How To Use Testimonials to Promote Your Exhibition Displays

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“The ‘mail order man’ knows nothing so potent for this purpose as the testimonial, yet the general advertiser seldom uses it.” So says James Webb Young, the favorite copywriter of legendary advertising executive David Ogilvy.

Ogilvy himself adds, “Testimonials increase credibility—and sales.”

So how do you obtain the benefits of testimonials for your trade show program?

First, understand that there are two basic categories:

  1. celebrity endorsements and
  2. the opinions of product users.

For years, exhibitors have used celebrities to attract attention and build brand awareness.

They usually sign autographs and pose for “selfies” with booth visitors.

The problem comes when attendees only want the autograph or photo, and have no interest in (or ability to purchase) the exhibitor’s product or service. This often means the majority of booth visitors are there just for the fun of it.

When you factor in the cost of the famous person’s time (frequently over $50,000 per hour) and other related expenses (like travel, crowd control, security—and even the occasional entourage), the cost-per-lead becomes unbelievably expensive. Frequently, the only advantage is to create a database of attendee names for future follow-up—hardly a savvy marketing strategy.

For additional fees, stars will say nice things about your product, which can be influential to booth visitors, especially when the celebrity actually uses your product. This is a common scenario at sporting goods shows, where sports personalities wear the shoes or other athletic gear made by the company they’re representing.double deck trade show rental display at 2013 superbowl-resized-600

Some exhibitors at these shows have taken a different approach in recent years, foregoing the huge (and often useless) crowds by limiting the celebrity’s appearance to a private area of the exhibition displays, such as the second floor of double deck exhibits.

Attendees can see the star, but have no access to him or her unless they’re invited up. In this rarified atmosphere, buyers or prospects can meet, pose for pictures, and get the personality’s autograph—an experience which is made more appealing since it’s limited to only a select few.

Other exhibitors have removed superstars from the show floor completely, hosting a party or hospitality suite to which buyers or prospects are invited for “meet and greets.” This usually means a shorter time commitment is required from the celebrity, which makes some famous endorsers more affordable.

The use of big stars at shows has been so successful that the “celebrity impersonator” business is booming. However, you’re more likely to find an Elvis Presley or Marilyn Monroe doppelganger than LeBron James or Kim Kardashian. These look-alikes may have a place—with the right strategy—but they’re never as popular as the real deal.

That brings us to the other source of testimonials: real customers.

Since most people assume that celebrities endorse a product for the financial reward it brings, the opinions of actual users of your product or service can be even more persuasive.

  • They add integrity and credibility to your marketing message, simply because they’re presumed to be honest and objective.
  • Your own experience demonstrates the power of the “ordinary person endorsement.”
  • Websites like Yelp, Angie’s List and even Facebook exist primarily to allow real people to share their opinions. (We’ve just started using TrustPilot.)

Businesses have been built—and destroyed—by the power of opinions. Even before sites like this, we looked to friends, neighbors and co-workers for opinions about purchasing a car or a lawnmower, because you felt these people were trustworthy. Your customers look to others to validate their buying decisions, too.

Also, don’t overlook the power of the fourth estate when capitalizing on opinions.

  • Newspapers and other press outlets have always been a source for reviews on which movies to see or what book to buy—even how to vote.
  • Press reviews of your product or service come from a supposedly unbiased and informed source, which people naturally trust.
  • Take advantage of this built-in integrity by including quotes from customers or the press in your exhibit’s marketing message or booth graphics.

I’ve seen examples where exhibitors have reproduced a huge photo of a product user on the back wall of their display, offset with a quote from—and a description of—the person. This approach increased the exhibitor’s credibility by “proving” that real people used their product.

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  • Consider asking customers to provide a brief testimonial when contacting them for some other reason.
  • Ask service technicians to collect a testimonial from each client after the repair issue has been successfully resolved.
  • Or get customer’s quotes at one trade show to be used at a later show.

Press clippings are another great mining ground for testimonials.

  • When a writer says your product is good, readers put greater faith in that opinion, simply because it comes from a credible, authoritative and respected source.
  • Another exhibitor plastered blow-ups of press clippings about his product on a wall in his exhibit, telling me, “The press can’t be bought.” He tapped his finger on a particularly glowing review and continued, “People believe what the press says.”

But don’t limit yourself to static reviews or testimonials.

  • You can Skype with customers and record their opinions, then show the video on a monitor in your exhibit.
  • Create a YouTube channel and use clips from these recordings, so prospects can see what customers have to say whenever they want.
  • You can even use printed testimonials in your pre-show direct mail solicitations, for door drops at show hotels, or include them with VIP invitations to the show.

There’s one other powerful way to use testimonials: the “product ambassador.” This is a real user of your product or service who’s in your exhibition displays solely to talk with visitors about his or her experience with your company. The person’s sharing can be part of a structured product demo, or he or she can simply be on hand to share opinions with attendees.

However you incorporate them, nothing beats the power of personal opinions. Like the copywriter said, “[There is] nothing so potent for this purpose than the testimonial.”

There’s also nothing so potent as well-designed exhibition displays to attract attention and communicate your product message to show visitors. Whether you’re looking to add to a modular structure—or create a totally new booth—we can help. We supply an enormous array of trade show display kits and trade show supplies to make your booth more attractive and functional, from pop up displays to modular display units, lighting kits to banner stands and literature racks to display table covers.

In our opinion, we can make you unforgettable. Call us at (800) 676-3976 or email [email protected].