Five Crippling Trade Show Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making

Every year, more than 1 billion people worldwide attend more than 20,000 trade shows.

And for almost every industry, that number is growing every year (see CEIR PDF).CEIR 2015 Index

These shows can be extremely effective in marketing your product or service, promoting your brand and building your company’s reputation, when approached properly.

Unfortunately, all too often, exhibitors who should know better, take a totally wrong approach to exhibiting, crippling their efforts to make an impression.

Why? They’re making critical mistakes at every step of the process, and they’re not even aware they’re doing it.

If you can avoid these common mistakes, you’ll see a resulting rise in the positive markers for your trade show participation.

1. You have a lousy strategy.

Trade shows are NOT like the ballpark in “Field Of Dreams,” where if you build it, they will come. Click To Tweet

You need to have a winning strategy.

What is your objective? Increase sales? Gather leads?

Those are well and good, but you also have to ask, “Then what?” in order to reap the advantages that more sales and increased leads can provide.

What constitutes an increase in sales? One more than last time? Ten percent more? Fifty percent?

And what plan do you have in place for maximizing the usefulness of the leads you’ll generate?

Do you have follow-up materials for those who’ve requested additional information?

Do you have people ready to make the calls to these leads to gauge their level of interest?

Do you even have lead cards your booth staffers can fill out with information that will be useful to those making the follow-up calls?

Until you’ve defined what success will look like for you as an exhibitor, you won’t achieve it.

2. Your booth staffers don’t know what they’re doing.

According to Matt Hill of The Hill Group, a booth staff training consultancy, “If you look at the companies that could easily afford it, probably less than five percent of them invest in booth staff training.”

When you add up all the companies in the exhibit hall, he figures that number is less than one percent.

The show floor is a unique and challenging environment, unlike anywhere else your staffers might be accustomed to.

sales and marketing books

Get training specific to the task!

Whether it’s asking for the order or requesting information needed to fill out a lead card, there are specific techniques that have to be used.

If your staffers don’t know them, you’ll be wasting your investment in the show while your people fumble their way through on their own.

Think of booth staff training as relatively inexpensive insurance on the rest of your trade show investment, that can actually pay for itself in greater ROI.

3. Your booth is full of salespeople.

Effective booth staffing requires a skill set that’s a little broader than just sales.

Not everyone who visits your exhibit will be a prospect today for your product or service.

But that doesn’t mean they’re not valuable to your company.

For example, who’s going to talk with the customer who’s got technical questions about your product?

Who can handle media inquiries?

To field a good team, you need staffers with a range of skills.

A booth full of eager salespeople may write orders or close sales, but that group won’t be able to make the most of a reporter’s questions or reassure a customer who’s having problems with your product.

Recruit people with those skills, too, when you’re creating your show roster.

4. You’ve never measured your results.

Would you believe me if I told you that 50% of trade show exhibitors don’t measure their trade show ROI? That was the number reported in 2010. Last fall, the number was guessed to be around 80%.

To be honest, I have no idea what the real number is, but I’m very confident in asserting that most exhibitors don’t do much in the way of measurement.

So how can you know you’re succeeding if you don’t know how many people you’re reaching, how many leads you’re gathering, how much each lead is costing you, and what the overall costs of your exhibit marketing program really are?

The reality is, most trade show exhibitors exhibit because that’s what companies do—not because it creates a worthwhile ROI.

To justify your program to management, and increase management interest in – and the value of – your program, take the steps required to learn how well you’re doing, and what you could be doing to make your returns even better.

5. You never seal the deal.

Virtually every exhibitor leaves the show with a thumb drive (or a fishbowl) full of leads.

But what happens after that is absolutely shocking.

Many companies do next to nothing with their leads—and some do nothing at all.

The companies that are making the most of their trade show participation invest the time and energy to follow up with every one of their leads in an appropriate way.

But this requires planning and people power.

Your staffers need to know how to ask for the order.

Your salespeople back in the office have to know how to follow up appropriately.

And you have to have the resources in place for them to do this.

In an effective strategy, attending the trade show is only the first step in the process of making the most of your leads.

And, one extra trade show mistake to avoid:

Modified VK-2954 Custom Wood Fabrication Exhibit with SuperNova LED Backlit Graphic, Planter, Walk-in Storage, and MOD-1509 Reception Counter

Modified VK-2954 Custom Wood Fabrication Exhibit with SuperNova LED Backlit Graphic, Planter, Walk-in Storage, and MOD-1509 Reception Counter

6. Your booth isn’t up to snuff.

One extremely important aspect of your trade show marketing program is the trade show exhibit itself – most agree that you have 3-5 SECONDS to attract an unplanned visit to your booth.

Is your trade show booth designed for maximum attraction?

Does your trade show booth design meet all of your needs?

If you need a private conference area, does it have one?

If you need to do product demo’s, do you have the required kiosks or trade show digital displays?

If you need to highlight different products at different shows, does your trade show display easily accommodate that?

Does your booth need repair or refurbishment?

New graphics or accessories like lighting or literature racks?

Or perhaps you’re in the market for a completely new booth.

That’s where we can help.

Let’s talk about how we can design a new booth that contributes to the overall effectiveness of your trade show program. Call us at (800) 676-3976 or email [email protected].

For more, check out our article on big trade show mistakes to avoid or trade show pitfalls to avoid.