When planning a show, the one topic that comes up the most is what to giveaway. Gone are the days when giving away an iPad was a huge draw. People will still drop their name in a hat to win one, but it does not have the appeal it used too.
What’s the real mystery behind what the best giveaway gift anyway? Is the trick to offer a new electronic gadget to get people to your booth, or are you OK with doing what everyone else is doing? What should you be thinking about for the next giveaway?
What’s your Objective?
If you giveaway 4 iPad’s or the latest technology gadget, you will attract crowds, but at what cost? Some exhibitors know how to position themselves to offer the right gift, while keeping their costs low. Exhibitors should ask themselves if they are there to educate, help potential customers or simply lure crowds with the hopes that one or two people will actually turn into an opportunity.
What’s the purpose behind the giveaway?
Are you going to give away freebies to increase memorability or give away items that might end up in the trash? Giveaways aren’t cheap and some visitors have been known to stop by to pick up items as toys for their kids.
Promotional items are often looked at as a dime a dozen, but the company behind the items invested heavenly into buying those items. If you are exhibiting at a show where the attendance is over ten thousand visitors, do the math. Treat each giveaway as investment and figure out what the purpose behind each giveaway is for. Will visitors have something that they can remember you by or will it just end up in a pile of junk after the show?
Treat Giveaways as an Invitation
Use Social media to announce your participation and how you will help solve their problem, and not use Facebook or Twitter to toot what prize you are offering. If you are still want to give a hint of what you are offering, sign up for the show marketing opportunities and display an image of a prize you are offering instead.
Don’t Make it Easy
Do you think show organizers giveaway high-end prizes just by picking a name out of a hat? No, they make attendees work for it. If winning a car was easy as dropping their name in a jar what good is the gift if they can’t work for it? Some exhibitors team up with other booths to do scavenger hunts where attendees have to visit certain booths to get a stamp to win a prize. If you do something like this, make the prize worth it or attendees will get lost in the shuffle.
After Show Effectiveness
Evaluate each giveaway to find its effectiveness after the show. Was certain giveaways treated as a throw away or did attendees complement each prize? Will they remember your brand?
What is the definition to achieving trade show success? Some might argue that it comes down to budget, biggest booth or even the design itself, but there many elements that go into achieving a successful showing. You might hear there are secrets or tricks you need to carry out, but these days, trying to take short cuts could spell failure if you don’t plan early or have a unique selling proposition.
What are some dummy-proof tips to achieve trade show success?
Choosing the Best Show in Your Industry
Not every show is what is cracked-up to be and some exhibitors can leave a show with a bad taste in their mouth if they feel they paid too much for a low return. Do your due diligence before-hand and research who will be attending, are they decision makers and if the show is niche-specific. Most show organizers will supply a list from the previous show to show the types of customers that will attend that particular show. Study it to make sure it’s the type of customers you are looking for to showcase your products and services.
What’s your goal?
What is your “why” for exhibiting in the first place? Are you there to get more leads or are you there to get more orders? Some companies go with the hopes of obtaining hundreds of leads, but every lead is not what it seems. You can get over a thousand leads and most may not turn into a sale. Be clear about what you hope to do financially so you have more concrete goals instead of hoping for the best.
Budget, Budget, Budget
What is your ROI that you hope to gain exhibiting at a trade show? Most, if not all companies should plan a budget 6 months to a year in advance. If you want to attend a more popular show, then you might budget to spend a little more for extra exposure, while at a smaller show, the costs would be less. Exhibiting isn’t cheap and you will incur unsuspecting costs if you aren’t careful. Determine what you hope to do and how much profit you expect to get in return. The worst scenario is paying too much at a show with little or no return on your investment.
Plan Marketing Early
This shouldn’t be something you don’t already know, but planning late is suicide. There will be hundreds of companies exhibiting at the same time as you and they all want exposure too. Making the mistake to not market your company early can result in low returns and less crowds to your booth.
You might have a great booth site, but if your message and lack of planning don’t happen early, it might not matter much. Announce early that you will be exhibiting to registered attendees (if allowed) and tell them why they should visit your booth. Are you offering a reward or discount towards a product if they come by? Give visitors a reason why they should visit your booth along with your booth number and use every Social Media outlet to broadcast your business.
Build an effective Trade Show Display
You only get once chance to make a first impression and looks do matter. These days, booths are getting more and more advanced with gadgets and flashing signs to draw you in. Everything from your graphics to the display itself has to communicate who you are, what you do and how you will help them. Does your message communicate value, reliability or trust? Or does it look more like a sales pitch? Work with a consultant to help define the call-to-action you hope to convey to maximize your trade show budget.
Put or Shut up
Training and sending the right staff members for each show is crucial. Do they know the product well? Can they answer technical questions or are they simply delivering a “sales pitch”? Customers will come to your booth thinking you are the expert to answer complicated questions. Not having the right people in your booth can cause potential customers to leave without the right answers. Attendees come to trade shows looking for solutions to their problem, make sure you have the answers.
Even if you have the best booth, if your staff is not dressed accordingly, it can leave a bad taste in an attendee’s mouth. People are critical and look at everything you do from booth display, down to what you wear. Your staff attire should convey a sense of professionalism even if they don’t wear a suit at work. Have your staff wear the same shirts to create a unique consistent look with your booth. This minimizes what people think they have to wear and avoid a staff member showing up in a wrinkled shirt.
Follow up Marketing
After a show, attendees will be inundated with the same “general” message crammed in their inbox whether it’s the opening line or closing statement. Figure out a way to stand out without appearing too pushy. This is when attendees go on “shut-down” mode and either respond or ignore. Follow up only with the information attendees requested to stay relevant and get a response. If they requested a demo, make sure you give them the information they want. Replying with a general message will categorize you along with everyone else as junk mail.
When you are planning your next trade show, business travel is possibly the one part of exhibiting most hate. If you have a small booth, sending 6 staffers, isn’t a good idea, but what happens if you have a larger booth? Staffing is the biggest headache of show travel and making sure you stay under budget is crucial. It could cost anywhere from $1500 to $2,000 per person with airfare, hotel and food. Below are 6 tips to help keep your budget under wraps for the next show:
Use Temporary Staffers
Temporary staffers are fast-becoming a great resource and back up for companies wanting to scale back on staffing too many employees at their booth. A Temp staffer is very familiar and use to the trade show environment. They will work harder to put their best foot-forward and bring visitors into your booth, where employees might not feel incentivized to step outside of their comfort zone. A staffer’s sole role is to represent your product and services. There are many companies with staffers in multiple industries to help with your business needs.
Send Local Employees
Not everyone has local offices across the US, but if you have employees that work remotely and live close, you could save thousands on hotel and airfare fee. Sending employees that are more centrally located to an event will help you stay within your budget and cut how many real staffers is really needed for each show.
Booth Hotel Reservations Early
Every show has some type of discounted hotel pricing for you to choose from. If you are conscientious about your budget, picking a hotel twenty to thirty minutes away will only incur car rental or taxis fees in the long run. Some hotels will offer free shuttle to and from the airport, which could save you hundreds if you are sending a large staff to an event. The discounted rate might not seem like a discount to your budget, but hotel rooms can always be negotiated if you are booking a block of rooms of 6 or more. Avoid calling the reservation department because they will not help you.
Consider Shared Rooms
This probably wouldn’t be the first choice for any staffer attending a show, but more companies are doing this. You might be met with opposition with this option, but you can offer employees an incentive if shared-housing is agreed upon. You can upgrade their room and give a Per-Diem for dinner at the show. This option will not only save you thousands, but will also make way for other staffers to attend if your booth is larger than before.
Plan Group Meals
Food and drinks end up being one of the most over-looked expenses at a trade show. Rather than hoping and praying that everyone stayed under budget, call ahead and reserve a table at a local restaurant for your team. It’s a great way for team building and you can ask for a special menu for your employees to choose from. This will help curve orders for expensive meals and keep your tab under budget. Just be watchful for the alcohol consumption. Another thing to watch for is taking clients out to eat. Dinner is very expensive, while lunch might be better suited.
Stick to Shuttles and Not Taxi’s
Most if not all airports offer some type of shuttle service to your hotel. Check with your hotel to see if they offer Free Shuttles or call ahead and reserve your shuttle to and from the airport. A shuttle can average $17 round-trip, depending on the city, but could save you hundreds for each employee attending. If you get stuck in traffic when you arrive, a simple taxi ride can go from $25 to $60 just one way. If you must take a taxi, find out what the distance is from your hotel to decipher if that is the best route for you.
Have you ever attended a trade show and wondered why a particular booth seemed off? Maybe it was the design of the booth or the banners used; sometimes people pick the wrong message. Or what if it was the booth layout itself? Choosing the booth layout is as important as the booth size you pick. It is not to say that you have to choose the biggest layout and shell out thousands in the process, but if your layout choice is off, it could mean no crowds or very little interaction period.
How do you make sure that the booth layout you pick is the right for your business and avoid common pitfalls?
Choosing the right size
Does size really matter? That usually depends on how much you are willing to invest, but it doesn’t mean that you can take advantage of design features that can give you that “wow” factor. Designing a backdrop that delivers great messaging can bring in crowds if your message targets a specific need. Just because your booth is a 10 x 10 doesn’t mean that your booth won’t make an impact. Make the most of lighting, backdrops and minimal space. Design a booth that invites people in, not keep them out.
Choosing your booth space early
You know that old saying, “early bird gets the worm”, right? That couldn’t be farther from the truth when you are choosing your booth location. Some might think that “Design” trumps location, but that would greatly depend on the show’s layout and booth options available. Some exhibitors are able to get a jump on booth choice at a current show for the following year. If you are new, you still have an opportunity to select your booth space if you act early. Waiting till the last minute could have you choosing a booth near a section that might not get any traffic at all.
There are many types of booth layouts that can impact your messaging and the flow of your booth. For example, the Axis design (see above) will attract many visitors and guarantee that your booth is seen, but you have to make sure that you have enough staff on hand to direct traffic to various areas that aren’t visible. This type of layout is very effective for companies looking to display various products and create multiple access points for visitors. It can also act as storage or a hospitality area with conference rooms or additional branding opportunities.
This booth design doesn’t leave much room for engagement when you have neighbors close by. In-line booths can be cramped and small with neighbors on each side you. To maximize your booth presence in this situation, take advantage of pre-show marketing opportunities to get visitors to your booth. Also, plan your staffing to make sure your area isn’t crowded where visitors can’t walk in. You won’t have much space for furniture, so keep it simple and focus on your messaging.
Choosing the right layout comes down to pure planning. You don’t want to end up with the same booth design year after year. Attendees won’t see anything special about your messaging if you don’t change it up. A show manager will have various options for you to choose from, but you need to come to the table with an understanding of the type of layout you want.
We all know having a plan in place for our next event is crucial. Blasting your email database only goes so far and after a while, most people simply put your email on the “ignore” list. Companies still have not grasped the power of using Social Media outlets as another form of communicating with their audience. You can deliver your message in “real-time” and keep attendees updated on live happenings at your booth.
According to Mashable: “Since 2006, the amount of time that the average person spent on social-networking sites has more than doubled, from 2.7 hours to 6.9 hours per month. More people are using social media, as well. While only 24% of Americans had a single social-media profile in 2008, 56% of Americans do now.”
Take advantage of free tools like Facebook and Twitter and use them to get the word out that you are exhibiting. Remember, you are one of many companies exhibiting; how can you stick out above the rest? On a side note, be careful not to spam potential attendees early on and only post pertinent information that will solve their problems.
Below is an excellent Infographic from Marketo to get you started:
Whether you have a big or small booth, having a large crowd at your booth is not a bad problem to have. Once you have their attention, the key is knowing how to keep it. Many times, exhibitors get overwhelmed and start patting themselves on the back only to end up with no real leads and a crowd that quickly disappears.
Here are four areas that you can leverage to keep the crowd engaged:
Section off your Booth
Break up sections of your booth into areas that help define the type of engagement you desire. One area could be demo stations where team members are able to show customers more information about your products and services. The key is to make sure the flow of your booth clearly defines each section. Customers should decipher in seconds what each section is for.
No Pressure Zone
Customers expect a sales pitch, but love a booth that has areas defined where they could view information at their own leisure. Many times, you will see exhibitors with sectioned-off lounge areas for customers to take a load-off and relax. This creates an opportunity where visitors can view rolling demos, videos, or read your brochures. If your booth is crowded, this will buy you time to work the crowds walking through before approaching a customer already engaged in your material.
Build a Theater
Another way to grab customers is with a mini-theater. You can invite customers using your products to speak on your behalf and share how your products have helped them. Customers get to see live demonstrations and ask questions with experts on your staff. You can also set up a time-schedule to display show times and meet with clients to catch-up. A theater, if properly promoted, could be used to generate a lot of buzz about your company
A Place to Close the Deal
If you are writing up orders and closing deals at trade shows, use closed meeting rooms to focus your prospects’ attention towards your products or services. A good meeting room should be one that is made of frosted or glass walls with comfortable furniture. And, of course do not forget to have a well stocked refrigerator.
Designing a booth is not rocket-science. Think about what you want to accomplish at each show rather than just getting more leads. Focus on how your booth design will show potential customers that your product meets their needs and work with a consultant to get you there.
Question: What is the best booth layout you have seen and what message did it convey to you?
Have you ever forgotten something when you got to a show? Did you leave behind important paperwork or equipment itself? Most items can-be replaced or reprinted, but what happens when you can’t get it there in the time you need it? This happens all the time and leaves exhibitors scrambling to find different alternatives to fix their problem fast. How do you know when it is time to hire a trade show consultant?
Has this ever happened to you?
You arrive to your destination with your team, check into the hotel and settle in. You hop over to the convention area to set up your booth display and realize you forgot something. What do you do when you are at a show, on a limited budget and 3,000 miles away from home?
If you are doing it alone, you end up at the mercy of your show organizers and its vendor’s high rates. Instead of watching your budget, it goes out the door when you realize you have to pay a 300% mark up to replace a TV for your display.
Of course, the TV might be hard to miss or forget, but it happens. At each show, exhibitors will arrive to their show destination only to find out that they left something behind and end up scrambling to find an alternative solution without their boss knowing. When major mishaps like this happen, what options do you have to avoid mistakes like this?
Here are some tips on what to look for when choosing a show consultant for your trade show needs:
Location, Location, Location
Conferences are all over the place. From Europe, Asia, Australia and the US, you will find a trade show for almost every city. In the US, shows tend to stay in major cities, but you never know when a show will end up in an area that is not local. When choosing a consultant, think about the situations that might arise and how they can help you solve it. If you forget something, will your consultant have a local warehouse to replace equipment you forgot?
Alternatively, will you have to wait for an overnight shipment because their only site is in Florida? Exhibit experts know this and will have local offices close by for emergencies at show time.
Before the Show Set Up
Some companies store their show equipment locally or have it placed in warehouses in certain locations. When it is time to ship off your next show, problems can happen when equipment is not checked. Something might have broken on the shipment back or an employee forget to point out a possible problem for future show.
An experienced consultant will pick your equipment up and put it together weeks before the show. This gives you the option to make changes and see what it will look like at show time. Look for consultants that take preparation seriously to make sure that your next show goes off without a hitch. Do you want to find out something is broke at the show or before?
We have all experienced horror stories shipping freight back and forth from a show and this is disastrous if it shows up late. Have you ever put a booth together and notice the booth next to you was empty? Late shipment and missed freight happens all the time. An exhibit expert can help arrange for advance-show pick up and drop off and make sure all resources are covered from freight insurance to on-time arrival. When your investment is riding on your shows success, who will you trust your shipment to?
Set it and Go
Showing up to put a booth together is no fun task. You are on a limited time schedule and you can’t prepare for unsuspected flight delays or missed flights. If you have a 10 x 10 pop-up, set up will be as easy as 10 minutes, but a 10 x 20 or 20 x 30 is another task in itself. Your company might be on a budget and can’t afford what a consultant might charge, but is your peace of mind worth more knowing that when you show up, your booth is already complete and ready to go? A consultant will understand this and be on top of show schedules.
Service and Relationship
Quote from Skybay CEO, Chuck Boyle
“We are trade show consultants. We understand current trends, new products, shipping, storage, installation and dismantle, and most importantly, we are experts in design and spatial concepts to help you succeed at the shows and events that you attend. Even if you don’t need these types of services on the lower end of the product spectrum it is advisable to establish relationships with consultants who will help you across the wide spectrum of activities that your company attends over time. Our job is to make you look good.”
When to Consider Hiring a Consultant
Most companies are do-it-yourselfer’s when it comes to planning their next trade show experience. In today’s hectic world, it is difficult handing the reigns over to someone else. A consultant offers valuable resources to make sure that your event runs perfectly. They will be there when the unexpected happens and fix the problem fast. Their ability and knowledge guarantees that your presence will be positively represented by experts that manage all aspects of your event.
The most important benefit to remember when hiring a trade show consultant is that: they work for you. They are there to remove the headaches of preparation details and help you focus on creating a message that will align with your company’s goals and expectations.
Question: What keeps you from outsourcing for additional show help? Budget? Resources?
Making the decision to exhibit at a trade show is a huge investment and building a lasting impression is more vital than ever. Even if you have the best products and services, it will not matter much if your show display has a negative impression to potential customers. The more attractive your booth display the better you have an opportunity of attracting new customers.
Here are key benefits to the perfect exhibit display:
Think about your Audience
When you design your show display, ask yourself,” Who is my target audience?” Customers want to know “what’s in it for them” and you want to avoid creating a display that does not show how your products and services can help them solve their problem.
Focus on your Goals
What is your “why” for exhibiting? From start to finish, understand your reasons for exhibiting when creating your message. How will you convey your company’s image or values? Most exhibitors miss the mark, and forget the real purpose behind exhibiting in the first place. Work with a consultant to help define and understand how that message will come across to make sure you do not end up with a goofy message.
Use of Materials
Most companies store most of their own equipment and do not think about the optional ways to re-purpose its look. You can use fabric to divide spaces between displays in specific areas or use wood tones for a traditional look. To give your booth a complete makeover you can keep things modern with silver and chrome panels for a contemporary look. A trade show consultant can show you different options to give an outdated booth an updated look and keep your costs to a minimum.
Take advantage of the space allotted
Whether your booth is a 10 x 10 or a 20 x 30, maximizing your space is crucial to understand what you can and cannot do at each show. If you have a large booth, you can create a display with your logo up to 20 feet in height to capitalize and boast your logo among your competitors. Just make sure that there is nothing in the way to block visitors and traffic to make the most of your space.
A Picture is worth a Thousand Words
Graphics are the essence of your booth design. If your picture misses the mark, your message will not matter much either. Use the proper images that convey how your company will address a customer’s need without the use of large text. Also, keep in mind where you place your images to guarantee that they do not go unseen from a distance. Your images should tell a “story” and reinforce your business uniqueness.
Strategize with your team and think about what you want to do at each show and how your booth display will bring new customers over to discuss how your business can help them solve their problems. Create a booth display to show how your services will serve its customers.
With the month of February almost over, it is still not too late to plan your trade show schedule for the year. Each month there are countless shows from various industries ready to put on an exhibition for its customers. When do you plan for each show and what are the tools for your success?
Below is a checklist to valuable reminders that will keep you on track to a successful show schedule:
One Year out – Planning and Budget
- Research which shows you want to participate in
- Determine which trade shows will best fit your industry
- Plan your marketing budget and set an amount for each show
- Take stock of current show equipment to avoid buying unnecessary items
- Consult with a Trade Show Consultant to discuss your show needs
- Contact the conference manager to discuss sponsorship opportunities
- Determine your booth size for each show (stay on track with your budget)
- Create Campaign in Salesforce or Marketing CRM
6 Months – Exhibit Needs and Objectives
- Choose your show vendors – Promotional and Exhibit Consultant
- Determine your focus and objectives for Booth Design
- Select booth layout and design (Modular, Island, Custom)
- Purchase any outside equipment for booth to minimize cost of renting
- Add event to company website
- Start planning all marketing initiatives early
- Order all graphics and brochure collateral
- Contact clients or customers for speaking opportunities
- Submit speaking proposal to show organizer
- Reserve Meeting Room for client interaction and press conferences
- Choose and Determine promotional giveaways based on your products / services
- Order all items early to avoid delivery fees
- Check all existing equipment and decide what is used and what is not
Three to Four months – Sales Planning and Early Discounts
- Determine Booth Staff
- Order more business cards for Staff
- Register all Staff Badges (who gets all access and booth staff passes)
- Set up Booth Schedule and Staff Training
- Booth all reservations for Group Travel – Hotel / Airfare / Car
- Finalize all marketing collateral for your show
- Follow up with Exhibit consultant on booth layout and floor plan
- Submit payment authorization form
- Submit all 3rd party contractor forms and liability of insurance paperwork
- Order all Electrical, Audio, Internet, Video
- Order Carpet, Padding, and Furniture
- Order Lead Retrieval
- Order catering for meeting room
- Order cleaning for carpet (vacuuming or shampoo)
- Submit Shipping / Handling paperwork
- Pack booth essentials based on checklist and show equipment
- Set up roundtrip shipping of booth equipment
1 Month to Show Time
- Create Pre and Post Show Email campaigns
- Invite prospects to conference
- Utilize conference marketing tools to promote involvement at show
- Create Pre-Show Presentation for Management and Sales
- Discuss show objectives and agenda
- Make restaurant reservations with clients
- Prep shipment for advance shipment
- Prepare a folder of show documents to take with you
- Print out surveys or questionnaires for booth
- Confirm all show orders for booth
- Confirm all Hotel Reservations
- Print out return shipping tags and bill of lading
- Review show checklist
- Set up Pre Show Meeting schedule at Booth for entire staff
- Supervise booth set up
- Hold a brief Booth Meeting before show time
- Hand out Lead Retrievals
- Go over show schedule and presentations
- Enter in Leads each night
- Labels placed on empty boxes
- Booth break-down
- Lead Retrievals turned in
- Return labels filled for boxes and turn in paperwork to show services
- Pack up left-over collateral and equipment
- Enter all leads in CRM
- Post-show email scheduled
- Enter all final costs for budget sheet
Planning a year in advance, might not be realistic for most companies, but planning ahead does. Don’t be late and end up paying high fees and unnecessary shipping charges because you waited till the last minute. Use these tips to keep you on track for 2013 and beyond.
Image source: CompliedK
Every year exhibitors plan-out their trade show schedule anywhere from 6 months to a year in advance. What some exhibitors do not do is plan for the worst. However, if you do not have someone on your staff to do this full-time, empowering your administrative assistant to pack a show is recipe for disaster if they do not know what to look for.
What they don’t look for is equipment malfunction.
Companies invest greatly in show equipment from monitors, laptops to podiums. Every exhibitor’s nightmare is discovering equipment that doesn’t work 15 minutes before show time. Last minute glitches will cost you time and money. Renting anything at the show floor will cost hundreds or thousands for last-minute problems.
How do you avoid these costly mistakes and make sure your booth is ready at show time?
Trade Show Checklist
Creating a Trade Show checklist safeguards that you do not forget anything. There are tons of resources that offer trade show templates for your booth online. Think about the items your company has and add it to your list. This will guarantee that each item was in your shipment. Shipping last-minute items will be very expensive.
Tip: Take the checklist with you to remind you that everything was properly packed and shipped.
Check Your Equipment
If you have a large show to plan for, open up all equipment that you know is imperative to your show, like monitors, or laptops. Smart exhibitors go through each piece of equipment and test everything to make sure it works. Often times, items are packed incorrectly and damaged equipments go unseen.
Tip: Set your booth up weeks in advance to make sure all pieces are together and nothing is broken. It is better to find out early that something is missing, than 15 minutes before the show starts.
Use Protective Cases
Image source: AllCases
Some exhibitors are notorious for packing monitors in boxes. Over time, that box will come back bent and mangled with tears from show to show. The cotton padding between the box and the monitor does not guarantee that additional boxes packed on top will not penetrate the screen. Investing in cases made for sensitive equipment guarantees that your pieces remain intact.
Tip: Pelican cases are not cheap, but after two shows it will pay for itself.
Hire Outside Help
If you have exhibited or new to exhibiting, consider hiring outside help. Companies like Skybay can help you with booth construction and preparation for each show. More and more companies are relying on consultants to help them guide through common pitfalls so they can focus on their marketing objectives.
Preparation is crucial when you have invested time, money and additional resources. Make sure that everyone on your staff understands the importance of show planning. Once the show start’s it is too late. You get one chance to make a first impression.
Question: What type of preparation do you perform before and after each show?