Published April 2019
Updated October 2021
THE VALUE OF TRADE SHOWS INCREASES WITH A PLAN
Business marketers actually invest more money on trade shows than any other marketing medium. This is because trade shows provide greater access and influence on buyers that cannot be replicated anywhere else.
Here are the statistics of exhibiting in a trade show:
- 88% of attendees have not been seen by a member of your company’s sales staff in the preceding 12 months
- 7 out of 10 attendees plan to buy one or more products
- 76% asked for quotes and 26% signed purchase orders (average all shows)
- 72% of show visitors say the show influenced their buying decision
- 87% of attendees will share some of the information obtained at an exhibition with others
- 64% of attendees tell at least 6 other people about the event
- 58% attend only the show in which you are exhibiting
- 40% are first-time attendees
- It costs 22% less to contact a potential buyer at a show than it does through traditional field sales calls
Info provided by…The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR)
While trade shows are worthwhile, they are not easy. To get the most out of trade shows, exhibit marketers must set measurable objectives, choose the right shows, design effective exhibits and signage and more.
The following are the 9 Must Do’s for you to capitalize on when marketing in Trade Shows.
1. SETTING OBJECTIVES AND MEASURABLE RESULTS
The first step in planning your trade show success is to set effective and realistic trade show objectives and measurements for them. Effectively planning your show’s objectives allows the rest of your show to fall into place. Choosing the right KPI’s enables you to measure conclusions correctly following your trade show performance.
The first question to ask is the most basic: Why are you exhibiting? While most go to generate leads and build awareness of their brand or products, many also exhibit to build relationships or introduce new products.
Once you know the reason you are exhibiting, set objectives based on that so you can measure and evaluate results accordingly. Measurable objectives range from simple lead counts (200 leads at the XYZ Show) to Return On Investment goals (Generate $10 in sales for every $1 spent exhibiting at the XYZ Show).
2. BUDGETING: PLANNING SAVES YOU TIME AND MONEY
Exhibiting can be complex. A large part of that challenge is identifying how much to budget for exhibiting in trade shows. The easiest way to estimate your overall budget for exhibiting at a show is to take the cost to rent the exhibit space, and multiply it by three. So if renting a 10 foot by 10 foot exhibit at a show costs $2,000 in rent cost, then the overall show costs are usually going to add up to about $6,000.
The biggest expenditures after booth space rent is staffer’s travel, hotel, and meal costs, show services such as installation and dismantle, the cost to build or rent your exhibit, and shipping. In some venues electric is included but at most it is not. If your exhibit needs water that will also cost you.
A large portion of show service costs is called drayage, which is the cost to bring your exhibit and crates from outside the show hall to your exhibit space. Some venues or show management offer a free half hour of fork lift service and some require you to pay. In venues with union labor you will not be able to set up at all and will need to pay union labor and rates to bring your exhibit into the hall and be setup.
Planning avoids rush charges and lets you figure out how to do the most shows with the fewest exhibit problems. Most services allow advanced planning discounts.
3. SELECT THE RIGHT TRADE SHOWS
With over 13,000 trade shows, conferences, expositions, private and business-to-business events in North America, featuring 1.5 million exhibiting companies vying for the attention of over 80 million attendees, it can be daunting to select where your efforts are best spent. However, there is a method to help you find the best opportunities to market your organization at trade shows.
To start, select the shows you want to exhibit at only after you have set your trade show objectives.
- Then dig in and do some serious background research.
- The best bet is to look at the trade shows in your industry and carefully weigh the options.
- Talk to your fellow employees — what shows have worked in the past?
- Listen to your salespeople as they have their ear to the ground and will have heard feedback and competitor woes and successes.
- Look at the demographics of who is going to be there.
- Talk to your current and prospective customers — is this a show they will be attending?
- While you may exhibit well at your large industry show, also consider smaller shows that have a higher proportion of people likely to be interested in your products or services and lower costs involved, especially if they are local.
- You can find shows online to pick from at Trade Shows News Network.
4. SPACE SELECTION: WHERE AND HOW BIG?
The average trade show has over 400 exhibitors, so how do you choose the best booth space for you? Most shows give space-picking priority to the exhibitors who have been with them the longest and who sign up the earliest.
Yet some studies have found that where you are in the show hall has no effect on the amount of audience you receive to your booth. For every veteran exhibitor that requires a space in the center of the action, or at the front entrance to the hall, or near their biggest competitor, there are veteran exhibitors who flee from the same locations. This depends on the product(s) you sell, your need for generic traffic vs qualified traffic, and where you sell large items you may want to be located near a loading door. Along those same lines the size of your booth space is a very important decision, where you must weigh the need to stand out from your competitors with a large booth while keeping an eye on your budget allowing you to exhibit at all the worthwhile shows for your company. Decide at what level of trade-off you’re willing to consider.
5. TRADE SHOW EXHIBIT DESIGN: MAKE YOUR EXHIBIT A MARKETING TOOL
Why does exhibit design matter? Well-designed trade show booths are effective at cutting through the trade show clutter and getting your message to your target audience. The average trade show attendee will spend 3 to 8 hours on the show floor trying to visit each and all exhibits--depending on if they've done their research beforehand deciding which spaces to visit while there. This leaves 5 to 15 minutes per visit – just 5 to 15 minutes to make a lasting impression that will give you an edge over the competition. And don’t forget the all important 3 second limit you have to convince an attendee walking by to stop and visit for those 5-15 minutes!
Make sure your exhibit signage says who you are, what you do, and what your benefit to prospects is. When you state this clearly, and with bold inviting signage and graphics, you’ll attract more visitors – and more qualified visitors.
Your exhibit is more than a three-dimensional ad. It’s actually a temporary workspace, filled with booth staffers there for hours or days, and visitors there for just a few minutes. Increase productivity by giving them enough space to work in, and by designing around their needs, be it for gathering leads, demonstrating product, meeting with key people, and having the right informational materials on-hand for distribution.
6. GET MORE TRAFFIC WITH TRADE SHOW PROMOTIONS
Trade show promotions are the secret weapon of the veteran trade show manager. That’s because, when done right, trade show promotions work very well.
Consider these two items:
- The average trade show has over 400 exhibitors, where the average attendee will visit about 25 to 31 exhibits, and that average attendee walks into the show with a list of 75% of the exhibits he/she wants to see. That means you have to get on their radar before the show.
- You can boost your trade show lead counts by 33% with trade show promotions – and -- they require a much smaller percentage of your budget.
Trade Show Promotions are money well spent. Pre-show promotions are the things you do before the show to make attendees want to visit your booth. And also help get them to the event.
At-show promotions are the activities and Games do during the show to bring in more attendees into your exhibit.
Trade show giveaway items are key but just be sure to pick promotions that bring in your desired target audience, not just anyone to the show. And don’t just give things away – get information about prospects in exchange that will help you qualify and prioritize your leads.
7. TRAIN YOUR BOOTH STAFF SO THEY’RE COMFORTABLE AT SHOWS AND KNOW EXPECTATIONS
85% of the positive feelings visitors have are due to the staff. Your booth staff is responsible for drawing in your customers, effectively engaging them and creating leads. Because of this, it is important that you select the most effective staffers that your company has to offer. They should most likely be sales people and then train them to adapt their selling style to the trade show floor. If they are not salespeople, they can still do extremely well if given the proper preparation.
Trade show selling is uncomfortable for almost everyone at first. You will give your booth staffer greater comfort and confidence by training them. Give them an overview to follow to keep them moving more quickly and for if/when they get stuck.
Start the process by causing interest in your attendees. Prepare and practice questions that won’t get a yes or no answer.
Determine if the prospect is worth presenting to … and at what level is their interest.
Demonstrate your product for just the prospect’s needs, not everything you know. Be able to answer their common objections and questions.
Ensure their lead card is complete. Agree on the next step, make sure to record on the lead card and go on to the next lead!
8. LEAD MANAGEMENT, NOT LEAD NEGLECT
Astoundingly, almost 80% of leads generated are never followed up on, according to CEIR. Rather than sending your hard-fought trade show leads into the abyss, strive to be part of the elite 20% that actually follow up on their leads! We’ve heard horror stories of exhibits pulled out of storage to prepare for a show – only to find the leads from the previous show still packed with their trade show booth. What a tragedy!
Rather than just sending a business card from the prospect on to your field sales reps, provide and train your staffers to use a lead card. It’s a half sheet of paper that has check boxes to the most common qualifying questions, and room for notes about what the attendee said in your booth. Your sales reps will be much more likely to follow up on this type of warm lead when knowing it’s worth the call.
Also, think of your first day back from the show as the last day of the show. Have your lead fulfillment packages prepared ahead of time, so you can send your responses right away. Your competition is doing it!
9. MEASURING RESULTS IMPROVES FUTURE PERFORMANCE
Once you return from a trade show it is important to measure its success. Why? Because while trade shows are a great marketing medium, you still have to prove the value of that most recent show and learn to tweak your individual program.
This information can be used to report to management the effectiveness of the show and to improve exhibit performance for future shows. Success can be measured by simple lead counts, or better yet, by the return on investment, or whatever objectives you set when you started your trade show program.
By tracking your results from show to show, you can make informed decisions about which shows to continue, reduce, or cut. And when you are armed with data proving the value of your overall trade show program, you can maintain – and even expand – your trade show marketing efforts.
Which of these points do you need to work on in your organization? Check out our blog and the links above to learn more.