Seven Deadly Exhibiting Sins and Ways to Avoid Them
by Susan Friedmann
Since exhibiting at trade shows comprises so many different components and functions, it’s no wonder that we make mistakes. However, some mistakes are more lethal than others and should be avoided. The seven described below fall into that category. Learn to avoid them, and you will increase your chances for success at any trade shows where your company exhibits.
Sin #1: Failing to have a proper exhibit marketing plan. To make trade shows a powerful part of your publishing company’s overall marketing operation, you must align your strategic marketing and your exhibit marketing plan. Trade shows should not be a stand-alone venture. Know and understand exactly what you wish to achieve. Do you want to increase market share with existing users? Introduce new books and/or services to existing markets? Introduce new books and/or services to new markets?
Build your program around this nucleus. Know whom you want to target and then consider aiming different promotional programs at the different groups you are interested in attracting. Include pre-show, at-show and post-show promotional activities.
Sin #2: Failing to set quantifiable exhibiting goals. Goals—your purposes for exhibiting—should shape the whole trade show experience. Knowing what you want to accomplish at a show will help you plan every aspect: your theme, the booth layout and display, graphics, displays of books, premiums, handouts, and more.
Make sure your progress toward your goals can be measured after the show to establish how well you did. For example: How many orders did you hope to get, and how many did you actually get? How many vendors did you hope to connect with, and how many connections did you make? How many potential partners did you hope to identify, and how many did you find?
Sin #3: Failing to build brand awareness with your booth. Your exhibit makes a strong statement about what your publishing company is, what it does, and how it does it. Attendees will assume that everything your company stands for is reflected on the show floor.
This means you need total consistency, congruity, clarity, and focus in every aspect of your exhibiting program, before, during, and after the show. To attract visitors so that you can achieve your marketing objectives, you need an open, welcoming, and friendly space, a focal point, and a strong key message that communicates a significant benefit to your prospects.
Opt for large graphics rather than reams of copy. Pictures paint a thousand words, while very few attendees will take time to read. And remember that presentations and demonstrations are a critical part of exhibit marketing. Create an experience that allows visitors to use as many of their senses as possible. This will help make your company’s offerings memorable.
Sin #4: Failing to give visitors a good reason to visit your booth. Whatever promotional vehicles you use—direct mail, broadcast faxes or emails, advertising, online and offline PR, sponsorship—make sureyou give visitors a reason to come and visit you.
With a hall overflowing with fascinating products and services and strict time constraints, people need an incentive. First and foremost, trade show attendees want to know what’s new. They are eager to learn about the latest technologies and new applications, as well as about anything that will help save them time and/or money.
If you don’t have a new product or service to introduce, find a way to present your offerings as innovative.
Sin #5: Failing to have giveaways that work. Along with a reason to visit your booth, it’s smart to offer something for free that will entice attendees to stop there. Your giveaway items should be designed to communicate, motivate, promote, or increase recognition of your company, and to make it memorable.
Developing a dynamite giveaway takes thought and creativity. Consider what your target audience wants, what will help them do their job better, what they can’t get elsewhere, what is related to your products and/or services and also educational. Think about having different gifts for different types of visitors.
Use your Web site to let people know they can collect important information at your booth, such as an executive report or white paper. And use giveaways as token rewards for visitors who participate in a demonstration, presentation, or contest, and as thank-yous to visitors who provide information about their specific needs.
Sin #6: Failing to realize that your people are your marketing team. Publishers often put enormous amounts of time, energy, and money into trade show participation, and then leave the people who are representing the publishing company to fend for themselves. They are told to show up but not trained in what to do once they get there.
Because the people in the booth are the company’s ambassadors, it’s important to brief them beforehand and make sure they know why you are exhibiting, what you are exhibiting, and what you expect from them.
In other words, staff training for exhibits is essential for a unified and professional image. This means making sure that people sell instead of tell; that they don’t try to do too much; that they understand visitors’ needs; that they don’t spend too much time with any one visitor; and finally, that they know how to close interaction with a commitment to follow-up.
Sin #7: Failing to have a proper follow-up plan. The key to your trade show success lies in the lead-management process. The best time to plan for follow-up is before the show.
Following up on show leads often takes second place to catching up on activities that occurred while you were out of the office at the show, but the longer a lead is left unattended, the colder it becomes.
It is to your advantage to develop an organized, systematic approach for follow-up. Establish a system for handling leads; set timelines for follow-up; use a computerized database for tracking; make sales representatives accountable for leads given to them—and then measure your results.
Susan A. Friedmann of The Trade Show Coach in Lake Placid, NY, works with companies to increase their profitability at trade shows and events. She is the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Target Marketing, Riches in Niches: How to Make it BIG in a Small Market, and Meeting and Event Planning for Dummies. For a free copy of “Exhibiting Success,” sign up for Trade Show Tips Newsletter at thetrade showcoach.com.