Seven Trade Show Planning Mistakes to Avoid
Mistake #1: Possessing the wrong skill set
Putting a trade show exhibit program together takes a unique set of skills: it requires a detail-oriented person who’s very good at organizing things. But you also need someone with a strong knowledge of marketing, if you’re to be successful.
Marketing skills will help you determine whether a particular show is aligned with your overall objectives, whether the product you’re focusing on is of interest to the attendees at this show, and whether your graphics are contributing to a successful exhibit.
Mistake #2: The “tried” isn’t always “true”
Perhaps your analysis of a previous trade show display attributed its success to the wrong elements of the overall effort. When you try the same thing again at another show, you could wind up disappointed when it fails.
On the other hand, relying on the same old approach just because “it’s always worked before” can lead to failure when the same audience sees the same thing time after time, or your sales force bores of using the same pitch too often.
Retail marketers constantly change what’s in their display windows (often hiring professionals to create these displays), because experience has taught them that something new helps draw in new business. Your goal is exactly the same, isn’t it? Varying the approach used in your next show booth can bring improved response, from both your prospects and your personnel.
Mistake #3: Not trying out new territory
It can be risky to put a brand-new trade show on your calendar. But there may be shows that have a demonstrated track record that you’re not participating in now. Maybe your company serves a vertical market and you’re still exhibiting in larger shows with a broader appeal to attendees.
You might want to try exhibiting at one of those smaller, vertical market shows. You may be able to make a bigger splash in that smaller pond, or reduce the size of your exhibit stand and still make your presence known.
The worst thing you can do is treat your show schedule like it’s an immutable document. The landscape is always changing, and your participation in shows has to change with it.
Mistake #4: No willingness to risk
Have you become irreversibly committed to an overworked approach just because that’s what you’ve always done? Are you operating in areactive mode, waiting to see what your competition does before trying something out of the ordinary? This attitude will steer you head-on into a creative roadblock that might make you contemptuous of an innovative new idea.
A bold step in a different direction may pay big dividends, even turning the table enough to make your competitors watch you for cues of what to do next time.
This sort of daring approach—an element of calculated risk—becomes even more necessary when you’re faced with adversities like an out-of-the-way booth location or an exhibiting budget that’s only a fraction of what your rivals are spending.
Mistake #5: Building castles in the clouds
Often in the planning or creation of an exhibit, it’s possible to latch onto an interesting—but impractical—idea. In the planning stages, you can dream far beyond budgetary, space or time limitations.
It’s great to let your imagination run wild. But when reality hits, you’ll have a hard time trying to salvage that “great idea.” Your “knock-‘em-dead” vision ends up being too much fancy and not enough fact to be pulled off successfully. But there may still be the seed of a workable idea there.
If you can’t afford a large booth that can help attract crowds, focus on your key prospects. Get them into your booth display with pre-show mailings, phone calls from your staff to invite them to see your latest widget, and maybe even a thoughtful gift as a way of showing your appreciation for their investment of time.
You may be able to pull of a great exhibit for only a fraction of that “pie in the sky” budget by using a novel twist on your originally unworkable idea.
Mistake #6: What you don’t know can hurt you
It may sound ridiculous, but there’s a real danger in knowing too much about the show you’re planning for. You may believe you know so much about the potential audience at a certain show that you discount the possibility of trying something new for them.
Maybe it’s better to start your thinking with a clean slate, rather than drown in a sea of “facts” based on previous shows.
Conversely, the difficulty you face may be that you don’t know enoughabout a particular show’s attendees, or about the show itself. Every exhibitor has a favorite war story about a trade show that they didn’t know well enough to be sure how their participation would play out.
Their universal advice? Use every channel possible to glean all the information you can find relating to your show, your prospects, your competition and your exhibit.
Mistake #7: Overstocking your shelves
Every member of your staff sees the exhibit as a place to tell their particular part of the company story. They want their pet products on display. They want the graphics to highlight their project. But this is a dangerous path to tread.
Your booth isn’t a warehouse, to be stocked to the rafters with your products. It’s also not a full-length novel. At most, it’s the “Readers Digest” version of your company’s story.
Your exhibit has a serious job to do. And while it might sound paradoxical, by limiting what’s in your trade show booth to only the most essential products (and graphics with focused messages), you’ll gather more attention and persuade a greater number of visitors to stop and talk with staffers.
Are you guilty of any of these mistakes? If so, don’t feel bad. Even seasoned pros can make a misstep now and then. That’s when it’s helpful to have a partner in the process who sees things from a different angle.
For more, check out our article on frequently made trade show mistakes and remember that if you don’t take of your customers, someone else will.
Here at American Image Displays, we pride ourselves on the partnerships we create with our clients, and we always feel that two heads are better than one. For help with any aspect of your exhibiting program, call us at (425) 556-9511 or email [email protected]