One Mississippi. Two Mississippi. Three Mississippi. Four Mississippi. That’s how much time you have to catch the attention of someone walking by your trade show booth. Those four seconds can cost you money if you don’t make the connection. The Center for Exhibit Industry Research reports that it costs 60% less to close a lead from a trade show than one made out in the field.

So, we’re talking about sinking major bucks into a trade show booth, right? Not necessarily. There are ways to invest wisely and make a big impression without breaking the bank. Bigger isn’t always better. Smarter is. Here are some tips.

Plan It Out – Way Far Out

Exhibiting at a trade show should not be a last-minute decision. You’ll likely pay more for the space, as well as everything else associated with the event. That includes your airfare and hotel accommodations, too. Preparation for a trade show event and booth should get underway as soon as the trade show is announced. Concentrate on these two areas:

  1. What’s your reason for exhibiting? Make it measurable, and make it your mantra. “I’ll be at this trade show because…” It’ll help you with further decisions because everything should be in service of this goal. Use the goal to work your way into justifying the investment of exhibiting. If your goal is to sell your product at the show, how many attendees must buy from you? More than one goal detracts from your focus. Be a laser beam.
  2. Who’s going to be there? Do the research before you commit to make sure you’ll connect with your target audience. This is no time to play Six Degrees of Separation. How can you be sure your target audience will attend? Extract that information from the trade show organizer. They should have attendance records and identifying information from previous shows. They’ll also have a growing database of who’s signed up for the event. Mine it. Extract proof you’ll connect with the right customers. Then, use the information to start selling to these people before they even arrive.

What happens if you don’t: Exhibiting at a trade show is a business decision. It should generate sales. That won’t happen if you’re playing to the wrong crowd.

Get Over Your Booth Obsession

Whatever surrounds you at the trade show is just a fraction of the work. Take your booth off the pedestal. You’re giving it too much importance. Most of the work takes place long before you ever get to the event.
Did you know that trade show attendees have already booked most of their time before they arrive? Don’t let all that casual sauntering past your booth deceive you. It’s likely a few minutes of free time before they head to their next appointment

Capturing someone just walking by is awesome. Make plans for that. What you want, though, are booked appointments to stop by your booth. That happens because of your pre-show efforts. Build awareness and ask for committed time by promoting to attendees as soon as you confirm your participation. Work the organizer’s database of names. Use social media to announce your participation. Tell them what you’ll offer at the trade show, and why.

What happens if you don’t: You’re not on anyone’s radar. The size of your booth and where it’s located will make little or no difference. Your competitors at the trade show have already locked up appointment times. Attendees have already mapped out which exhibitors they’ll check with first. It’s leftovers for you.

Know Thy Neighbor

You’ve got to know if your competitors will exhibit at the trade show. Get nosy and refresh yourself about what they’ve done at recent trade shows. Where are they on the floor in relation to you?
Comb the exhibitor list for allies. Vendors or suppliers give you an opportunity to team up. Explore opportunities to create connections that direct the flow of attendees to you. More impressions at the show can generate additional sales opportunities.

Market to the entire exhibitor list. Someone there might become one of your new best customers. What sort of press coverage will the event get? If you’ve got a list, you can let the press know you’re going to be there.

What happens if you don’t: Ugly surprises upon arrival can kill your enthusiasm for the show. Nobody likes to resemble the competition. If you know what they’re likely to present, you can take a different – and better – approach. Don’t let it get to you if you discover your biggest rival for customers has snagged the best location at the trade show. There’s always a strategic alternative. Study the floor layout for major entrances. Who says being next to the restrooms is a bad idea. Everybody’s gotta go, you know….

Rethink The Reason You Need A Booth

It’s not a trade show booth beauty contest. All that matters is your offer. What are you selling, or what’s your value proposition? That’s what’s attractive to attendees (at least the ones you want to convert to customers).

Your challenge is to design a both that is a destination, not an attraction. People make buying decisions when they can interact with you. What’s the result or benefit of your product or service? Let this value proposition drive the design of your booth and the interaction it’ll facilitate with people who stop by.

Maybe it’s not a booth – at least in the traditional sense – at all. The space is yours. You’ve rented it. Check with the show organizer to make sure there are no booth prerequisites. Then deconstruct and reassemble your idea on booth design. Transform it from a prop to a selling tool. Your objective? Be different!

Been to Vegas lately? There are probably some sequins still stuck to the bottom of the shoes you wore. Your booth isn’t going to ask for the sale. You or your staff will. Move the flash to what you wear. It’s all about people.

Companies with lots of money are going to be at the trade show. Their booths will push the high tech envelope. The science of color dictates that blue and orange are attractive. You’ll see lots of those two colors. Follow suit and you’ll just blend in with the rest of the glittering circus.

Go in the opposite direction. Consider being humble and comfortable. Your goal is to set yourself apart by breaking out of the “our trade show booth must be a technological extravaganza that folds down to the size of a pizza box” mentality. Think outside the booth.

Return On Investment

Have you detected a pattern in what you’ve read so far?

Your booth is not the primary concern if you’re going to exhibit at a trade show. It has a role, but it’s not a central one.

A good location is nice to have. What difference will that make if you don’t connect with attendees? And remember, most have already decided which booths they’ll visit before they arrive.

New customers – not compliments on your booth – are what justify your reason to exhibit at a trade show. You and your staff will make the connections, and those leads will have a 60% greater chance of turning into a sale. Your competitors will still be on the trade show floor trying to figure out how to fold their expand-o-matic booth back into the pizza box.

Looking for ways to present booth visitors with impressive packaged sales material? We can help!