Stand Out From the Crowd At Your Next Trade Show

A trade show can be one of the most dynamic and exciting environments to showcase your business.  The energy is electric and the pulse of the event beats at a high tempo, but it is easy to get lost in the shuffle if you don’t arrive prepared and ready to introduce your brand and product to hundreds or thousands of new potential customers.  Among a field of your competitors, how can you be sure to stand out from the crowd and demonstrate a measurable return on your investment for participation?  We find that many of our clients getting ready for their first Edmonton trade show or for their first foray outside of the city have questions about how they can maximize their investment of time and money at trade shows.

Here’s some of the best advice that we can suggest:

Make a Game Plan Before The Show

Participation in a trade show shouldn’t be an expense on your ledger that you simply have to write off as a marketing expense.  Just like any other day in the office, taking your business on the road to a trade show should represent opportunities for you to make at least as much in sales as you would be not having visibility on site.  If not, it may not be worth your investment of both time and money.  While show promoters won’t guarantee the volume of sales that you can secure as part of their show, advancing your business requires more than just the exposure that these events can offer.

In advance of the event, market your involvement to your customers and your following on social media.  You may also want to send out an e-mail to some of your key contacts to make them aware that you will be one of the exhibitors on site.  This provides a great opportunity for you to promote an exclusive promotion that will be available only at the show to inspire interest for people to attend and connect with you.  Get creative – maybe you want to offer a bonus promotion to existing clients as well as something introductory for new customers that are finding out about you for the first time.

You should also take time to educate yourself about which of your own direct competitors are planning to attend.  This will help you to consider how you might set up your booth to differentiate yourself from those companies and avoid a duplication of similar engagement activities that those marketers might employ.  Additionally, make plans for who you will connect with at the show to expand your network, source new suppliers or promote your services to other merchants that may be in the market for your product or service.  Growing your business is about more than just the engagement with customers who will be touring the show floor.  Approach the event as an opportunity to meet and network with professionals from a variety of fields.  You never know what conversation might inspire some new ideas for the growth of your company.

Your planning should include preparation to sell.  Bring all the tools that you need to conduct business and convert interest into sales from the trade floor.  Innovations such as Square which allow for credit card payment processing directly through a mobile phone has been a great resource for merchants who take their product to the market on the road.  But also consider pens, receipts, order forms and quote documents that you use most commonly to conduct business.  Don’t lose sales by showing up unprepared to meet the needs of your potential customers.  That includes having a sufficient inventory on hand of some of your popular products so you can capitalize on impulse buys on the show floor.  Trade shows do create a sense of urgency for buyers, but if you don’t appear to be prepared to meet their needs, you may not get a second chance to make the sale.

If you plan to use technology at the event such as running audio or video, you may want to ensure that your booth has that capability and that you will be situated nearby an electrical outlet as required.  You may also wish to keep your mobile device charged up if you are using it to process credit card payments or using it to scroll through your website or other online resource for engaged buyers.  You might also choose to post regular updates, photos, videos to your social media page to promote your attendance at the event and share highlights with your network.

First Impressions Are Key

The activity on the trade show floor can create a bit of a sensory overload for patrons.  Every ten feet is another exhibitor that has paid a significant sum for the opportunity to get in front of those attendees with hopes of selling their wares.  You can give yourself a strong start by ensuring that your displays, backdrops and banners are bright and eye catching.  Invest in a professional design that you can use to your advantage in any environment.  Remember, that the point is to create brand awareness, so your name, logo, and slogan should be prominently featured in a manner that doesn’t get lost in the mix.

When trying to capture the attention of new customers that are not familiar with your brand or your product, this is not the time to be humble and modest.  Instead, make sure that your booth design includes mentions of anywhere that you have received media attention.  A notation of “As Seen On …” can lend to your credibility with your customers instantly and increase curiosity from people who want to find out why you have this momentum behind your business.

Create a lively environment in your booth.  Consider that a booth with the table across the front and someone seated behind may not convey the most welcoming message.  A small change such as running your table along the edge of your booth with all of your sample products and literature, allowing your booth staff to stand and engage people at their eye level without any barriers will be more inviting.  Assign your most enthusiastic, outgoing and approachable staff for the event and make sure that they are wearing your brand logo to represent the investment in your brand and the professionalism of your team.  Your booth can set itself apart from neighboring displays by communicating fun.  Maybe even incorporate music as a sound track to your day, which can attract attention and also help to stave off complacency among your staff who are committed to long hours in a single position.