Portable Trade Show Displays and Exhibits
You have made the decision to invest substantial time and money participating in a trade show. Trade shows are exciting, and when planned well from start to finish, they can be extremely lucrative on many levels. However, the temptation for many inexperienced participants is to glance at a few exhibition schedules and sign up for the one with the most appealing title or location. Don’t make this same mistake! Before choosing what you think is the perfect venue, take time to define your overall goal. Different shows yield different results; you must be absolutely clear on your objective.
What has motivated you to invest in a trade show? Are you unveiling a new product or service, or do you need to build brand awareness or wish to upsell your current clients? Perhaps you need to generate new sales leads, establish a network or just get a better understanding of your competition. Some will leverage trade shows to identify potential partners, recruit new employees or conduct market research. If your focus is on building a network, you might consider sponsoring an event, which provides a variety of opportunities, including a formal address to attendees or hosting a hospitality suite. (As an added perk to sponsorship, typically sponsors receive a list of exhibitors from the event organizer prior to the show.) Clarify your desired outcome first, as this will guide you in the next step, defining your target audience.
Who are your potential customers? Are you focusing on businesses or individual customers that will help to meet your goals? You must know to whom you are selling and why.
Now that you have identified your target audience, you must begin searching for the ideal venue to approach your potential customers. Review trade show and expo calendars online and study their attendee lists. Are any of your top prospects attending? What about your competitors? Check out previous years’ lists and contact a few non-competing businesses who attended to solicit their feedback on the event. Ask your current customers what shows they are interested in attending. Look for trade shows that offer a mix that would complement your business and attract your targeted customers. Create a list of all options that meet your criteria. Once you have narrowed down your list, it’s time to compare the cost to attend. Which show offers the best ROI?
There are many ways to generate a little hype for your business before the show. Cost and effectiveness might vary depending on your budget and goal. For instance, a simple email blast is basically free and definitely something you should do. Let your existing clients know where you’re going to be, and invite them to stop by. Some of them may not, but it’s an excuse to get your name in front of them. Reaching new prospects might take a little more creativity. Consider purchasing last year’s attendance list, picking out the best prospects you would love to do business with and sending them a personal letter inviting them to your booth. Depending on the audience, you could offer a free gift for stopping by. An example might be “Bring this postcard to Booth 777, and get a free T‑shirt.” For something a little more creative, try sending a business executive a single cufflink in the mail and putting a note in the gift box inviting them to come to your booth to receive the other cufflink. That will certainly get their attention!
For the majority of trade show participants, the most intimidating tasks are the creation of effective signage and an aesthetically pleasing – yet functional – display. Will your booth be more enticing than others, creating that “buzz” on the showroom floor? Knowing how much is too much and how much is not enough is challenging, to say the least, but it is essential to your trade show success. Having only 2‑3‑seconds to make your first impression, your signage must be clean and simple with appealing colors and images that reinforce your message. It’s a delicate balance – too much information can easily overwhelm potential customers; too little, and they will keep walking. So just exactly how do you capture their attention quickly, and set yourself apart from the competition? It is at this stage of the planning process that many turn to knowledgeable professionals who provide exhibit consultation services and create unique signage, impressive booth displays and clever giveaway items.
To create effective, attention-grabbing signage, you must be in tune with your audience. Try putting yourself in their shoes. You, as the customer, have only a few hours to walk to the floor in search of the best “widget” company. There are 11 widget company exhibits – what would immediately catch your eye, causing you to stop at that specific widget booth before all of the others? Most people would respond that it was the simple, one- or two-line “teaser” phrase that piqued their curiosity. As noted above, signage containing too much information is overwhelming. That’s what brochures are for – allow your promotional pieces to do their job and offer the fine details. Important to note here is that often the use of only a logo just isn’t enough. A logo, combined with a clean and simple slug line clearly defining what a company has to offer, repeatedly produces the best results.
Once inside the booth, how would you prefer to be welcomed – with a brochure forced in one hand and a promotional pen in the other, or by a professional well‑educated in the current widget market with a clear understanding of the challenges his customers face with widget distribution? Obviously, most prefer the knowledgeable representative who is eager to discuss the widget market and explain how his widget company has the edge over the competition. In terms of the physical display booth, what would be most appealing to you – someone casually sitting behind a table cluttered with brochures and run-of-the-mill giveaway items? Most likely your answer is no. While tables are appropriate for some types of trade shows and the products or services being promoted, most visitors prefer an open, well-lit area with plenty of space to move around and an engaging, knowledgeable company representative with whom they can comfortably converse.
With so many options for the physical construction of your booth, where do you begin? How do you decide which layout is most appealing for your exhibit? Perhaps a popup or table top display would be more effective than overhead signage. Will your promotional literature be on a small table, or would a display rack better suit your available space? If required, where will you place any A/V equipment? What about optimum lighting? These are just a handful of many important considerations when designing your display, and again, this is why people often solicit outside expertise.
Answer these four questions before you spend another dime on promotional products:
Blaise Drake & Company identified The Five Major Strengths of Promotional Products, illustrating that when used properly, promotional items can have a greater ROI than traditional advertising. The key takeaway here is “when used properly.” Once you’ve identified your audience, you need to do some research. What do these potential customers they have in common? For example, if you are reaching out to truck drivers, perhaps a CD visor or a sunshade is appropriate. While traditional items such as pens, post‑it notepads, keychains, magnets and mousepads continue to rank high among giveaway items produced, creativity is a huge plus for a successful promotional item. What catches your eye? The more memorable the product, the more memorable you will be. Remember to consider the physical requirements surrounding your giveaway item. Is it something that can be carried easily or tucked into a bag? Larger, heavier items are fine if you are shipping them, but exhibit attendees are collecting promotional products everywhere they stop.
Next, you must budget a realistic price per item, and stick to that figure. How many do you plan to produce? How much is shipping? Will this item require assembly time or special packaging? Whenever possible, order your items early, allowing for production or shipping delays. As you can see, even a simple giveaway item requires thoughtful time and consideration. Many exhibit design and display companies offer consultation services to help you create a unique giveaway item that will not only promote your business message but complement the look and feel of your exhibit, as well.