Conferences, trade shows and other industry events are golden opportunities for your company to get in front of a lot of prospects at once, let them know what products or services you offer, and hopefully convert some of them into new customers. The challenge is standing out from the crowd of exhibitors when your booth is just one among dozens or hundreds of others — or making a splash when you don’t even have a booth.
To get the most of your time at a trade show — and the money you spend to be there — you have to make an impression on attendees. Here’s how.
Keep a Close Eye on Your Expenses
Whether your budget is $5,000 or $50,000, there’s a limit to what you can spend and trade show costs can add up fast. But that doesn’t mean you can’t stand out, as BlackbookHR founder Chris Ostoich explained in this 2014 Forbes article.
You should ask your vendors for an estimate all of the costs associated with your booth, the party you’re sponsoring and anything else you’ll be doing at the event. “Sometimes all of the necessary services needed to actually have the booth up cost more than the actual booth,” says Heather Griffin, president of The Exhibit Co. “Shipping, I&D, material handling, electrical can really add up. Smaller booths need to concentrate on dynamic visuals and good graphics.”
Keep Your Presence On-Brand
When you’re at the show, your presence should be consistent with your company’s brand and overall marketing strategy. That includes the way employees act, the way they dress, the materials they share, the event-related conversations they have on social media and the booth itself.
“That is what we work for with each engagement we undertake,” says Robb Clawson, marketing and communications director at Hargrove Inc. “We understand the client, their objectives, the message and brand and then Hargrove creates exhibits which are physical environments which translate their marketing message and bring their brand to live.”
Be Present — Not Only in Body, But Also in Spirit and Online
Whoever is manning your booth should be energized and focused on visitors. That means putting away the cell phones, standing up and engaging people walking down the aisles. Ask them who they are, why they’re attending and if they need the solution — not the product or brand — that you have to offer.
“Too often a great redesign and exhibition plan will fall flat if the staff at the booth is distracted or tired,” Clawson says. “Smile and have fun—it’s contagious!”
And get engaged on social media, too. “Just about every event these days has a hashtag attendees can use to share content on Twitter and Facebook,” says Rep Cap’s own Brooke Howell. “When you get involved in the conversation, you connect with more attendees and even people who are just following along from home.”
Make Your Solution Clear
“Every company that goes to the expense of participating needs to at least make it clearly known to the attendees, who they are and what they do,” Griffin says. “They should try to keep the booth visually simple and clean.”
Keep It Simple
A trade show is a chance to let others know what your company does and how it can help them. It’s an initial introduction, so you don’t need to bring your whole marketing strategy. You can go into more detail later on down the road.
“Trying to show or say everything that they do can make booths appear cluttered and uninviting,” Griffin says. “It is best to grab attention and then have the staff engage the potential client.”
Make It Easy to Get Into Your Booth
Avoid putting tables or anything at the walkway edge that could prohibit visitors from getting into your booth or could be a divider between you and your prospect. That’s a surefire way to put people off and miss a chance to make a connection. If people can’t get into your booth, how will they get to know you?
“Unless you are an elite brand which is known on sight, your booth should provide the attendees with some idea of what you are all about and encourage or arouse their curiosity them to come in and find out more,” Clawson says. “If you don’t provide these visual and active cues, they are very likely to shrug and walk on by.”
It’s be easier to connect with visitors and stand out from the crowd if you offer more than a bright booth and some printed marketing collateral. Give a hands-on demonstration, let the attendees sample your product or survey them on some facet of your campaign—anything to draw them in.
“Give them a sense of ownership in the process, and they will walk away more knowledgeable and invested in your and your company,” Clawson says. “Today’s customers want to be involved.”
And don’t forget to engage online, Howell says. “Even at a live event people may not be able to make it to your booth — or they may make it there and not have time to stick around. When you’re active on Twitter, you can engage with all of those people — and the ones who do have time to stop in at your booth.”
Use Giveaways for Lead Generation
Having a giveaway or two at your booth is a great way to engage with attendees and make sure they leave with something to remember you by. The important thing is to make sure the giveaway helps get you leads.
“Don’t just give away something because everyone wants a giveaway, try to make it related to your business,” Griffins said. “Get leads! Don’t ship collateral and hand it out, get their information to send it to them and then follow up.”
Want to learn more about standing out at the next event your company attends? Check out our guide, How to Turn Your Next Event Into a Content Goldmine.