Category Archives: Modular Exhibits Trade Show display

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

The Evil “I’s” of Trade Show Marketing

The Five “I’s” of Poor Customer Service

trade show customer serviceJerry: “I don’t understand, I made a reservation, do you have my reservation?”

Agent: “Yes, we do, unfortunately we ran out of cars.”

Jerry: “But the reservation keeps the car here. That’s why you have the reservation.”

Agent: “I know why we have reservations.”

Jerry: “I don’t think you do. If you did, I’d have a car. See, you know how to take the reservation, you just don’t know how to “hold” the reservation and that’s really the most important part of the reservation, the holding. Anybody can just take them.”

* * * * *

Not all bad customer service is this blatant. Sometimes it is poor planning, not recognizing industry trends, or pure laziness. As a trade show exhibitor or an attendee, you’ve experienced this walking the show floor, or what I refer to as the Evil I’s of trade show customer service

Invitation

As a child, you looked forward to the annual county fair — the rides, the concerts, and the food vendors were the highlight of the summer. It was always the same weekend, and you planned your vacation around it. Tradeshow were like that once – many, many years ago. Not anymore.

Exhibitors must be proactive. To be successful, they must invite existing and potential customers to their booth and explain their value. Whether you are using email, social media, advertising, or good old fashion phone calls, as an exhibitor, you should plan for 50% of your show traffic to be generated pre-show. Simply showing up and showing off no longer works.

Indifference

Trade Show DisplaysThink about all the money you spend before the show even starts — the exhibit, freight, booth space, drayage, labor, and travel costs. It’s significant. The show opens, attendees swarm the show floor, and some of those enter your booth space. And you ignore them. By Day 3 how many pass through your booth without a greeting, a handshake, or even a friendly head nod? Your team may acknowledge them but it’s half-hearted. They’re already checking on their flight or planning for dinner. The attendee senses it. They move on to a competitor excited to see them on Day 3 at 3 pm.

Ignorance

At its core, a trade show is a face-to-face Google search. Attendees are there to find and collect information. Yet, many exhibitors bring the charming rather than the competent. Simple questions can’t be answered by the booth staff, or the one expert is always unavailable. Even the booth fails the information test. Lots of splash but no real substance on your products and services. The successful exhibitor strikes a balance between charm and competence and flash and substance.

Ignore

Perhaps I’m naïve, but I don’t buy the statistics about lead follow-up. It’s not ideal, not even close, but most companies follow up on show leads. Unfortunately, they do it wrong or half-hearted. They send an email or leave a phone message… then call it good. They treat a show lead as a cold lead, not a warm one. The trade show attendee stopped in your booth for a reason. It’s your job to pinpoint what they need and when they need it. All too often, we abandon the sales process after the first attempt: “I left and message and they never got back to me.”

Insight

What did you learn at your last show about your competitors, your vendors, your industry, and your customers? Nothing is more valuable. Yes, the tradeshow should lead to more sales. There should be a measurable ROI. However, it’s the unmeasurable ROI that’s often more valuable. We try to be clever and call it “face-to-face marketing,” but the bottom line is that it’s people connecting with people, sharing information, venting, gossiping, and looking for solutions. No website can do that as effectively as two people together. Ever.

There’s no magic to exceptional trade show customer service. It’s all about smart planning, commonsense, and a liberal measure of hard work. When you take responsibility for your trade show success, you assert the only “I” that really matters. You.

Article Author:

Mel White
Classic Exhibits Inc.

Building a Better Booth: Design and Planning

The Exhibit Planning Process

  • Start the planning process early and assign someone to handle the schedule
  • Create a budget that reflects the true costs of exhibiting
  • Select the right size exhibit for your budget and marketing goals
  • Trade shows can be expensive, but it’s not difficult to maximize your Return on Investment (ROI)

“Build it and they will come” — This phrase should be your mantra when designing your trade show booth. With a carefully designed trade show booth, you stand a much better chance of attracting potential clients, making sales, gathering contacts, and generally spreading the word about your company. Think of your booth as a microcosm of your business.

Planning and Budgeting 

It is best to plan early. Assign one person to be in charge of timetables and scheduling. Assign another person to draw up the budget and to define the marketing goals. This person will have to account for the cost of renting or buying a booth, the cost of accessories such as literature racks, as well as travel expenses. Travel expenses will vary depending upon the location and duration of your stay. If you decide to rent, you should expect to budget:

  • 25% on renting your booth space
  • 20% on design and graphics
  • 15% on electrical, cleaning, and drayage
  • 10% on shipping materials to and from the trade show
  • 10% on press kits and preshow promotions
  • 20% on staffing, travel, and other miscellaneous expenses

If you decide to purchase an exhibit, you will want to work with a professional exhibit designer. Most exhibit distributors have a designer on staff or rely on their exhibit manufacturer to supply design and rendering services. You will need to follow the rules and regulations on booth design for your particular show as well as observing basics such as fire, electrical, and safety codes and providing wheelchair accessibility. Rely on your exhibit designer who understands these requirements.

Size Matters 

When considering the dimensions of your booth, you will want to take into account booth staffing, as well as account for kioskscounters, conference rooms, and the storage of materials. Be sure your design allows for free flow of attendee traffic in and around your booth. Remove any obstacles at the designing stage. Kali Pearson, writing in Profit Magazine, reminds exhibitors to “Keep your traffic objective in mind. For instance, if you’re there to demonstrate a new product, erect walls that force passers-by to cluster at the front of your booth.” Keep your booth from getting too busy and complex, so people are not confused or overwhelmed by your booth. As a rule of thumb, your exhibit space should resemble a well-organized party and not a crowded disco.

10 x 10 booth is sufficient for a small business. At 100 square feet, you can accommodate at least four people at once, two staffers and two attendees. Consider a 10 x 20 for a medium business, and islands for a larger business. The size of the booth, however, depends on your goals and products. At a trade show, size matters, but it should complement, not dictate, your exhibit marketing goals.

Other Considerations

Think of your both as a 3D advertisement for your company. You should include your company’s colors wherever possible, unless you are using a theme that necessitates certain colors. It is also a good idea to display the company logo as prominently as possible. You will want to coordinate the flooring with the rest of your booth, either by renting carpet from the show decorator or purchasing more upscale solutions such as hardwood flooring, raised flooring, or cushion flooring.

In order to both conserve space and add an exciting look to your booth, display your literature in a literature rack. Audio/Video presentations have become commonplace and affordable for any size exhibit. These allow show attendees to participate in the booth experience and learn more about your company. Large screen monitors are perfect for product demos, interactive videos, or entertaining promotions. Like a moth to a light bulb, show attendees are instantly drawn to professionally produced videos.

For more information, be sure to consult with an exhibit designer or trade show professional. Participating in trade shows can be expensive, but it’s not difficult to maximize your Return on Investment (ROI) with the right planning and expertise.

For more infomation 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.

Dumb Stuff People Do at Trade Shows

It’s So Maddening!

Now, I’m not calling anyone “dumb,” so lower your kitchen knives and baseball bats. What I am saying is that people do really dumb stuff at trade shows. Consistently dumb stuff. Anyone who participates in trade shows could write a book on what they’ve seen over the years. Pre-show marketing and post-show leads would cover several hundred pages.

So, let’s ignore those and concentrate on the easy, quick fixes, the ones you can change now. The ones you can implement before your next show in a month.

Senior Management

Bring them . . . but not all of them. Bring the President and the CEO, assuming they are personable and knowledgeable. Don’t bring them if they love to hear themselves talk. Don’t bring the CFO, the COO, or anyone who couldn’t charm a goldfish into a fishbowl. Clients want to talk to senior management. And their presence demonstrates that your company is serious about the show.

This rule obviously doesn’t apply if you do 80 shows a year. Pick the 3 or 4 most crucial and have the “chiefs” there. Tip: It’s much easier to get a trade show marketing budget approved if senior management participates. 

Come Late. Leave Early

Most shows allow you to enter the show hall early. This gives you time to organize the booth and make any last minute changes. More importantly, it’s the ideal time to walk the show, see industry trends, and get a better sense of what your competitors are showing. If possible, bring a colleague. That way you can compare notes.

It’s also a great time to talk to the other early birds. There are fewer distractions, and you’re more likely to have a casual, informative conversation. Staying late has similar advantages. Not surprisingly, tired exhibitors can be very revealing at the end of the day.

That said . . . adhere to the formal and informal rules of the trade show floor. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want a competitor to do in your booth.

Ignore the Competition

Many companies are arrogant about their competitors. They see themselves as “the leaders,” so what could they possibly learn? The answer is — a lot. Even knowing that you are still the leader is valuable when targeting new markets and developing your marketing strategy.

And, unless your company prohibits it, don’t be afraid to introduce yourself. Friendliness is not a crime. You may be surprised at what you’ll discover, and a friendly competitor has been known to send business your direction if the client doesn’t fit their model. Tip: Beware of the red herring. Sometimes competitors can be sneaky smart about their sales, trends, and products. 

Ignore Your Customers

It happens. It’s human nature. We feel like we don’t have to spend as much time with existing customers since we know them. However, your customers come to trade shows to learn about new products, services, and companies. They also come to mingle with colleagues, meet new people, and share challenges. They want to feel valued.

If good customer says, “I was at the show, but —

a) You were so busy no one was available,

b) I was there but just never made it to your booth, or

c) Spoke to Bob (or Jane or Homer) and they said there’s nothing new happening”

Then, you have a problem. A correctable problem but a problem.

Ignore the Social Events

As much as we want to pretend otherwise, trade shows are business in a semi-social setting. The planned social events, such as the evening gala, meet-and-greet events, award ceremonies, and receptions are still business functions. Make it worthwhile. It’s your chance to meet new people, chat with industry colleagues, bond with existing customers, and find new customers.

Can it be hard, especially if you are a wallflower? Yes . . . but . . . wallflowers have an advantage. They are great listeners, and in any large room, the ratio of talkers to listeners is about 95:1. Ask the right question (or often any question) and the rest of the night is on auto-pilot.

Tip:  For anyone under 30, Social Media ≠ Social Events. And yes, you do have to talk to people. You can’t just text them. 

Rely on Memory

Unless you’re Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, your memory is flawed, hopelessly flawed. On Day 1, you will have little doubt that you can recall every single conversation. By Day 3, an important client will remind you that you spoke for 30 minutes about a critical new project on Day 1.

Whatever works for you, use it — paper, tablet, business cards with notes, digital recorder, etc. Yes, it’s better if everyone in the booth uses a similar system, but it’s even better if everyone takes notes that can be reconstructed at the end of the day or the end of the show. Tip: Don’t let “Joe” leave the booth at the end of the day without emptying his pockets. Otherwise, those notes and business cards will be trash can casualties or unreadable smudges by next week.

Please share your “quick fixes.” View it as volunteer community service for the less fortunate who see neither the forest nor the trees when it comes to trade shows. Don’t make me stand on the corner ringing a bell for the clueless. They can be saved!

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.