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.

What Zombies Can Teach Us About Trade Show Marketing

Trade Shows and The Undead

Surprisingly, trade shows and zombies have a lot in common. Sometimes in a good way. Who would have thought that zombies could be a role model for your sales and marketing team? 10 Things the Undead can Teach You.

1. Single-minded Focus. You may not appreciate their all-consuming desire to eat your flesh, but they are committed to the task. They let nothing get in their way, except an ax to the brain. Your next trade show will be wildly successful, if you make it a priority, not an afterthought.

2. Teamwork. Zombies travel in packs, like ravenous hyenas. That teamwork ensures them a much higher percentage of kills. There’s a reason “We killed it” signifies success. By working together, those poor doe-eyed attendees don’t stand a chance.

3. Appearance Matters. You never forget your first impression of a zombie: filthy clothing, rotting flesh, vacuous stare, and rancid halitosis (that alone is enough to make you hurl). It’s sad but true. We judge people by their appearance. Your company spent considerable money to participate so shine your shoes, press your shirt, and dry clean that blazer.

4. Lights, Motion, and Noise. The undead and the living are both attracted to lights, motion, and noise. As much as we try . . . we can’t resist it. When planning your booth, ask yourself this, “Will my exhibit attract 200% more zombies than my competitors?” If the answer is “No!” then you need to get creative (or consider a ceremonious human sacrifice ever day).

5. Intelligence. Zombies love brains and so should you. Being smart about your trade show marketing means you understand that trade shows are not the same as print ads, videos, brochures, or traditional sales calls. Trade shows are opportunities to attract new customers and strengthen existing relationships.

6. Fresh Meat. Ever notice that zombies won’t eat other zombies. They like their meals fresh. Fresh ideas and innovation, particularly during a weak economy, propel one company forward while leaving another one struggling to survive. Trade show attendees go for two reasons:  to find solutions to existing problems and/or discover innovations that will strengthen their operations or bottom line.

7. Know Your Customer. In zombie-speak, we are customers. Good customers freak-out and get eaten. Bad customers ram a metal rod through a zombie’s skull. You want good customers, just without the “getting eaten” part. Good customers become good customers because we understand them and tailor our product or service to meet their needs.

8. Preparation Matters. Zombies don’t need a trade show toolkit or an exhibitors handbook or an exhibit designer, they are 100% prepared the moment they go from living to undead. You’re not so lucky. You won’t succeed without thorough pre-show, show, and post-show preparation.

9. Without Customers, What’s the Point? Wandering aimlessly is pointless, even to a mindless zombie. Zombies crave excitement. When a living, breathing human enters its proximity, it switches from listless to high alert. Serious exhibitors react similarly, albeit without the growling and moaning. We’ve all seen exhibitors who appear annoyed or resentful when an attendee enters their booth, interrupting their game of Angry Birds. What’s the point if it’s not about customers?

10. There’s No Cure. Once a zombie always a zombie. If you love trade shows and are serious about trade show marketing, there’s no antidote. It’s in your blood. No matter how hard you fight it, once bitten, it’s incurable.

Article Author:

Mel White

Do You Believe in Trade Shows?

Do You Believe in Trade Shows?

Most exhibitors don’t have a plan when it comes to trade show marketing. They purchase a display, which they think is THE PLAN. So before I harangue you with the obvious suggestions, let’s talk. Really talk.

You are probably a sales/marketing professional if you are reading this. You rely on Act-On, Marketo, or HubSpot for automation. You use CRM software like SalesForce or Infusionsoft. You have a comprehensive email campaign strategy and track it with Constant Contact, Yesware, or MailChimp.

When you have challenging problems, you tap into consultants for lead generation, sales training, social media, and SEO. And, when it comes to advertising, you have a team dedicated to maximizing your spend and metrics. In this hyper-competitive marketplace, you need every advantage that money, strategy, and discipline can bring.

And Then You Wing It!

Do You Believe in Trade Shows? That’s not meant to be a loaded question. You either do or you don’t. There’s no middle ground because exhibitors who “waffle” when it comes to trade show marketing are mostly wasting their money.

That’s not to say that trade shows are the same as trade shows pre-Internet. They’re not. Trade shows are much more efficient than they used to be because most attendees no longer “walk” the floor. They “research” and “shop” the floor just like they would an online purchase. They’ve already decided who they’ll visit days, even weeks before their feet hit the aisle carpet. Getting them to your booth pre-show is now more important than luring them into your booth at the show. stk313213rkn

Do You Believe in Metrics and ROI? Of course you do. Imagine conducted a sales/marketing meeting or presentation without metrics. You love numbers. You love studying and reciting them to others like parables from the Bible. You get visibly excited using a spreadsheet to compare the Toledo to the Albuquerque office.

But, when it comes to your trade show marketing, you are like a four-year old with blocks, relying on the # of leads to judge success. Sadly, you pat yourself on the back if the leads are electronic and not a roll of paper cascading off the counter. For most exhibitors, anything beyond that falls into quantitative voodoo. There’s no measuring costs per show, return on sales, or contribution margin per client.

Are You a Good Judge of People? You should be. It’s kinda required for anyone in sales and marketing. At every trade show, you are doing two things: meeting with customers and suppliers and evaluating your trade show staff. Far too often, we are spectacular at the first and abysmal at the second. We view trade show staffing along the same lines as a wedding invitation — the more the merrier and we pray no one gets so drunk they puke in public. When we do hold staffers accountable, it’s condensed into a pre-show rally which includes 10 minute booth training. It’s a joke.

Are You an Expert in 3D Marketing? I won’t bother to feed your ego on this one. You aren’t an expert. Not even close. You may be an expert at banner ads or print advertising or closing techniques, but you probably don’t know squat about exhibit design and trade show marketing. How do I know? Experience working with exhibitors and walking shows. Now, don’t misunderstand me. You know marketing and you know sales, but you decided at some point to believe that trade show marketing is more of the same. It is and it isn’t, and you’ll blow a ton of money until you know what works and what doesn’t.

Take Some Advice from a Trade Show Professional

VK-5088aaI mean this literally. Take some advice from a trade show professional.

1. Work with your Exhibit House. Exhibit Houses and Distributors do much more than design and build exhibits. They work with exhibitors on strategy, show services, ROI tracking, booth training, etc. They see the painful mistakes that their clients make that cost them money and prevent them from succeeding at trade shows. Believe me . . . they want your trade show marketing to be wildly successful. That way you’ll add more shows to your schedule, you’ll purchase new exhibits, and you’ll tap into their services.

2. Work with Independent Consultants. Like any industry, the trade show industry has seasoned independent consultants who want to share their advice for a fee. Some are generalists. Others specialize in booth staff training or ROI measuring or social media marketing or lead generation or overall trade show marketing. They know their stuff. They are paid to know their stuff. Don’t know who they are? Ask your exhibit house or use this niffy tool called Google. That said . . . always get references and do your homework.

3. Become an Expert. You can either continue to whine or you can take classes at EXHIBITOR or the E2MA Red Diamond Congress. There are hundreds of classes each year on every imaginable topic related to trade shows and trade show marketing. The classes are a great place to meet industry professionals and share your successes and failures with colleagues. For such a big industry, it’s actually a very small community.

No one can know everything. And what’s true for marketing automation software or social media advertising is also true for trade shows. Know what you don’t know and for everything else, seek help.

Article Author:

Mel White
Classic Exhibits Inc.

Standard USA Booth Regulations and Types

Standard Booth Regulations (USA)

There are four types of booth configurations: Standard/Linear, Perimeter Wall, Peninsula, and Island. The following booth display rules are typical for U.S. Trade Shows and Convention Halls. However, regulations vary by convention center and even within show halls. Contact show management for specific regulations.

Standard/Linear Booth (10′ depth)

Any booth that shares a common back wall and abuts other exhibits on one or two sides.

Maximum height is 8′. This 8′ height may be maintained on the sidewall of your booth up to a distance of 5′ from the front aisle. The remaining length of the sidewall may be no higher than 4′.

A corner booth is a linear booth exposed to aisle on two sides. All other guidelines for linear booths apply.

Note:  Hanging signs are not permitted over standard/linear booths.

Perimeter Wall Booth (10′ depth)

A standard/linear booth found on the perimeter walls of the exhibit floor.

The maximum height is 12′. This 12′ height may be maintained on the sidewalls of your booth up to a distance of S’ from the front aisle. The remaining length of the sidewall may be no
higher than 4′.

Note:  Hanging signs are not permitted over perimeter wall booths.

 

Peninsula Booth

Any exhibit 20′ x 20′ or larger with a depth from the common back wall to the aisle of at least 20′ and with aisles on three sides. There are two types of Peninsula Booths:  (a) one that backs up to Linear Booths, and (b) one that backs p to another Peninsula Booth and is referred to as a “Split Island Booth.”

For all peninsula booths, the exterior of the back wall must be plainly finished and may not contain booth identification, logos or advertisements.

If backed by a row of standard/linear booths, the back wall may be no higher than 4′ for a distance of 5′ from either side aisle and 20′ high in the center of the back wall. These height restrictions must be maintained for a distance of 10′ from the back wall.

Where two (2) peninsula booths share a common back wall (“split Island”), the maximum height may be 20′ in all areas of the booth, including the back wall (same as Island Booth rules, below).

Note:  Hanging signs are permitted over peninsula booths that are 20′ x 20′ or larger.

 

Island Booth

Any exhibit 20′ x 20′ or larger and is surrounded by aisles on four sides.

Regulations vary by exhibit hall but the following are typical examples:  Maximum height of 30′ in all areas of your booth allowed in North Hall and Central Halls 3-5. Maximum height of 20′ in all areas of your booth is allowed in Central Halls 1-2. Maximum height of 22′ in all areas of your booth allowed in South Halls. No limitations on the number of solid walls for your Island booth. Be sure to check the hall regulations.

Note:  Hanging signs are permitted above island booths.

 

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

Canopies and Ceilings

Canopies, including ceilings, umbrellas and canopy frames, can be either decorative or functional (such as to shade computer monitors from ambient light or for hanging products). Canopies for Linear or Perimeter Booths should comply with line-of-sight requirements.

The bottom of the canopy should not be lower than 7 ft. (2.13m) from the floor within 5 ft. (l.52m) of any aisle. Canopy supports should be no wider than three inches 3 in.(08m). This applies to any booth configuration that has a sight line restriction, such as a Linear Booth. Fire and safety regulations in many facilities strictly govern the use of canopies, ceilings, and other similar coverings. Check with the appropriate local agencies prior to determining specific exhibition rules.

Covered ceiling structures or enclosed rooms, including tents or canopies, shall have one smoke detector placed on the ceiling for every 900 square feet.

Hanging Signs and Graphics

Hanging signs and graphics are permitted upon approval in all standard Peninsula, Island and Split Island Booths, with a maximum height of sixteen feet (16 ft.)(4.87m) to the top of the sign as measured from the floor

Whether suspended from above or supported from below, they should comply with all ordinary use-of-space requirements (for example, the highest point of any sign may not exceed the maximum allowable height for the booth type). Double-sided hanging signs and graphics shall be set back ten feet (10 ft.)(3.05m) from adjacent booths and be directly over contracted space only.

Theatrical Truss and Lighting

Ceiling-supported theatrical truss and lighting are permitted in all standard Peninsula, Island and Spilt Island Booths to a maximum height of twenty feet (20 ft.)(6.1m) where ceiling permits. Ground-supported truss may not exceed the maximum allowable height for the booth type. Logos or graphics are not permitted over the sixteen-foot (l6fl)(4.87m) height restriction and must have four feet (4 ft.)(1.22m) of separation from the top of the sign to the top of the truss.

Exhibitors should adhere to the following suggested minimum guidelines when determining booth lighting:

  • No lighting, fixtures, lighting trusses or overhead lighting is allowed outside the boundaries of the exhibit space.
  • Exhibitors intending to use hanging light systems must submit drawings for approval by the published deadline date.
  • Lighting must be directed to the inner confines of the booth space. Lighting must comply with facility rules.
  • Lighting which Is potentially harmful, such as lasers or ultraviolet lighting, should comply with facility rules and be approved in writing by exhibition management.
  • Lighting that spins, rotates, pulsates, and other specialized lighting effects should be in good taste and not interfere with neighboring Exhibitors or otherwise detract from the general atmosphere of the event.
  • Reduced lighting for theater areas should be approved by the exhibition organizer, the utility provider, and the exhibit facility.

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

Article Author:

Mel White

10 Tips for Any Trade Show Newbie

Trade shows can intimidate anyone new to exhibit marketing. The best course is to dive into the pool. The following tips — from the shallow end of the pool — will get you started. When it’s time to swim laps, review the other 50+ Trade Show Articlesguaranteed to turn you into Michael Phelps (or Mark Spitz for those of us with grey hair).

10 Tips for any Trade Show Novice 

1. A trade show is neither a vacation nor a death sentence. Although it may feel like a death sentence during teardown.

2. Be nice to the labor. They can solve most problems or create headaches. The Golden Rule applies until they piss you off. When they do, contact your I&D labor provider or show management. Also, the laborer(s) in your booth didn’t write the hall rules. If you disagree with the rules, contact your I&D labor provider or show management.

3. Breath mints are more valuable than gold or platinum at a trade show.

4. Comfortable shoes are more valuable than breath mints, unless you are wearing comfortable shoes and chatting with someone who clearly needs a 3 lb. breath mint.

5. Rule of Three — This is a sad but true fact regarding labor at most trade shows. If three people are assigned to your booth, one person will be a star, one person will be average, one person will be a dufus. Hire nine people and you’re guaranteed to have three stars and three dufasses. Sometimes you get lucky, and the ratio works in your favor. Sometimes not (I could name show halls where this is guaranteed to happen, but I’d have to check under my hood every time I start my car).

6. No two shows are the same. Think of each show as a first date. Look your best and do your homework about the show, the attendees, and your competitors.

7. Every exhibitor has a “Joe.” He drinks too much, gambles too much, and wanders too much. He’s like the explorer Ferdinand Magellan, constantly circumnavigating the show hall. About a half a dozen times a day, you’ll wonder what happened to Joe. Five minutes ago he was sucking down his third espresso, leaning on the counter, and ogling anything with two X chromosomes. Suddenly he’s gone . . . again.

8. Be ruthless about evaluating your show graphics. Everything else is secondary. Replace them BEFORE they need to be replaced.

9. I Bet You 50 Bucks You’ll Forget One of the Following:  wire management for the exhibit, cleaning supplies, business cards, belt (happens to me at least twice year . . . two belts in Las Vegas = one mortgage payment), lip balm (again, crazy, ridiculously expensive in Vegas), phone charger, your moral compass.

10. FINALLY, work with professionals, whether it’s a graphic designer, an exhibit consultant, or a certified trade show manager. Trade show exhibit marketing is a craft learned the hard way through trial and error.  It’s easy to burn through a lot of money before you finally figure out what works and what doesn’t work. Don’t stumble through a year or two of mistakes when you can rely on experts who can save you time, money, and embarrassment.

Bonus Tip:  For goodness sake, get some fresh air and a little sunshine once in awhile! Your mood will improve by a 1000 percent. And just once, put on the workout gear you bring to every show, put in the dresser drawer, and repack (unused) in your suitcase. Exercise is good.

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.

What Not to Wear (at a Trade Show)

Are They Really Wearing That? 

I’m no fashion expert. The yellow sweater I wear all winter is a dead giveaway. But you don’t have to be a member of the fashion police to spot these faux pas. Wear what you want if you’re an attendee, but as an exhibitor, you may want to consider these suggestions.

Men

New Shoes — Who hasn’t made this mistake and regretted it? After all, you want to look your best so you purchase new shoes. They look great, but they hurt like hell after Day 1. By Day 3, your blisters have blisters. Shoe Rule #2 – Take a little initiative sport and shine those puppies. Or at least get them shined at the airport while you’re waiting for your plane. It’s cheap even with a generous tip. Shoe Rule #3 – The belt is supposed to match the shoes guys! A brown belt with black shoes? Your mother would be appalled.

Golf Clothing — Here’s the easy way to decide on golf clothing. If it looks great on the golf course, it looks silly at a trade show. I don’t care if it’s the latest high-tech, super-duper sweat-wicking material. It’s still golf clothing. Now there are exceptions to every rule, such as a sports-related show, but in general, just remember there’s a reason why Fortune 500 executives don’t wear golf shirts and slacks to negotiate multi-million dollar deals.

Slacks — If your pants have a drawstring and elastic ankle cuffs, DON”T WEAR THEM. You can pretend they’re fashion fleece or casual Sansabelt pants all you want. Everyone else knows they’re sweats.

Slacks (cont.) — We all pretend we haven’t gained weight. But we have. Don’t wait until 7 am on the first day of the show to discover your pants don’t fit or they have that telltale “V” pucker between the waist and zipper. Unless I missed something important in Biology class, blood flow is important.

Women

Shoes — For some reason, which I’ll never fully understand, women love to punish themselves. Even more than men, they wear new shoes to the show, and then do the unthinkable by wearing high heels with pointy toes. Ladies, and I say this with all seriousness, you’re beautiful. High heel shoes do not make you more beautiful. If you are angling for a freak with a high heal foot fetish, take out a personal ad (SWF seeks MHHFFF).

Pantyhose — Another medieval torture device invented to punish women.

Perfume/Cologne — Do you remember the dirt cloud that surrounded Pigpen in the Peanuts cartoon? Some women (and some men) wear the fragrance equivalent by dousing themselves in perfume. Perfume should be alluring, not painful. Here’s a tip for applying the proper amount:  rub on only one free sample from the magazine.

Undies — Let’s just say that if you feel the need to make adjustments more than twice a day, you are probably wearing the wrong underwear.

Earrings — I’m going to catch some heat on this one. Let me be clear. Earrings are fine, but if your ears look like a Claire’s Accessories rack, you may want to remove 6-8 pairs. Lips, tongue, nose, eyebrow, and skull piercings are a matter of personal preference, corporate policy, and cult affiliation.

Pockets — Just the opposite actually. Men always have pockets. As an exhibitor, you need pockets for business cards, pens, trinkets, breath mints, etc. I’m not talking about a safari jacket with 37 pockets, but a dress jacket or skirt with two pockets will make your life much easier in the booth.

My sincere thanks to the fashion forward exhibitors at EXHIBITORLIVE for their suggestions, some of which cannot be printed without an R or X rating. Suffice to say that the term “cleavage” was a contentious topic between men and women. What did we miss? We’d love to hear your “What Not to Wear” suggestions and comments.

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.

What’s the Expiration Date of Your Trade Show Display?

Has Your Exhibit Passed Its Freshness Date? 

Trade show displays, like yogurt and milk, have expiration dates. While it may not be printed on the box, it’s not hard to spot one that’s starting to spoil. Here are 20 Clues it’s time to buy a new exhibit.

You Know It’s Starting to Smell When . . .

1. Graphics are attached with Velcro to a fabric backwall. While that may be OK for a FFA display at the county fair, it’s no longer acceptable at a professional trade show.

2. I&D won’t touch your property without hazardous duty pay. When show labor has to don hazmat suits before starting an install, that’s not a good sign.

3. Duct tape is an important design element. And you’re excited it now comes in designer colors — Baja Blue and Desert Sunset Yellow.

4. When your booth was purchased, a quarter could transform your hotel bed into Vibrating Magic Fingers. Ahhhhhh!

5. Attendees compliment the “vintage” theme of your booth and graphics. “Very retro!”

6. You decide to re-print your graphics and hand the graphic designer a floppy disk.

7. There are more “just in case” parts than actual display parts.

8. The shipping labels have added 50 pounds to the weight.

9. You lust over the two $99 banner stands in the adjacent booth.

10. The No Questions Asked Lifetime Warranty has expired.

11. It smells like the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Even Fabreze can’t kill that odor.

12. You found your distributor by flipping through the Yellow Pages of the phone book.

13. Your storage costs have exceeded your purchase price by a factor of 10.

14. Your graphics have a “Happy Days” theme, and the Fonz is still your unofficial spokesperson. “Ayyyyyyy!”

15. Someone tagged your crate with the Rolling Stones tongue graphic (and you think that’s cool).

16. It folds and weighs more than an AMC Gremlin.

17. Children flee in terror as if they’ve just seen a circus clown.

18. Your competitors gush over your booth . . . . “Don’t Change a Thing! Seriously, Not a Single Thing!”

19. You found a “Win a Free Palm Pilot” Promotional Flyer in the case.

20. Your boss says, “By golly, it was good enough for Old Joe, bless his heart and God rest his soul.”

If you answered “Yes” to any of these, put your display in the compost bin. How do you determine the expiration date of a trade show display?

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.

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.

13 Common Trade Show Mistakes

Mistakes happen whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned veteran, but you can avoid the 13 Most Common Trade Show Mistakes. So, let’s take a few minutes, while your competitors are reading about Lindsey Lohan or watching reruns of Jersey Shore, to super-size your trade show marketing skills.

1. Going Too Big 

We all think we’re the big dog on the block, but we’re not. If you’re new to trade show marketing, starting with an inline 10 x 10 or 10 x 20 may make more sense. You learn what works — from graphics to display configurations — before investing in an island exhibit. For example, you’d be surprised how many folks think they need an enclosed conference room only to discover that their clients are more comfortable with an informal meeting area.

Most organizations participate in multiple trade shows each year. There’s usually a pecking order to those shows where some are more important than others. It may not make sense to “go big” at the secondary trade shows, when you could invest that money in your main show (where you’ll generate more leads and kick the bejesus out of your competitors).

2. Going Too Small

In general, smaller exhibits get less traffic than larger exhibits, if for no other reason than location. Bigger exhibits typically are centrally located, closer to the entrance, and along the main aisles.  However, the largest benefit of bigger exhibits is square footage and height. Island exhibits can include presentation area(s), multiple kiosks, seating areas, ample storage, large format graphics, overhead signage, product displays. While these are still possible in inline displays, the space limits how much can be done.

There’s a school of thought that says, “At the very least, match the square footage of your main competitors.” Here’s another idea . . . determine what you want to accomplish at the show and what it will take to exceed those goals, and then design a booth that achieves them. It’s not rocket science folks.

3. No Specific Goals

For whatever reason, some companies are on autopilot when it comes to their trade show marketing. If you ask them what they want to accomplish, their response it usually “increase sales” or “generate more leads.” Really? If those are your only goals, then you might as well toss in “World Peace” and “Ending Global Hunger” too.

Chances are your trade show goals coincide with your overall marketing goals. The skill to execute them in a 3D face-to-face environment. That’s where working with a knowledgeable exhibit professional makes all the difference. Just because you are a superstar at marketing, it doesn’t mean you know diddly about trade show marketing or exhibit design. A smart trade show professional will spend much of their time asking you what you want to accomplish.

4. Cluttered Graphics

Think back to the bulletin boards in your elementary school classroom. Does that memory make you smile? That’s very sweet . . . now do exactly the opposite for your trade show graphics. All that clutter may have been perfect for developing minds hyped up on Elmer’s glue and Crayola crayons, but our older brains can’t process that much information in 3-4 seconds. We need clear, straight-forward messages. That doesn’t mean your graphics can’t be colorful, witty, and creative. They just can’t be thematic chaos. The message should state who you are, what you do, and what problem you are solving in less than 4 seconds. Everything else is just pretty paper on a package. We like the pretty paper, but we like what’s in the package a whole lot more.

5. Giveaways for the Sake of Giveaways

It’s funny how free pens, stress balls, and rulers can give us an inferiority complex. They have them. We don’t, so we feel like a second-class citizen on the trade show floor. At the next trade show, we have trinkets, and we spend half our time giving them away just to justify having them in the first place. Don’t get me wrong. I like free stuff. But the free stuff better have a purpose. A bank that gives away nifty calculators. Smart. The chiropractor who gives away a pen shaped like a spine. Also smart. But when a software company gives away plastic water bottles. What’s the point?

The same rules apply for prizes or drawings. The drawing should create a buzz at the show, and should serve as a mechanism to engage potential clients in conversation. Fish bowls where attendees drop off business cards to win an iPod attract leads, but not quality leads. Do you really want a stack of unqualified leads for your sales team to sort through? Probably not.

6. Booth Staff Not Trained

I know you’re telling yourself,  “My staff knows the products and they know the company, why should I have to train them?” True. Now recall the last time you went to the mall to shop. Those employees knew the products and they knew the company. Did you feel like you received exceptional service. Did they approach you promptly, ask you open-ended questions, listen, and show you exactly what you wanted? Probably not.

Training before the show and before the show opens each day ensures that everyone understands the mission, that everyone knows their role, and that everyone gets their questions answered. Think of a trade show as a job interview. Every person who walks in the booth is deciding whether to hire you (or not).

7. Poor Follow Up on Leads

Why would you bring your own rope to your hanging? And, yet, the vast majority of exhibitors spend considerable cash preparing and participating in a trade show and then neglect the leads they gathered at the show. Well, either they don’t value the leads or there’s no plan on how to handle the leads. Most of the time it’s the latter. What’s the saying, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

8. No Daily Booth Preparation

When your in-laws come to town, you spend days cleaning, organizing, and stressing over dust bunnies. Three days later, you don’t care anymore. There are dirty dishes piled in sink and clothes draped over the recliner. The same scenario happens for most exhibitors. They polish and preen for hours before the show opens, and then by Day Two, they ignore the smudges, the carpet boogies, and the stray candy wrappers.

Every day is a new day in Exhibit-Land. Like Disneyworld, it’s gotta look perfect before the guests arrive. Assign that task to someone every day and create a checklist. Otherwise, it won’t get done, or the person with initiative will do it and resent it.

9. Partying and Socializing

It’s a trade show. You’re suppose to socialize and party during the off hours. But . . . and here’s the BIG BUT . . . you need to be smart about it. First, you’re on company time. Even when you think you’re not on company time, you’re on company time. That’s just the way it is. If the company expects you to socialize with clients, then socialize and be on your best behavior. If someone has to tell you what that means, then you shouldn’t be socializing with clients.

Second, trade shows may seem like a friendly gathering, and they can be, but they are actually a competition. What you say, where you say it, and who’s around when you say it, can have painful repercussions for you and your employer. We are all on high alert for hints, innuendos, and outright gossip about our competitors. It’s amazing what someone will tell you, or someone next to your will reveal, after a few drinks.

Finally, and this should go without saying, socializing should not interfere with your show responsibilities. Pace yourself cowboys and cowgirls. Showing up at the booth sweating tequila (no matter how good the tequila was) isn’t attractive.

10. Packing and Unpacking

I know. You’re tired, and you want to get back to your room, the airport, or home. That’s understandable. We all feel that way. But how you unpack or pack your booth will make your life much easier or much harder. You know deep down in your heart that it’s the right thing to do. Ultimately, the key to any successful trade show is planning and organization.Your exhibit is no exception.

Carefully unpacking the exhibit and organizing the packaging materials makes the assembly go faster and the repacking much easier.  You eliminate the head scratching that invariably occurs at the end of the show. When you take the time to repack the exhibit right, you ensure that the exhibit arrives at the next destination in good condition and ready for the next show. Think of your exhibit as yarn. You have a choice. You can either toss the loose yarn in the case and hope for the best. Or you can wind it carefully into a ball.

11. Participating in the Wrong Shows (not participating in the right shows)

This one is tough. Too often, you never know until you participate. It’s kinda like “Mystery Date” where you don’t know if the person on the other side of the door is “dreamy” or a “dude.” The best advice is to ask your suppliers or strategic partners who may participate in the same show. What’s their take on the trade show and has it been beneficial? If possible, ask for specifics such as lead numbers, sales from the show, and promotional ideas. What works and what doesn’t work.

In the end, you have to decide based on your own experience. Sometimes the show would have been better if only you had done this or that. That’s fine. You’ll make the adjustment next year. Other times, it wasn’t a good fit because you’re selling candy at a diabetics convention.

What you don’t want to do is allow tradition or momentum to dictate whether you participate. Just because you have (or haven’t) gone every year, shouldn’t determine whether you go or don’t go this year. Take the time to evaluate your marketing goals and determine whether the show contributes to those goals. If it does, then go.

12. Not Walking the Show and Talking to Competitors, Suppliers, and Potential Partners

It’s tempting to just hang out in your booth. After all, it’s safe and comfortable. But trade shows are two way streets. Potential customers are there to learn and discover new products, services, and suppliers. You’re there to work with those customers . . . but you’re also there to learn and discover as well.

Every show is an opportunity to improve your “game.” What are your competitors showing? What are they saying? Are there any new products or services which would benefit your company? Are there trends you’ve overlooked and need to study and implement?

No one is asking you to spy, but friendly conversation goes a long way with friends and foes alike. It’s all in your attitude and your approach. Don’t be afraid to say “Hello!” and ask how the show is going. You want to be seen as warm and friendly, and not as a medieval fortress with the drawbridge closed. Obviously the same rules apply as the “Party and Socialize” section — namely, you need to be smart about what you share (and don’t share).

13. No Pre-show Marketing

This may be last, but it’s certainly not least. In some ways, it should be #1 if only to get your attention. There’s no reason, absolutely no reason (unless you want to fail) not to have a pre-show marketing plan. You can spend a little, or you can spend a lot. At a minimum, you should contact your customers to see if they are attending the show. What they tell you may influence what you bring to the show and what you feature in your graphics.

Beyond that, the opportunities are limited only by your imagination and your budget:  from pre-show mailings and emails to advertising and contests, and from show sponsorships to industry press releases. You already spend much of your time trying to attract attention to your company throughout the year. Take that energy and creativity and apply it to your trade show marketing. If there was ever a venue for taking risks, it’s a trade show. The conservative, Namby Pamby approach rarely works in trade show marketing.

Be bold and beautiful my friend. The show starts in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

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.

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.