8 Steps to Trade Show Exhibitor Success

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Whether you’re a first time exhibitor, or a seasoned professional attending multiple trade shows every year, the experience can be both fun and exhausting. Attracting attendees to your booth, then sorting out the qualified prospects will ‘make or break’ the experience.

You’re making a significant investment in being a trade show exhibitor so be sure you manage the process effectively after the event. Even the best looking booth won’t bring in business unless you follow through and take action on the connections you make.

8 Steps to Trade Show Exhibitor Success

1) Pre-Show Marketing

Let the attendees know you’re there and where to find you. Obtain a list of the attendees weeks before the show from the trade show facilitator so you can communicate with them before they arrive. Some effective methods of reaching attendees are email, direct mail, social media, and mentions on your website.

2) Set Goals

First you have to understand why you’re exhibiting. Most will say ‘to get sales’ but you need a more defined goal to make the goal actionable. Do you want to collect leads to pass on to your sales department for follow up? Do you want to make the sale on the spot? Maybe you’re there just for brand recognition in a specific industry.

3) Evaluate your Lead Collection Method

Simply displaying a fish bowl to collect business cards for a prize is not an effective lead collection method. All you learn is that they want a prize. Prizes are good, but be sure to have people fill out a short registration form to capture more information if that’s your draw. Not all attendees are prospects so focus on lead quality, not counts.

Ask for type of business, product interest, purchasing authority, contact info, etc.. Whether you’re using an electronic lead management system or a simple printed follow up form, include a limited number of qualifiers (hot lead, send salesperson, mail literature) to the form to get them in the correct follow up bucket.

4) Create a Winning Trade Show Booth

A free standing floor graphic wall provides an 8’ or 10’ backdrop to attract attention and tell your story. A less expensive option is to use 3 or 4 free standing retractable banners next to each other to create a similar affect. Tables are usually provided to exhibitors with a blank table throw. Use this 30” x 72” space to reinforce your brand with your own Custom Table Throw.

One note here – AVOID the temptation to place the table in front of your booth separating you from your prospects. Place it along the side of your booth to keep your space open and inviting.

5) Staff Training

Choose the employees that will staff your booth carefully. Representatives must be engaging, approachable and trained to understand the goals you set for the trade show. Not all of your staff needs to be trained for answering detailed questions about the product or service, but you should have at least one person available to field the detailed questions.

Provide your staff with qualifying questions to ask during training to avoid investing too much in the time-wasters that will show up just for the SWAG.

Also provide your staff with casual uniforms like a polo shirt with an embroidered company logo so the attendees can identify them. A visually cohesive team adds a level of professionalism and strength to your brand. Selecting a shirt color that reflects your brand adds to the booth appearance. It’s also great when your team is recognized walking through the convention because of your stand out company colors.

6) Booth Giveaways

Part of the fun of attending a trade show is gathering great giveaways from each booth. Use this to your advantage and provide thoughtful items that create a buzz at the show. You don’t need to spend a lot on these giveaways for them to be effective.

A simple Whirley Gig  can go physically viral at a show while attendees play with them and others ask, “where did you get that?” Imagine colorful toys flying around the show sporting your company logo. Items they display instead of tossing in their bag are great walking advertisements.

We once manufactured 3” dia. buttons that read “My Name is BOB” and they created a buzz throughout the show. Everyone was calling each other Bob and they wanted their own custom button to be part of the fun.

Invest in some nicer giveaways for people who give you information and qualify as a good lead. Corporate logo T-shirts, branded cell phone chargers and selfie sticks with your company logo can be the most successful gifts given to a qualified prospect.

Keep your printed handouts minimal. Attendees are walking around with an event tote bag full of business cards, branded giveaways andbrochures. Their totes are too heavy for your complete printed catalog.

7) Daily Staff Debriefing

A daily staff gathering after the exhibit hall closes provides instant insights into what worked and what didn’t. Take notes no matter how unimportant the observations might seem. Most attendee feedback is forgotten shortly after the dust settles. The feedback on what wasn’t successful will help you avoid the same mistakes next time.

Remember that you’re seeing the trade show as an exhibitor but it’s the attendee experience you want to know more about.

8) Lead Follow up System

Prepare your follow up system before you exhibit at a trade show. You need to act quickly while you’re still fresh in their minds. Remember, trade shows are exhausting and attendees visit hundreds of exhibits while at the show.  Make quick notes on the back of a business card to remind you of a discussion that will set you apart.  When you send out a speedy response with a personal note it will insure you are remembered.

  • If literature or samples were requested from your company, send a daily mailing list to the office to have that information mailed out the next day
  • If they requested a call from a salesperson make sure all follow up calls are made within one week of the show.
  • If the conversation was more detailed and an estimate was requested, prepare the estimating department for multiple requests and demand that they are expedited.

An email from your company thanking attendees for stopping at your booth and reminding them that you are acting on their request will continue the relationship. This reconnection is also an opportunity to include clickable links to your website for more information.

Following these 8 Steps to Trade Show Exhibitor Success to assist in your Preparation, Execution & Lead Follow up to assure that you realize a substantial return on your investment.

Rick Garrett

 Rick Garrett is the CEO and Founder of Markit Motion providing event and  corporate branded products to businesses. He has written over 100 Markit-in-a-Minute articles drawing from his 25 years in the industry.

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