How can I build my public image through trade shows?

Plan a trade show. Trade shows are a great way to meet a large number of people who are already interested in your type of product.

Trade shows give you a unique marketing opportunity. People visit a trade show that interests them. That means that there are sure to be a certain level of qualified prospects.

The way you present yourself at a trade show is a powerful yet direct way to convey your company image and portray the level of product quality and customer service your prospects can expect.

Here are some advantages for exhibiting at trade shows:

  • Opportunity to sell your products to attendees and other exhibitors of the show
  • Show products to distributors, sales representatives, catalog houses etc
  • Test promotional materials
  • Test future ideas
  • Collect leads
  • Meet and greet your current customers
  • Hold meeting with people who might otherwise be unavailable
  • Get media attention

The few sections provide tips on how to make the most out of your trade show.

Before the Show

  1. Evaluate and select which trade shows are most appropriate for you. Be diligent in determining a show’s worthiness. Are the participants likely to be your target customers? Does it enhance your brand image? Booth space is limited and must be reserved and paid for in advance. The fee will vary according to the show, the square footage and the location within the exhibition. Start planning at least 3 - 4months in advance. Participate with a key partner to share costs.
  2. Read the show manual. Ensure that you obtain a copy of the show manual as this contains vital information such as registration information and forms, final schedule, floor plans, information about speakers and other important details. Some shows offer business matching and other services that you could tap on to maximise effectiveness.
  3. Establish your goals.  Be specific as to what you want to accomplish as a result of your show participation. Is your objective to increase brand awareness, to gain exposure to a large number of prospects who might be interested in your product or to check out the competition? Defined goals are important in determining the value of the trade show to your business.
  4. Define measurements of success. Once you have determined your goals, you need to find a way to measure success. Set measureable and specific goals. For example, you may wish to distribute a certain number of brochures, collect a specific number of leads or make a lunch appointment with a key editor. These benchmarks help you to determine if the show was worth the expense.
  5. Put your show plan in writing. Prepare a schedule and make a full list of all preparation activities and assign an individual to each task. Do not leave things to chance.

During the Show

  1. Set up a rotating booth schedule for your staff. Make sure that a sufficient number of staff is present at the booth. Ensure sufficient time for staff to take breaks for lunch and relax. This helps build morale while they attend to the booth. If you have limited staff to man the booth, purchase meals for them if they are unable to take longer lunch breaks.
  2. Remind staff to record all prospect information. You will talk to hundreds of people and it will be difficult to remember what one person said in exact detail. Have a form ready for staff to record everything they learn about a prospect’s needs and staple their business card to it. Remind them of the importance of getting phone numbers and email addresses if a prospect has run out of business cards. Refer to the Promotions, Leads and Sales module to learn how to turn these prospects into customers.
  3. Remind staff to greet people warmly and smile. An inviting attitude can give a valuable first impression. Staff should avoid having their backs turned to the entrance or taking phone calls or sending sms’s while on duty. A friendly greeting to passersby may encourage them to stop rather than simply walk by.

After the Show

  1. Send requested materials immediately. Respond to all requests as soon as you return to the office or within 24 hours. A quick response is your second opportunity to make a great impression.
  2. Include a teaser on the envelope or in the email subject line.  Mention your organisation’s name and the name of the conference on the outside of the envelope or in the email subject line so they know your letter or email is not junk mail.
  3. Help your prospect take the next step. Make an offer that is hard to refuse. Be creative in making it easy for prospects to respond.
  4. Keep track of your prospects. Keep records of the sales and number of potential customers you met through the trade show. Use these results to demonstrate the show’s return on investment.
  5. Analyse the lessons learnt. After each show, evaluate what went well and what did not. Critique all aspects of the show and gather feedback from others as well. Learn from these and improve for the next show.

Provide a great trade show experience. Make a strong connection and leave a lasting impression.

Connect before the show

1. Invite everyone you know. Research shows that the most successful exhibitors – in terms of business generated and leads collected – write to their customers, prospects, vendors and media before the show. There is no point in exhibiting if no one visits your booth. Do not rely solely on the organiser’s marketing.

2. Let them know where your booth is. Add tag lines such as “Visit us at Booth 1375 at the Culinary World Conference” in your news release, website and other communications leading up to the show.

3. Make an appointment to meet at the show. Set up meetings with prospective customers or editors.

4. Get creative. Get your staff involved, research and brainstorm for ideas. You and your staff know best what would appeal to your target customers. Go beyond the usual lucky draws and free gifts, or conduct them in an unusual and interesting way.

Use sight and sound

1. Develop a key marketing message. Like advertising, your booth should communicate one major message. A vibrant and visually enticing booth that communicates your message in a matter of seconds will maximise your sales opportunities.

2. Design an open and inviting booth. Mount displays on the wall to maximise space. Make sure there are no obstructions to access. If space permits, provide comfortable chairs to encourage prospects to linger.

3. Lighting and visuals. Use interesting graphics and good lighting to create the right mood and atmosphere. Engage all their senses and give them a reason to stay at your booth. Make your logo visible from a good distance.

4. Presentations and demos. Be informative and interactive. Presentations allow you to communicate with many prospects at once. Install a wide screen TV to run an ongoing demo of your product or service. Do not depend on the Internet, your demos must operate without being online.

Provide the personal touch

1. Train your people to hold conversations. Good conversationalists are genuinely interested in the other person. This will help them find out about their needs and how your product can help them.

2. Train on product knowledge. This is a critical step. Your people need to know what is expected of them. Each of them should be briefed on all new products, initiatives or programmes. They must know how to run the demos and presentations and also some basic trouble shooting. Nothing looks more unprofessional than demos that do not work.

3. Create a unique identity for your booth staff. Determine a dress code for your staff. Make it easy for prospects to know who is working the booth by wearing matching blazers, Polos or T-Shirts to make the representatives easily identifiable.

Create a Lasting Impression

1. Provide takeaway information. Provide brochures, marketing collaterals, brochures and fact sheets.

2. Give away a useful gift. Make sure your gift is one that will be re-used time and again, so that it reminds your customers of you.

3. Build your own happy hour party. Rent a room at or near the conference site with drinks and basic food. Pass out invites at the show and on your pre-show mailers. It will be money well spent as you get to present your information in a relaxed atmosphere.


Build a booth that stands out

There are three basic types of display:

  1. The custom designed unit is as simple or as elaborate as you want it to be and is the most expensive. This is shipped to the show for set up and returned when it is time to pack up. Not only do you have to pay for the custom design display, you have to pay for its storage while not in use.
  2. The stock display gives you the benefits of a custom unit without the huge costs. A display house will customise one of their stock displays with your company name and logo, have it painted in your company colors, and add lights wherever you want them. Some stock units come in modular sections so you can add or subtract sections to fit your desired space.
  3. The self-contained unit is the least expensive display. A small unit can be carried by one person and set up very quickly. Since it is prefabricated it will look like a lot of other displays at the show, although some customisation can be done to enhance it.

Whichever display type you choose, maximize your show experience by making your booth stand out.