Egan’s Entries On Exhibits & Events
Everyone wants their booth to be the one everyone else is talking about on the tradeshow floor. Accomplishing this feat, however, isn’t easy. But it is simple.
That’s right. Do just a few things right, and you’re well on your way to being the most talked about exhibit at the show. Think about what this means:
• Greater word of mouth on the show floor means more attendees visiting your booth organically, just as a result of the “buzz” heard throughout the show.
• More attendees visiting your booth means exponentially more opportunities for your sales staff to get the message about your product or service out there.
• Having a well-attended booth can result in coverage of your company and its exhibit in the media—which is free publicity (in fact, it’s publicity you literally can’t buy).
• A booth filled with prospects means, at the very least, a pat on the back from your management for having pulled off a great show. At most, it could lead to a promotion.
So, how do you go about accomplishing this? The necessary ingredients for a “best in show” booth break down into three categories:
1. Get Your Message Out There
If you want to be the most talked about booth at the show, you’re going to have to do a lot of talking before the show, in the form of pre-show publicity.
That means email blasts to current customers, with an invitation to stop by your booth and say hello, and perhaps giving them an opportunity to enter a “customers only” drawing for a special grand prize. You’ll also want to get the attendee list from show management and email targeted attendees (or use regular mail), asking them to visit your booth for a chance to win a valuable prize (different from the “customers only” prize).
You might also want to consider using a two-part premium (think of a penlight flashlight and its leather belt holster) to get these targeted prospects to stop by your exhibit. They get the leather holster in the mail with the invitation, along with instructions to bring the invitation to the show to pick up their flashlight (which, of course, is engraved with your company logo and phone number).
Don’t forget to promote the event on social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), as well as on your company’s website. The more talking you do before the show, the more chances you’ll have to talk with prospects at the show. Also, look for opportunities to promote your presence at the show itself, through advertising in the show program, or other promotional opportunities show management makes available throughout the exhibit hall.
At some major shows (like the Consumer Electronics Show and National Association of Home Builders Show), exhibitors even use specially printed electronic room keys with their logo and booth number on them to promote their involvement to hotel guests at the convention hotels.
Believe it or not, most companies don’t take these simple steps. Why? Because they’re not easy. “Easy” is renting a booth space and showing up. But to be truly successful—to be the “talk of the show”—you can’t take the easy way out. You absolutely must promote your presence in every way you can think of.
2. Be Different
For you to stand out on the show floor, everything about your exhibit must be unique, from the exhibit itself to the way your staffers are dressed.
You don’t necessarily have to have a large exhibit to stand out. I’ve seen small, inline exhibits that stood out solely because of their design (or lack of it). Argus Technologies, an outdoor power systems retailer, literally builds its booth out of the company’s products. “Even though the products aren’t attractive, they are what the customers want to see,” says Sandra Monroe, Argus’s marketing communications manager.
Another way to be different from your competitors is to incorporate a live presentation into your exhibit marketing program. This is generally a presenter working on a platform in your exhibit, with a large flat screen monitor behind him or her. Outsourcing this can cost tens of thousands of dollars. But you can also create it in-house (although I’d still encourage you to invest in the talents of a professional presenter).
Even if you don’t have a live presentation, create a compelling product demo. Make it visually interesting. Appeal to as many senses as possible. Add an element of whimsy for memorability’s sake (for example, demonstrate how much lighter your product is than your competitors by showing that difference with actual barbells). Design it to be presented one-on-one as well as to small groups.
Continue promoting your presence at the show on social media platforms during the show. Tweet about how many people are visiting your booth. Remind recipients or followers to stop by to enter your drawing(s). Announce when your top management will be in the booth, able to meet with interested attendees.
Finally, put some serious effort into finding a “killer” promotional product that ties in well. Forget pens, mousepads or mugs. Start your search by finding a reputable supplier who’ll work with you to find something that captures a unique aspect of your company or your marketing message. Plan to spend a little money here. In fact, you may want two promotional products: the really cool one for loyal customers and serious prospects, and another less-expensive tchotchke for those “tire kickers” who are just looking for a handout.
3. Be The Nicest People In Town
Nothing is more appealing to a visitor than a sincere smile and a warm handshake, and the knowledge that the booth staffer you’re dealing with is really listening to your needs.
Some companies have well-trained staffers who instinctively know how to make booth visitors feel heard and understood, so that product recommendations are based on the prospects’ needs. For other companies, booth staff training may be necessary to help your sales staff deal with the unique and, at times, puzzling way business is done on the show floor. Think of it as an investment in your staff, or as relatively cheap insurance for the rest of your investment in the show as a whole. The better your staffers relate to booth visitors, the greater your results will be—particularly when you’re planning to have a very active booth!
Have staffers canvas the show once each hour (or several times each day), looking for people carrying your “killer” promotional item. Give them fifty dollars in cash. Talk this up in your booth, and tell the people who get the item that it can happen to them, too. Keep a poster or white board on display in your booth with a list of the names of each day’s hourly winners.
Set up a contest that’s open only to current customers who introduce you to new prospects. They receive a contest entry for each prospect they bring to you. Make it something worthwhile and personally useful (not your product or service, which will more than likely benefit the customer’s company, not him or her directly). Depending on how much each new prospect that becomes a customer is worth to your organization, the prize might be substantial—from an iPad to a luxury vacation.
“Build it and they will come” only works in the movies. In real life, you have to make your presence known through a combination of traditional and online media. If you’ve been the best booth at the show, how did you accomplish that? Leave a comment with your story.
Dave Egan is head writer at Writers Direct Group, a full-service outsource writing resource for live trade show presentations, event theming, product demos, website content and other written- or spoken-word business communications. Contact him at Dave@WritersDirectGroup.com or 877-7GET-WDG [877-743-8934]. This article was first published online by the International Center for Exhibitor & Event Marketing (ICEEM) at http://www.iceem.net/