How to Solve the Mystery of Creating a Successful Trade Show

Planning a successful trade show appearance can be tricky. Sometimes it can seem like building a huge puzzle.

So we’ve identified seven key pieces of that puzzle. When assembled correctly, it can virtually guarantee your success.

Custom SEGUE Backlit Displays with Tension Fabric Graphics

Custom SEGUE Backlit Displays with Tension Fabric Graphics

Puzzle Piece #1: Why Are We Exhibiting Here?

I’ve spoken to so many trade show managers who have poor answers to this question:
•“Our competitors are here.”
•“Our boss likes to visit [insert city name here].”
•“It’s close to our headquarters.”
•And so it goes, ad infinitum.

There’s only one good reason for exhibiting at any trade show. It’s to go where you’ll find the best collection of your customers and your prospects.

Go to the ends of the earth if that’s where you’ll find your pot of gold: prospects that need what your company provides, and you can meet with, face to face.

Attendees decided to come to the trade show because they’re looking for solutions. They have real, perplexing problems and want to find the solutions.

All you have to do is
1.Show up and
2.Show off

Puzzle Piece #2: Logistics

Once you know select the best show, look for the best place to be at that show.

All booth spaces aren’t created equal.

There are really sucky places you can be at a show that will destroy your chances for success.

You want a booth space close to the entrance, the food service area or the restrooms. These are the places where you’ll see the largest number of attendees.

Don’t leave this part to chance. Negotiate hard for the place you think will get you the greatest amount of exposure.

It will supercharge your chances for success.

Staff your booth with the right kind of people.

They’re not all created equal, either.

Some people are outgoing, charismatic and energetic. These are the people you want in your exhibit.

Bookworms, shy people and some types of nerds aren’t the best front-line staff you’d want representing your company.

I make that distinction about “some types of nerds,” because certain ones are perfect for giving product demos or answering technical questions.

They just might not be the most warm and fuzzy people on your staff.

A brief side note:
spring for the extra padding in your trade show carpet.

Your staffers are probably going to be on their feet for eight to ten hours a day.

trade show plush carpet

Use trade show plush carpet AND padding

Standing on cheap carpeting laid on a concrete floor is a killer.

Your booth staff may not thank you for it, but at least they won’t be complaining.

Puzzle Piece #3: Don’t Go It Alone

A successful trade show is not a 1 person job.

Dozens of people are involved in pulling off a good show.

And there are 2 places you can get great – FREE – advice.

Talk to your personal shopper at your trade show display store. And talk to the company providing your promotional materials.

They both have years of experience. One is an expert at designing great trade show displays. The other is expert at helping you select the best trade show giveaways.

So tap their brains. You’ll thank them for it later.

Puzzle Piece #4: Attract Attention

Showing up is only half the job.

The other part is showing off.

To do that, you have to have something that attracts attention.

Maybe it’s as simple as incorporating a video monitor into your exhibit and showing a looping presentation about your products.

Or it could be as involved as delivering the keynote address for the show.

OK, maybe you can’t do the keynote speech (this year).

Being part of the educational track at a trade show can be a huge opportunity.

Some experts say, “Don’t ever attend a show that you can’t make a presentation at.” – it’s THAT important.

It gives you the chance to tell your story AND show yourself as an industry expert.

Puzzle Piece #5: Save A Tree

It’s useless to hand out literature at a trade show.

Most of it doesn’t make it out of the exhibit hall or the hotel room.

If you must hand out something, put your sales presentation materials on thumb drives (with your logo, of course), and dispense them to interested prospects.

Better still, make an appointment. Schedule to meet with a prospect once the show is over. Or sign a deal right there in the booth.

Remember, the attendees came to this show ready to find a solution.

They’ve literally paid to play. Make it easy for them to do so.

Puzzle Piece #6: Follow Up

I can’t remember how many times I’ve written about the importance of this aspect of trade show marketing.

But I keep coming back to it. Countless attendees tell me they made great contacts at a show, but then never heard anymore.

That’s like asking someone out on a date. And paying for a new outfit, theatre tickets, and a limo.

And then not showing up. It’s rude—and it doesn’t make sense!

If you’re going to go to all the effort of exhibiting at a show, why wouldn’t you follow up with the leads you got?

Here’s how to do it in the classiest way:

  • (Of course you should scan their badge if that’s available.)
  • If not, ask for the prospect’s card and give them yours.
  • Take a moment with this.
  • On the back of their card, make notes—in front of the prospect—about what the next step should be.
  • Then go home and write (that’s correct: write, not text or email) a hand-written note.
  • Thank the prospect for stopping by and confirming the next step that you made notes about (a sales call, plant tour, product demo, etc.).
  • Then, follow through.

You will probably astonish your prospect with this approach.

Why? Because no one else is going to be doing it.

Wouldn’t you like to receive such special treatment?

Then give it to the people who are about to become your customers.

Puzzle Piece #7: Do The Math

Exhibiting at a trade show needs to be worth the investment. (Unless the trade show is really just a vacation that your boss is going to write off).

So justify the expenditure. Run the sales numbers and calculate all of the other results.

Don’t forget to include sales, brand exposure, trade press attention received, news coverage, etc.

Show the people in charge that it’s worth doing, and worth doing right.

Download 7 Tips for Trade Show Follow Ups

We’d like to help you succeed.

In addition to passing along ideas like this, we’d like to be part of your success on the show floor, too.

If you need anything related to your exhibit – anything at all – let us know.

We can help with completely custom built trade show exhibits. We can also help with graphics, literature racks, banner stands or lighting kits.

We’re the perfect one-stop shop for your trade show needs. So, if you’re shopping for inspiration, talk to us.

We’ll show you how we can make you shine. Call (800) 676-3976 or email [email protected].

For more, check out how to niche your way to success and how to prepare for a successful trade show.