by planning your trade show schedule over the next two to three years. Developing a long-term plan could save you thousands of dollars by committing to a multiple-show rental contract. Most companies offer a substantial discount if you agree to multiple rentals up front, even for various size exhibits and different designs.

Customization

Rental exhibits have come a long way. Work with a company that’s willing to offer customization so you can achieve your specific exhibit marketing goals. Everyone should be wondering, “Is it a rental or not?” There are a number of ways to achieve a custom look. It can be achieved with graphic applications and/or materials such as infill panels for conference rooms and workstations. Sometimes all it takes is a small accent piece with your corporate colors to make a big difference in the overall design. Just because you’re renting doesn’t mean you don’t want to jazz it up a bit and give it your own personal touch. It should have a similar look and feel to an exhibit you would purchase but with the added benefit that you can change things out from show to show.

Graphics

Be sure you have all of the specs you need for your graphics. There are many graphic applications. Working with an exhibit professional will ensure that you choose the method that works best for your rental exhibit. And if you choose to sign a multiple show contract, you’ll want to design your graphics with future shows and exhibit designs in mind. There are usually graphic components that can be re-used, so keep that in mind as you work through each design concept.

Monitors

If you’re planning to use monitors, check that the mounts can be incorporated into the design. In other words don’t waste money on monitor stands if you can use the existing structure. A good rental exhibit company will offer a variety of solutions for monitors and wire management.

Cord/Wire Management

Review your wire management plans for any electrical cords for lighting, monitors, or any products in your booth. All too often, this is overlooked until you’re standing in your fully assembled booth. There’s nothing like that awful feeling of seeing a tangled bunch of cords and having no idea of how to hide them. There should be a plan for the cords and how to manage them long before you arrive in the show hall. Remember What You Own Keep a file (with photos and dimensions) of all of the graphics you own. More than likely they can be re-used for future shows. Exhibit companies often offer free storage services for graphics used for multiple rentals. In addition, note of any other items you included with your shipments to ensure everything gets returned.

The GreenFactor

Your decision to rent may not have come from a concern about the environment, but guess what, you couldn’t be using a greener exhibit! Many rental exhibits use sustainable components, such as recyclable aluminum, fabrics, and reusable packaging. Regardless, there’s no greener way to exhibit than by renting your exhibit. It’s worth promoting to your internal team and sharing with your customers in a pre- or post-show marketing campaign. And don’t forget the flooring. There are lots of green flooring alternatives.

Shipping

One of the reasons you decided to rent was because you wanted to lessen the headaches that come with managing your own exhibit property. Talk to your exhibit company about coordinating the shipping for all of your shows. One of the key benefits (other than just having one less thing to think about) is that if something goes wrong and a claim needs to be filed, the exhibit company will take care of it. Plus, they typically use the same carrier for most of their shipments so their rates are very competitive. Be sure to request a tracking number and notification that your shipment has arrived.

Set-up Instructions

This is very important! Be sure that set-up instructions/diagrams are part of the deal. Whether you’re supervising the set-up or contracting that service out to someone else, demand that you have instructions and photos showing how it goes together. This will save you a lot of time and money! Also make sure that the company you’re working with provides pre-show staging services and photographs before shipping the exhibit to your show. Photos serve two purposes: they’re very helpful during the set-up, and they’re proof that your finished exhibit looks the way it’s supposed to look.

For more information about trade show or event marketing, give us a call or Contact Us. We welcome the opportunity to assist you with your next show.

Article Author:

Mel White
Classic Exhibits Inc.

7 Questions You’ll Never Ask About Your Trade Show Display

7 Trade Show Display Questions

Over the years, I’ve learned the questions most exhibit buyers will ask. They’ll ask how it assembles. They’ll spend hours questioning the exhibit design and tweaking the graphics. Of course, there will be questions about price, delivery, and weight. They may even ask to see the warranty.

However, there are questions the exhibit buyer won’t ask. How do I know? Because no exhibit manager has ever asked me these questions… and they should.

Q1. Will the Metal Look the Same After 10 Shows?

Have you ever bought a screwdriver at a discount store only to have the tip twist? So you throw it away and realize that a Kraftsman isn’t a Craftsman. About 60-70% of all trade show exhibits have a skeleton of aluminum extrusion. Sometimes it’s visible. Sometimes it’s not. The dirty little secret is that it’s cheaper to use low quality extrusions with thin walls and a sub-par finish. Over time, it distorts, mars, and looks tarnished after a few shows. Your new booth becomes a used booth before you’ve wrapped-up your current marketing campaign.

Ask about the manufacturer of the extrusion? There are recognized names and then there are Kraftsman. You may not recognize the name but that’s the beauty of Google. If someone tells you, “an extrusion is an extrusion,” walk away.

Q2. What’s the Quality of the Fabric Graphics

The rise of Fast Fashion has revolutionized the apparel industry (think H&M and Forever 21). There’s a market for disposable fashion. It’s cheap and attractive. But no one expects it to last or have the attention to detail of high-quality apparel.

Fabric for graphics, like clothing, is not all the same. Most inexpensive displays are shrouded with thin, stretchy fabric made with low quality zippers or cheap velcro. And yes, there’s a pecking order to hook and loop as well. The fabric graphic is meant to be disposable… even if it’s not sold that way. You can feel the difference. Trust your hand.

Q3. What’s the Quality of the Fabric Printing

No one ever thinks about this. But they should. Dye-sublimated printing, the predominant type of printing for fabric graphics, is a high-tech process. And with any technology, the latest and greatest is old news in about 12-18 months. The previous generation of dye-sub printers get sold to second or third-tier printers. If you’ve ever seen the difference between a HD dye-sub graphic and a 4-color one, you know what I mean. Skin tones are more realistic. Black is black not dark grey. There’s no color banding . You get the picture.

Ask when the printer was manufactured (not re-manufactured or purchased). And even if it’s only been owned by a little old lady in Pasadena and stored in a garage, it’s still an AMC Hornet.

Q4. Is the Packaging Material Reusable?

You just bought a new pair of Beats by Dre headphones. They sound great, but you’ve decided you want them in black and not fuchsia. Good luck getting it back in the packaging. It was meant for marketing not for re-marketing. Far too many trade show displays are packed to prevent damage before the first show. But what about damage after the second, third, or thirty-third show?

High-quality reusable packaging costs more than bubble wrap and thin foam. Smart, well-engineered packaging is like finding $20 in your wedding, funeral, and holiday party pants. It’s an unexpected miracle that keeps on giving.

Q5. Are Replacement Parts Available?

Folks send me photos asking me to identify a part. That’s rarely an issue if it’s from a major display manufacturer. However, it’s usually from a $699 pop-up or tube structure. Let’s be honest. There are no parts. There never were any parts. It wasn’t sold to have replacement parts any more than a $17 toaster. It’s meant to go into the landfill after a half-a-dozen uses.

Now if that idea appalls you, then ask your supplier if quality replacement parts are available, what is the cost, and how quickly can you get them? Oh… and if they are only available through Smiling Sammy’s Display Store, then that’s a really, really bad omen. He’s gotta a guy who knows a guy. Good luck with that.

Q6. How Do You Handle Wire Management?

There’s no middle ground on this. It looks good or it looks really, really bad. Those electrical and A/V cords have to go somewhere. More often than not, the cord management for most exhibits resembles a Jamaican Rastafarian on a bad hair day. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

You have to identify what electrical devices will be in the booth and where they’ll be located with your supplier. And that includes anything you maybe renting. Ask your supplier about their solution for lights, monitor cords, etc. If they stumble — run. It means the solution is likely to resemble white twist ties from plastic garbage bags.

Q7. What are the Designer’s (Exhibit and Graphic) Qualification?

Everyone is creative. To a point. Chainsaw sculpture, toilet roll cozies, saw blade paintings. I’m not here to judge. Well, maybe a little. Most of us are out of our element when it comes to exhibit and graphic design. And like wire management, there’s no middle ground. Great exhibit designers have years and years of experience working on a variety of projects (custom, portable, modular) with collaborative input from other exhibit designers. That’s how they get experience, perspective, and context.

The same is true with graphic designers… but with a twist. They must have experience designing graphics for trade show displays. That’s the key. It doesn’t matter if they are Rock Stars with web design or print advertisements. You don’t want an occasional trade show designer to be the lead designer. If you have an in-house designer familiar with your brand, then make the design process collaborative. Graphic design for trade show displays is a craft. Trade show designers have learned what works and what doesn’t to attract attendees on the show floor.

These questions may make your trade show exhibit supplier uncomfortable. Good. That’s how you’ll know if you chose the right one.

Article Author:

Mel White
Classic Exhibits Inc.

What You Should Know about Graphic Design

What You Should Know about Graphic Design

  • The more information you provide, the more likely the final result will match your objectives
  • Graphic designers work on an hourly rate
  • It pays to remain loyal
  • Trust your instincts!

When it comes to graphic design, I am an idiot. I’m not embarrassed to admit it, although I probably should be since I manage marketing for three divisions. Yet, there’s rarely a day that I don’t make graphic design decisions about our websites, sales literature, email marketing broadcasts, and trade show displays. Does my lack of graphic design expertise show? I certainly hope not.

Like most marketing managers, or any manager who understands his or her limitations, I rely on talented people, such as graphic designers. Not only do they understand the tools, such as Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign, but they spend their days immersed in graphic design issues. They understand the nuances and the trends. They remind me that this color text on that background is unreadable and that I’ve created visual clutter and confusion in my effort to show too much.  If I ask them to add a “star burst” with a price, they guide me to a more contemporary solution that doesn’t reek of 1980’s clip art.

Fortunately, I’ve learn some valuable lessons over the years regarding graphic design, which I’ll share. These aren’t font, color, or layout tips. Remember, I’m an idiot. These are tips for anyone working with graphic designers, tips that will save you time, money, and slow the aging process.

Four Valuable Lessons about Graphic Design

It’s Your Project, Part 1:  I’d hate to be a graphic designer and work with most clients. Their expectations are unrealistic, their directions are vague, and their budget is pitiful. Most clients don’t know what they want and expect the graphic designer to be psychic. Clients will use terms like “modern” and “visually striking” and “colorful” and expect those concepts to be transparent to anyone. They are not, any more than a “tree” looks the same to someone living in New England or the Pacific Northwest or Australia. Take ownership of your project. The more information you convey to the graphic designer, the more effort you put into prepping the project, the more likely the final result will match your objectives. Take the time to collect examples of ads, websites, and sales flyers that you like. Graphic designers are visual. They’ll take those cues and use them to create your design. Too often I hear someone say, “I wanted something original and didn’t want to influence the creative process by being too specific or showing them examples.” Really? When did vagueness become a muse? Go ahead and be lazy. Just don’t pretend that your laziness is a brilliant creative design strategy.

It’s Your Project, Part 2. Let’s say you decide to ignore my advice in Part 1. I’m not offended, but I am snickering behind your back. Your graphic designer loves and hates you. You’ve made their job much harder, but you’ve made them a little richer. Most graphic designers work on an hourly rate with incremental time minimums. You are now paying for pondering and investigating and false starts. Each back and forth is getting you closer to your perfect design, but you’re paying for the privilege of having a graphic designer at your beck and call. If you work best following this process and have the budget, then hire a graphic designer full time or recognize that time is money, your money, and don’t complain when you get the final bill.

Mind Meld = Success and Increased Productivity. I’ve worked with the same graphic design firm for nine years. They are good, which is the most important criteria. Equally important is that we now have a history together. They understand what I want. I understand how best to communicate with them. They understand the exhibit industry and, in fact, have gone out of their way to learn about the trade show business — the graphic requirements, the shows, the publications, and much more. They have grown with us and have been instrumental in developing the graphics and branding for Visionary Designs, Sacagawea Portable Hybrid, Magellan Hybrid, and Perfect 10 Portable Displays.

The lesson . . . once you’ve found a graphic designer (or design firm) that you respect and like, it pays to remain loyal. They’ll watch your back with ad agencies and suppliers. They’ll guard your branding, even when you want to trample all over it because of a wild idea at 2 am with a shelf life of 24 hours. You’ll develop a communication shorthand, which saves you money and them aggravation. Each project is still your project but getting from point A to Z, generally skips about half the alphabet.

Trust Your Instincts. It got you this far, and unless you have a history of flops, bad decisions, and marketing Hindenburgs, you’ve learned something valuable along the way. Be open to advice. But trust your instincts. If you are wrong, you’re wrong. Heck, it was only a job in a down economy with little chance of future employment. ; – ). Finally, be amazed. There are lots and lots of people who call themselves graphic designers. Just as there are lots of people who call themselves investment advisors (GRRR!) or bankers (double GRRR!). When you find a talented graphic designer, one who syncs with your vision and your personality, hold on tight and be amazed.

For more information about trade show or event marketing, give us a call or Contact Us. We welcome the opportunity to assist you with your next show.

Article Author:

Mel White

ABC’s of Trade Show and Exhibit Marketing

Exhibit Marketing

  • Exhibit marketing is more than just selling from a booth space
  • Trade shows allow companies to showcase their achievements, build their business, and maintain their competitive edge
  • You can learn to be an exhibit marketing guru. Become certified
  • Understand and track your ROI. Creating a well-defined budget is the best method to track and manage your total investment in a particular show
  • If you need help, rely on your local exhibit consultant or contract with an exhibit consulting firm

What is Exhibit Marketing?

Exhibit marketing is all about marketing your products or services to buyers at expositions, conferences, and trade shows. A successful exhibit marketing program will be rewarded with increased revenues, referrals, and industry networking. The goal is to understand how exhibit marketing differs from the other types of marketing.

Exhibit marketing is more than just selling from a booth space. For many industries, it’s about bringing people and companies together to promote accomplishments, stimulate thought, share knowledge, build relationships, spur the competitive spirit, and reward entrepreneurial efforts. Exhibit marketing not only introduces buyers to sellers, but also fuels the competitive spirit by filling a hall with competitors, partners, and suppliers, each with goals and dreams of success. Trade shows allow companies to showcase their achievements, build their business, and maintain their competitive edge.

Exhibit marketing, like any marketing, must be learned through experience and education. Exhibit marketing isn’t taught in most colleges and universities, or covered in most marketing reference books, but if you are new to exhibit marketing, you can learn a great deal about it on the Internet and from your local exhibit consultant before risking a single marketing dollar.

Exhibitors must learn how to attract interest, to be remembered, and to turn prospects into customers. At a trade show, buyers and sellers are overloaded with choices and information. As an exhibitor, your marketing message can be consistent from show to show, or it can be tailored to the show and the location. Good marketing and salesmanship, however, are always involved.

Types of Exhibit Marketing

There are different types of exhibit marketing: retail, business-to-business, and event marketing. Retail shows typically focus on selling products and closing deals directly at the booth. Business-to-business shows focus on forging new relationships that are cemented after the show. Event marketing aims more towards delivering a message or creating brand awareness.

Exhibit Marketing Training

In the United States, there are trade shows for trade show professionals: EXHIBITORLIVE, E2MA The Red Diamond Congress, and IAEE Expo Expo. These shows offer trade show certification for people wanting to complete a curriculum of classes and seminars. The curriculum aims to cover all aspects of exhibit marketing. The classes are taught by industry experts whose expertise and opinion may vary. These certification programs, along with on-line resources and exhibit marketing books, provide enough basic information to develop an effective marketing strategy for your company.

Return on Investment (ROI)

Research shows that attendees recall only 15% of the companies they visit on the show floor. The other 85 percent are forgotten. The reasons vary. The company may have a weak exhibit or an ineffective sales presentation. Some companies are simply forgotten due to the inherent clutter and sensory overload of a trade show. This research data should be very important to you. You must never forget that show participation is a competition for attendee time and retention. Your ROI is directly related to your attention to, and overall performance in, all aspects of trade show marketing.

Creating a well-defined budget and comparing it against actual expenses is the best method to track and manage your total investment in a particular show. If you sell products in a retail show, then the revenue is easy to tally up and compare to the expenses for the ROI. If your show is one where prospecting, branding, and market positioning are the norm, then the ROI is more difficult to measure. Other benefits are difficult to measure but quite valuable just the same. These intangible benefits may be direct or indirect, and exhibit marketers look for subtle hints of these returns and weigh them against the opportunity cost of not exhibiting.

Using an Exhibit Consulting Firm

If conducting research on the web or taking exhibit-marketing seminars isn’t sufficient, you may want to consider using a consulting firm that specializes in helping companies succeed with their exhibit marketing efforts. Often these consulting firms cover general marketing as well as exhibit marketing. These firms provide a fresh perspective and advice based on years of experience. Typically, they bring a level of seasoned exhibit marketing experience along with the desire to find successful marketing solutions for your company.

Survey Service Providers

If you are looking for research information to support your exhibit marketing decisions, there are companies that provide research and survey services for this purpose. Speak with an exhibit consultant about which firms the consultant recommends.

For more information about trade show or event marketing, give us a call or Contact Us. We welcome the opportunity to assist you with your next event.

Article Author:

Mel White
Classic Exhibits Inc.