Participating in an industry trade show is an important piece of an overall marketing plan that can reap great ROI for your company. Trade shows typically have a concentrated group of people that are, by nature, there to know about your business.
So your exhibition plan is something that should be carefully crafted and implemented. Here are trade show tips for the three things to consider while you are planning: how to stand out, how to be remembered after the event, and what to do with the data you’ve collected.
1. How do I stand out from the other trade show booths?
Before the event, make sure you are clear as to WHO you are as a company and what your brand is all about. What is your story? What do you want this audience to know about you? Why would they want do business with you? What are your UNIQUE selling features?
Take a step outside of your company and get beyond the usual bullet points … what is valuable about your service, product, or benefit? With this clear brand in mind, utilize a seasoned promotional products professional to bring ideas to you.
I can attest that I have expertise in a huge range of manufacturing possibilities and am equipped with tools to easily share those ideas with you. By planning ahead, your promotional trade show items purchase will support the brand you want to project, as opposed to just pulling a box of ‘stuff’ out of the marketing closet.
At the event, your booth should be professionally outfitted with trade show items, table covers, banners, and possibly a full booth structure. These should all be consistent in colors, graphics, and quality.
To stand out from the other booths, there are two basic concepts that you can build upon. The first is that you can create a game or a gimmick that gets people to stop by and interact. The second is to forge a bond with attendees by having things on hand that are basic creature comforts (bags of trail mix, chocolates, cookies, popcorn) or drinks (personalized water bottles!).
Beyond being buyers and sellers, we are all just regular people and being at a trade show can make the attendees weary and overwhelmed. Cater to that and share that you (and your company) really care about them as a person. It’s subtle but it works.
Tip of the trade: Building upon these two basics (having a game or having a creature comfort) you can get creative with what that looks like for your particular booth. One booth I recently assisted with used a pirate theme and had several bottles of Captain Morgan stacked on top of a pirate chest in the booth. Visually, it was compelling. People stopped to see how they could GET that rum!
The sales staff in the booth gave each person a key to test a padlock on the pirate chest and if you won, you got the rum! Everyone that stopped and filled out a form was entered to win Tampa Bay Buccaneers football season passes (pirate theme). As they waited in line to try their keys, everyone was given a plastic shot glass and a pirate bandana was tied around their custom tote bags. This visual on their bags created buzz at the event and increased new traffic to the booth.
2. How can I be remembered & contacted for business AFTER the event has wrapped?
When assisting my clients with purchasing trade show giveaways, I compel them to consider two things while we look at products and make decisions. The first: Where will these trade show items eventually end up? Where will it LIVE? The second: How can I create an interesting and memorable delivery of this item?
By giving it out in an interesting way or by making it personal, you increase the odds that it will ‘survive’ the bag test. What is a bag test you ask? The bag test is a theory I’ve created and a direct result of my years of experience in attending trade shows. It is a not-so-mathematical formula to gauge which items will be thrown away immediately after the trade show.
It begins with imagining that your attendee is back in their hotel room or office after they’ve visited many, many trade show booths. They sift through the things they’ve collected and each has to be viewed and weighed as to whether they will keep it or toss it into the trash.
You can’t do business with them if they don’t even remember they met you, right? The winners in this scenario have one thing in common. The promotional items are WANTED by the user. It’s something they perceive that they want, either because it’s useful, valuable (or perceived to be valuable), or has some emotional tie for them. Challenge your promotional partner to help you find items that both work with your brand and will survive the trade show bag test.
Keep in mind where your promotional trade show items will end up. For many, this is on a desk in their office. Other spaces include in their personal cars, in their kitchen at home, and even on their actual cell phones.
Tip of the trade: For a car collision company I work with, we identified that their audience needs them after an accident and that their promo items will always ‘live’ on a keychain, in the dash compartment of a vehicle, in the car trunk, or on the cell phone. These areas are where their audience will be looking for their brand (and contact information). Knowing where your brand is most useful helps eliminate certain products right off the bat and makes decisions about choosing the right promotional items easier and more effective.
For the delivery at the event, here are some ways to make it memorable.
- Personalize the trade show items with a photo of attendees in the booth (give the frame on site and take down an address to send the photo later that week…creating a natural reason to follow up).
- Allow your visitors to select their favorite color giving away something basic like pens, plastic water bottles, or journals. Buy items in a variety of colors and create a fun experience where your audience gets to select the one they WANT (not just the one you hand them). The correlation between color and personal belongings is strong… just ask any woman who has ever purchased a purse or pair of shoes.
- You won! If you’ve created a clever game, even if it is simple, you create a room full of winners. We all love to win and there will be a value attached to the item you’ve given them as the prize. If you’ve won a stuffed animal at a carnival (and then kept it around for 10 years), you get the idea. By re-branding the promotional giveaways as ‘PRIZES’, you’ll end up being the real winner, as your audience retains your brand and has a positive association with having WON.
- Interact! Make their voice heard. Survey your audience with a simple (even silly) question and let your clients and prospects know that you appreciate their input. GEICO has recently done this at trade shows. You fill out a questionnaire about whether you like ‘The Caveman’ icon or, ‘The Gecko’ better. The results of the survey don’t matter. The fact that you asked and created a memorable interaction (paired with a giveaway that supports the survey) is what counts.
3. How do I create real value from the data I’ve collected?
Technology and handheld devices for trade shows have made it very easy to scan badges and collect contact information from your audience. In addition to making personal notes for yourself during conversations with the attendees, your trade show planning should include a solid and valuable follow up mechanism.
Anyone can take a list of phone numbers and make the obligatory sales calls the next week, but the real winners are those who have created a compelling reason for attendees to want to hear from you. Knowing this, try to build a follow up portion of your promotional product that will give you a reason to call or email your database.
Tip of the trade: One idea is to take a picture of your booth (with your team in it) just before the trade show begins. Use this picture after the event to send an immediate follow up email that expresses the sentiment that you were happy to meet them and look forward to partnering.
If your booth had a game or a drawing, you can also use that as a reason to email. Take a picture of the winner and send it via email in a well crafted PDF that expresses, “Here is the winner of our XYZ drawing! Thanks to all who participated.” By using these concepts as a catalyst, you can devise a way to make your follow up personal and relevant. The names and data you’ve collected now become more than just a list of numbers. They become your clients!
As you read this and plan for your next event, a final thought is to use technology to find even more ideas. With the plan outlined above, you can use search engines and HALO.com to come up with the best and most memorable trade show execution.