Trade Show overview

Comprehensive Overview of Exhibiting in Trade Shows

Published September 2020
Updated September 2022

Exhibiting in trade shows can be expensive, time consuming and frustrating at times. It can also lead you to more sales in one month than you would typically receive in a year--if done right.

Within our blog we have created articles on this subject to give you guidelines:  from determining if exhibiting in trade shows is right for your company, choosing the right trade shows, setting up and getting the most from exhibiting in each event, must-do's, things to avoid and more. We would like to give you the information you need most so you can implement now and take full advantage of your up-coming trade show schedule.

We know that the everyday running of your company takes top priority. These articles are easy & simple-to-use references to make exhibiting in trade shows less painful and more successful for you.

These posts should enable you to take full advantage of the sales and marketing efforts you are paying for with your trade show schedule while not taking away from running your business.

Below we cover 7 topics, for a general overview, as a quick and simple formula catapulting your organization into trade show exhibiting readiness. 

With each of these topics we provide you a link to a more in-depth blog article so you can focus on those topics that you need the most help with.

We hope you find this information helpful but not overwhelming.

Whether you manage your company and are sending reps to man your exhibit, or it will be you setting up and manning your space, this information is an easy read and meant to get your team on the same page for success. Make sure to forward this information to the person who will benefit most from it.

First let's go to the beginning and talk about Why You Should Exhibit in Trade Shows

Today, more than ever, marketing is all about relationships.
We are continuing to shy away from the traditional practice of just pushing products and, instead, putting an emphasis on building real connections with customers. Event marketing offers a unique opportunity in this changing industry as you are able to be face-to-face with your audience. What better way to build a relationship with a customer than meeting them in person?

Here are 10 reasons to make trade show events part of your marketing strategy.

  1. Sales & Lead Generation
  2. Showcase New Products or Services
  3. Research -Surveys and gaining customer feedback
  4. Education-not only you educating the public about your products but also you learning what your customers really want and then honing your products to fit the need.
  5. Brand Expansion-with logos, graphics, company shirts, and signs you can increase your brand recognition year-on-year.
  6. Reaffirm Confidence Among Existing Clients-you being there each year promotes confidence. Your company grows bigger each year and you are there each year to answer your customer's questions--this increases trust.
  7. Move Excess Inventory-and make money while you're there.
  8. Networking-expand your industry contacts and get in touch with those contacts you haven't been able to.
  9. Recruit New Employees-where better to find that right someone than at an event in your industry?
  10. ROI-huge audiences deliver larger results at one point of contact. 

meeting customers face to face

When you are able to shake hands with a potential client, look them in the eye and speak to them face-to-face, your message will resonate. This experience cannot be recreated digitally-- making trade shows the perfect venue to reach customers directly.

Secondhow do you choose the right trade show for your company

A trade show, expo or event gives your company the ability to create brand awarenessobtain new business clients, and nurture existing relationships and more importantly, drive new revenue. However, if you pick the wrong show or event, none of this can happen. If the people you want to meet are not at the show, it will be pretty difficult to justify going. The right events will have the target market you’re looking for and can also help you see the competition that you face in your industry.

So how do you choose?  how do you choose the right trade show?

You will first need to determine what your goals are for each event. Once you've established that, you can measure the events you research by that criteria. 

To determine priorities ask yourself the following:

  • How important is this show to your industry?
  • Are your direct competitors exhibiting?
  • Have large companies or big industry players attended this show in the past?

Here are 6 criteria most companies look at to choose the right events.

  1. Check the history of the event: attendance, qualified buyers, industry experts.
  2. Consider Location. As you plan your schedule you'll want to attend both trade shows that are large, and some small & local that won't cost you as much.
  3. Consider Timing. Check into what else is happening in the city you are booking beforehand to confirm no large events are taking place that will deter people from attending or visiting you at your booth. 
  4. Play it Safe. With brand new events in a market you should have strong reasons to attend. Otherwise, stick to those that have great reputations and have produced for others in your industry on a consistent basis.
  5. Confirm Space in the event you are looking at. Dig into it to make sure the space you are renting is a good location on the show floor and if there is not a good space left, skip this time around and book earlier for next time.
  6. After the Event-evaluate while it is still fresh in your mind to determine if you met your goals. If not, eliminate this event from your schedule.

Ultimately you need to determine what your expectations of each show you participate in is, and only you can determine if that show meets expectations. 

Third, you will want to implement Pre-Event marketing and promotion.

As an exhibitor in a trade show you will want (and need) to incorporate your own promotions in addition to the actual event’s promotion that they do for the EVENT. Make sure to utilize all elements and takeaways that the event gives you.

Here are a few ideas to get your message out to your customers and prospects that you will be at the event and entice them to visit you there:

Create a movie trailer--use footage and testimonials to create a short video about you, your company or product and circulate it on social media. Don't forget to include the venue's location, dates/times and your booth location.

Staff Fun. Take a picture of your staff in their company shirts and distribute with invoices, emails and social media letting everyone know you'll be participating in the upcoming event. Don't forget to include your booth location.

company shirts make a fun staff

Give out comp passes and create contests around the give-aways.

Donate event tickets to charities. Try to utilize charities that tie into what you sell.

Publicize great show deals that only people who visit you at the event can capitalize on.

The more you plan pre-event, the happier you will be at your event when your booth is full of people interested in your product.

Fourth, Plan Your Exhibit Space. 

Understanding how to set up your exhibit space booth is crucial for succeeding in the fast-paced trade show atmosphere.

The most important consideration when setting up your booth display is to project your company and its products prominently and succinctly so that everyone and anyone who walks by knows:

  1.  Who you are
  2.  What your product or service is
  3.  The benefits

Fifth, incorporate trade show games to make your exhibit space more inviting for prospects to step into and learn about your products.

By offering unique and entertaining trade show contests and games to attendees, you’ll bring the right kind of energy into your exhibit, while also attracting people who may not have naturally been interested in your company.

Here is a quick list of such games:

  • Golf/Putting
  • Trivia games incorporating your company's information
  • Spin & Win or Plinko
  • Counting Contests
  • Photo Contests
  • Dice Games
  • Bean Bag Toss

All of these games work towards creating excitement and awareness of your company brand and attract the attention of attendees that you can then sell to.

Sixth, the main reason you are at the event is to gain sales, leads, and prospects.

These you can then add to your sales funnel to gain business. You will want to ensure you are maximizing your strategy of obtaining these leads, categorizing them and following up on them.

It is an amazing statistic that over 80% of companies that exhibit in a trade show do not have a system of organizing and following up on the leads they obtain at a trade show.
We understand this might have to do with the excitement of talking to a staggering amount of leads at one time and that feel good optimism that comes from that. And with that, not realizing sales reps still need to follow up on these conversations like they would with any other lead. As sales reps we all know it takes follow-up to close a sale. 

input leads into sales funnel accordingly

What system does your company have to sort leads and add to your sales funnel correctly?

Seven, and most importantly, after having implemented all the above, you will want to ensure you are not making these mistakes

  • Poor booth set-up: bad graphics or signage
  • Too much text on displays-attendees won't have the time to read in the 3 seconds they walk by
  • Not promoting your presence at the event before the event
  • Not training your staff and communicating proper expectations
  • Not listening to your prospects
  • Not qualifying your leads accurately--or at all!
  • Incorrect usage of company brochures and literature. Give the right information to your prospects according to where they fall in your sales funnel.
  • Not planning for trade show success. In other words, not following up on all the leads you obtain. 

What is your follow up plan for you? For your staff? How many leads, that didn’t convert at the event, can be finalized within the month after the event ends?

You’ve provided your sales team a great opportunity to be successful by exhibiting at an event. Why not go a step further to help them take full advantage of this opportunity by following the advice and tips above? 

And lastly, we would be remiss if we didn't offer you a place to shop trade show necessities. Just follow the link to ensure you have what you need.

If you are not signed up to receive the latest trade show advice and tips you can do so below.

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