Trade shows are back, but I often get the question if it is still worth exhibiting. In fact, one of my clients is completely against it, after years of taking part in exhibitions. The simple reason is, they didn’t feel they were getting enough valuable leads out if it and the show came as a huge expense. The reality is though, it shouldn’t be an expense or cost, it should be an INVESTMENT! And if a stand is organised well, then it is ABSOLUTELY worth it!
In-person meetings are as valuable as they always have been (if not more so now). Exhibiting your products or services is the best way to get someone interested. And if you have chosen the right show, visitors to the stand will be the invaluable audience you have been looking for with a high buying and decision-making power.
So, what makes a great exhibition stand? How do you make a trade show stand successful?
Exhibiting at a show isn’t something you just rustle up, and it certainly isn’t organised in 2 phone calls and 5 emails. It is hard work and a big responsibility. When it goes well, the responsible person gets loads of praise, when it goes wrong there might be more cuts than just the stand. Space and stand come with a big price tag and the higher management certainly expects return on their marketing spend.
With my top tips you will be able to get ahead of the game and get valuable leads to your sales team. Don’t leave your trade show stand to luck. Get organised and make it a success!
TOP TIP 1: PLAN AHEAD
This is really important, because a shocking 28% of all exhibiters give themselves less than 2 months to plan their stand! How mad is this statistic! If a client would come to me and asked me for a last-minute stand, even with my connections and expertise, 8 weeks would be a struggle. Give yourself as much time as you can. That way nothing is rushed or forgotten. To get you started, find a free checklist here.
The best stand locations in the exhibition hall are usually booked as soon as the last show closed. We are talking 12-24 months, depending on how often the exhibition is held. If you book your space or try to book (if you’re lucky) just 2 months before, you will end up in the last corner behind a really big stand and not many visitors will find you. You will also miss out on early bird discounts, like marketing and utility packages or special offers on a space.
Give yourself enough time to choose the best suppliers. If you do everything last minute, the good ones won’t be available anymore.
Lastly, you want to be able to plan ahead your stand goals and objectives. They should be communicated early and all suppliers and your team need to have that information to enable them to be fully on board with what you want to achieve with the stand.
TOP TIP 2: BUILD A RELATIONSHIP WITH THE ORGANISERS
Make time to meet the organisers either before the event or at least at the show, especially if you are planning to exhibit at the same show again. Keep in touch and they will be happy to help you out when you need it.
It will be easier to communicate and they will be much more inclined to call you, for example when there is a better space available or they might be telling you about new features that they can offer.
You might be able to get a better location when you re-book or get some useful intel about the audience. A good relationship is definitely worth keeping up; you never know when it becomes useful.
TOP TIP 3: FIND A RELABLE STAND BUILDER
The stand is the essence of every show. 40% of every exhibitor’s budget goes into the stand, which isn’t surprising. But this hefty bill needs to be worth it and should come with much more than a basic stand design and build.
Find yourself a stand builder that is right for you and the business. It should be a company that makes the effort to understand your business and can relate to your goals. This will make it so much easier to figure out the design and layout.
Make sure you interview a few companies well before your next show and meet the appointed stand builder before the show (at least on Zoom if not in person!) Get to know their team and don’t hesitate to ask questions.
Look for someone that can offer flexibility in terms of design. Depending on which show you go to, you might need different solutions for various products or services you exhibit. The stand builder should be able to offer options like shell schemes or pop up stands as well as modular or bespoke built stands to support you in any project that might come up in the future.
Can they maybe offer a storage solution for your stand to save you time and money on storage and shipping?
Do they offer any other services like in-house graphic design or printing? Or sourcing merchandise/give-aways?
Finding a trusted stand builder can also mean a discount if you book several shows with them on an annual basis, which can make a big difference on the final invoice. You will have peace of mind and they have business booked ahead – win win!
A good stand builder will also be able to keep you up-to-date on new designs or new ways of building stands, new gadgets or new materials, even how to become greener.
TOP TIP 4: CREATE A SOLID MARKETING CAMPAIGN
I’m not going to cover all of the required marketing activities in this article but let me mention the most important ones.
Creating an event marketing campaign means you want to shout about the fact that you’re going to the show. Most of the ‘talking’ these days is online, so have a look if the organisers use a specific hashtag and use it in your posts. Tag the organisers, stand builders and other suppliers, which will increase your reach to all of their followers.
Utilise the marketing packages provided by the organisers. These are often included in the space rental. Find out if there are pre-designed materials like invitation templates or other graphics that you can use for your social media or email marketing.
So much work goes into the stand design and build, but the marketing around the event is often overlooked. Make as much noise about the fact you are exhibiting as you can. This doesn’t just apply to a certain period before the show. Your concept should apply all the way – before, during and after the event! One of the buzz words in the marketing world is ‘storytelling’. You want to tell your followers about the journey of the show. Preparing, build-up day, first day opening, in-between days, last day, break down, following up leads – a wrap-around campaign that will create interest and the wish to come back (or visit for the first time!).
Tips on how to create a marketing strategy can be downloaded here.
TOP TIP 5 is: HAVE A VERY CLEAR OBJECTIVE OR GOAL
You don’t want your sales team to just ‘tip up’ on the first day not knowing what they are selling or what the goal for the event is. Worst of all: They bring their own agenda.
A clear goal like launching a new product or service is vital to a successful show! The entire team needs to be prepared, briefed and ready to focus on this goal. Everyone needs to know exactly what they are doing and what materials they have available to help with the promotion, like leaflets, presentations, demo products. Is there a special discount or offer for the duration of the trade show?
Be very clear who the ideal customer is and how contact details need to be captured and most importantly followed up. Bear in mind the timeline of WHEN to follow up is crucial! Someone needs to be appointed to make sure this process is followed.
Everyone involved in the stand from organisers, stand builders, graphic designers to website developers, social media manager and sales teams need to know what the goal for the stand is. This will keep everyone focussed and working towards the target set. You can have the most amazing stand; if the team doesn’t get the goal across, you will not get the quality leads that you’re looking for. This objective is also at the heart of your marketing campaign. It should be communicated in all of your marketing materials.
If done well, trade show stands can bring a surge of new quality leads to your business. The in-person conversations and interactions have been a valuable part in the business world for so long and they will continue to play a big part of ‘doing business’. Planning a stand doesn’t have to be stressful. In fact, it can be very enjoyable and rewarding.
Let’s make your next trade show stand a success!