An obvious advantage of exhibiting at a trade show is that you get to meet customers one-on-one. While it’s true that digital marketing has its strengths, it lacks the reassurance of face-to-face interaction with customers.
Exhibiting at trade shows negates the risk of your business being perceived as a faceless entity. Customers and prospective leads get to interact with your team, ask questions and try out your products.
Additionally, trade shows provide an ideal platform to strengthen your brand and boost visibility. Think about it. Industry experts form a large chunk of trade show attendees, and they are always on the lookout for exciting products and services.
This factor makes trade shows invaluable promotional avenues, especially if your business operates in a specialized and highly competitive niche. The best part is that every brand in the tradeshow gets equal access to this lucrative market regardless of investment or exhibit size.
Finally, your competitors are probably secretive, especially when it concerns flagship products and proprietary services. Guess what? Exhibiting at a trade show allows you to check out your competition and to accurately assess your place in the industry.
The information you gather will also improve your product and service catalog. But that’s not all. You can avoid pitfalls and costly mistakes by learning from competitors struggling to attract customers. In short, trade shows provide a rare fact-finding opportunity.
How Can You Be an Effective Trade Show Exhibitor?
Step 1: Research and find trade shows that fit your business.
You can’t waste valuable time participating in trade shows that will draw low numbers of your target audience. It’s why thorough research is a crucial part of the process; it helps you narrow down to trade shows relevant to your industry.
Moreover, setting measurable goals and objectives becomes much easier once you understand the details of a specific trade show. It’s easy to see why partnering with a trade show coach is advisable at this stage.
Step 2: Plan and budget for the trade show
Failing to plan and budget for a trade show is setting yourself up for failure. As mentioned, trade shows are resource intensive. You need an airtight plan to ensure the best ROI for your business.
Proper planning allows you to address critical issues such as budget allocation, picking the right exhibits, capturing leads, and optimizing booth traffic. Remember, splurging on a trade show doesn’t guarantee success.
Step 3: Create a booth that is eye-catching and inviting
Attracting prospective leads to your booth increases your chances of successful conversions. However, engaging prospects at a trade show is easier said than done.
Not only is competition stiff, but decisional fatigue drastically lowers attendee interest as the trade show progresses. This is where effective booth design comes in. Your exhibit design should pull in your prospects, spark their curiosity, and hold their attention long enough for you to make your pitch.
For example, your lighting set-up, product choice, booth type and layout will pull customers to your booth.
In all fairness, conceptualizing and executing an eye-catching booth design can be a frustrating experience. It’s a primary reason why almost all brands with trade show experience insist on consulting with professionals for the best results.
Step 4: Train your staff on how to best interact with potential customers
Your booth staff could be an ace up your sleeve or the weakest link. It comes down to the quality of training they receive in interacting with potential customers.
While you can carry out the training yourself, getting help from a trade show coach is in your best interest. They will take out the guesswork by leveraging their vast experience to formulate a robust training plan.
For example, a coach can help your team learn to maintain professionalism and be aware of their body language while engaging with customers.
Step 5: Follow up with potential customers after the trade show.
Capturing leads during the trade show should be a major priority for your business. Since most attendees will give you their contact information (if you have a good offer to exchange for their contact info), a quick follow-up makes you stand out from your competitors, increasing your chance of nurturing productive business relationships.
While you might not land a sale with your first attempt, you’ll have a better chance of encouraging prospects to progress through your sales pipeline after the trade show.
What Are Some Common Mistakes Made by Exhibitors at Trade Shows?
Not preparing enough
Fact: Poor planning is why most trade show participants fail to meet their goals. Pre-show planning is crucial, given the stiff competition from established brands in your industry.
It would be best if you had a foolproof strategy and a backup plan that covers every possibility during the event. For instance, your strategy should have key performance indicators that define what you expect to achieve from the exhibition and a reliable system of measuring your definition of success.
In short, a solid plan acts as a road map that points to the right direction allowing you to focus your resources on defining and meeting your objectives.
Not knowing the show’s requirements
Taking time to understand the requirements of a trade show will save you a lot of trouble. It’s common for organizers to suspend exhibitors for overlooking event requirements.
Going through a long list of dos and don’ts is the least exciting part of planning for a trade show, but it sets you up for success. For example, you can fine-tune your staff’s training and exhibition strategy using your knowledge of a show’s requirements.
Not knowing the industry
You shouldn’t sign up for a trade show unless you have a firm understanding of current industry trends. The best pre-show planning and staff training won’t save your exhibit if your target audience isn’t interested in your products and services.
Knowing the ins and out of your industry allows you to better prepare for the trade show by designing products and services that cater to attendees’ needs.
Not knowing the competition
While the primary focus at an exhibition is expanding your customer base through networking with potential clients, you should take advantage of the opportunity to take stock of your competition.
Don’t just sit in your booth. Instead, take advantage of slow hours to explore the trading floor and check out your competitors’ offerings. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose.
Otherwise, you risk missing out on new technology, emerging trends, and innovative industry solutions.
Not preparing a demo
Trade shows are a show-and-tell affair: attendees expect to interact with your products and services. Therefore, not preparing a demo drastically lowers your chances of pulling in prospects.
Due to the number of exhibitors at most shows, attendees are spoiled for choice. You need a demo that grabs your prospects’ attention and pulls them to your booth, allowing you to make your pitch.
Lacking a demo makes highlighting the benefits of your products and services to potential customers an impossible task.
Not having a booth plan
Booth layouts play a huge part in promoting products and services at a trade show. A well-thought-out booth plan enhances your ability to attract prospects and keep them moving through your exhibit set-up.
On the flip side, an unorganized booth gives tradeshow attendees a negative first impression of your brand.
Not having a budget
Exhibiting your products and services at a trade show is a costly undertaking. It’s why drafting a realistic budget is crucial to your success. A realistic budget allows you to plan for all expenditures, including unexpected costs that might crop up during the event.
Moreover, you’ll need a budget to make the most of your finances by balancing your expenditure. Otherwise, you might make costly mistakes like investing heavily in booth design at the expense of proper training for your booth staff.
Not having a marketing plan
Pre-show marketing is important since feedback from your audience will help you gauge the level of interest in the show and give you an idea of what your attendees expect. You won’t be able to capitalize on this information unless you have a marketing plan.
Additionally, not having a marketing plan limits your ability to leverage advertising avenues to draw attention to your brand’s participation in the exhibition.
Not knowing the format of the show
Understanding a trade show’s format allows you to plan your exhibits and maximize your ROI. Are you signing up for an industry expo, a consumer expo, or a consumer and industry trade show?
Each trade show format has unique requirements and attendee profiles. Therefore, understanding each format helps you effectively promote your products and services.
Not understanding the show’s layout
Most trade show organizers offer structured exhibition floor plans. Understanding the layout of a trade show allows you to maximize traffic by picking an ideal location for your booth.
Disregarding a show’s layout may negatively impact your exhibition. For instance, you might go for a flashy fortress booth only to realize customers aren’t drawn to it since it’s located behind your main competitors.