Seven Steps To A Successful Trade Show Exhibit

It’s no secret that trade shows are an expensive and time consuming endeavor. To get things right, and make the most of the opportunities that present themselves, you’ve got to follow a plan. What do you do? Here’s how you start:



1. Focus on sales
On the trade show floor, selling is essential to what you’re doing. Sure, you’re networking with existing clients and making new contacts, but your primary focus should be selling what your company creates. You can’t fake sales numbers: you either make the sale, or you don’t.

Trade shows are one of the most effective ways to make a sale. Compared with on-site sales calls, trade shows are less expensive, and trade shows can create sales much more quickly than other forms of marketing—often right on the show floor.

Don’t forget that part of selling is making sure that your customers—new and old—are getting what they need. Having the right people on the show floor (who can answer prospects’ questions) gives you the tools you need to solve problems, brainstorm new applications and promote the sale of additional products or services.

2. Start planning well in advance of the show
Your strategic planning should begin at least six months prior to the event. Get input from sales, marketing and management, so you can develop a plan that (as best as possible) meets each group’s needs. Provide each group with information about the products or services you’ll be presenting, along with the usual guidelines for logistics, display plans and operations.

You’ll also want to notify everyone involved about any pre-show meetings you’ll have, and create a booth duty roster. Do this as far in advance of the show as possible, so staffers can work out any conflicts they might have with scheduling.

3. Figure out what you need
In some cases, you’re locked in to what size booth you’ll be using, because it’s all you have. But you may want to run the numbers and see if a larger exhibit might help you attract more attention, make more sales, and pay for itself in the process.

If you are re-thinking your exhibit size, don’t stop with the amount of space required for sales presentations and product displays. Consider space for storage (including secure storage for staffers’ laptops, purses and other personal property), audio visual equipment and, if necessary, conference facilities.

4. Know who you’re talking to
Not everyone on the trade show floor is a prospect. And there will also be customers there who have just purchased from you. What you’re looking for are all those people in the middle. But the adage “If you build it, they will come” does not apply in the trade show world. You need to work to reach those attendees who are real prospects for your product or service.

How do you do this? The answer is partly alchemy: you use a mixture of data on previous sales, established sales goals and your own trade show experience. By mining this information, you can determine a likely goal for the number of sales (or leads) you can expect the right trade show to deliver. For more on this, see #5.

5. Choose the right shows
In order to catch mice, you need to put your mousetrap in the right place. The same is true for your exhibit. Whether you exhibit at consumer or B2B shows, you need to determine if a particular show has the potential to deliver the kinds of prospects you’re looking for. How do you do this?

i) Check out the show’s history to see if exhibitors returned year after year. If they did, chances are good that the show worked for them.

ii) Find out everything you can about attendees. If you know the demographics of the audience, combined with its size, you can make an informed decision about whether this particular show is right for you.

iii) Check with vendors and other exhibitors from past shows. This is a great way to find out if a show delivers on what its organizers promise. Talk with people who are trying to reach the same audience, but aren’t direct competitors. Then, simply ask them if they felt the show was effective.

6. Design your exhibit from the outside in
Think of your exhibit like a newspaper’s front page: your signage and graphics are analogous to the paper’s headline. Its only purpose is to tease the reader (attendee) to want to learn more about the story (your company, product or service). Almost everything about your exhibit’s look and feel should be designed to attract attention from the aisle.

MultiQuad exhibit with shelving for products

MultiQuad exhibit with shelving for products

Once visitors are inside, you can talk to them, qualify them and direct their attention to products on display or demos being presented. It’s inside the exhibit that you provide the rest of the story about your company and its products or services.

7. Generate the right kinds of leads
Booth staffers should be trained to ask qualifying questions, then carefully record the visitor’s responses (or any concerns or expectations that they may bring up). It’s also very helpful to those in the field who will be following up on these leads that they have some form of rating system: anything from “hot,” “warm” and “cold” to “ready to buy,” “need within six months” or “nurture for future need.” Take time to think about what ratings will be most helpful to your sales staff.

After the show, a well-executed lead can help the field salesperson make a great impression. He or she will know what the prospect’s needs are, and how the company can help. Knowing this will go a long way toward helping the salesperson meet those needs and close the sale.

These seven steps can help your company fine-tune its trade show program and make the most effective use of exhibiting. This approach narrows the sales cycle, reduces sales costs and dramatically increases the pool of qualified prospects for the company’s goods and services. By applying these steps properly, you’ll find the results will definitely justify the effort. At American Image Displays, we’re here to support our clients in becoming more successful in all aspects of their trade show efforts. If there’s any way we can be of help to you, call us at (425) 556-9511 or email [email protected].

For more, learn about trade show etiquette or how to create a great first impression with your exhibit.