Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Trade Show Guide - Getting The Most Out Of Your Investment



By: Mike McAllister


As owner of Inventiv Designs, Mike McAllister has helped launch brands into major industry outlets nationwide by providing high quality techniques and practices in branding, marketing, identity creation, web design, and graphic design. With over 20 years of industry experience, Mike continues to help companies find their voice and focus on a direction for success over adversity.


When you define your goal you have a better guide to what you want to get out of the show. Are you launching a new product? Trying to generate more leads? A lot of times my goal is to use tradeshows to gain clarity on my brand’s message. If attendees are asking a lot of the same questions, you may want to look at filling in those gaps immediately. People are either finding gaps in your idea, or the message you are trying to convey is flawed enough to create confusion.


Having a well thought out strategy is key. Target your audience and immediately build the strategy around them. This includes doing your homework on the type of exhibitors, attendees, and venue(s) you will be amongst throughout the days/weeks of the event. Does your strategy fit your customer base or demographic information? Your message should be geared towards the attendees at all times. This includes the look and feel of your brand, how your booth will filter its attendees through the booth, the location of the booth, who your surrounding exhibitors will be, and lighting needs to name a few. If you are at an outdoor event did you plan on having a wind-resistant booth with secured marketing materials that won’t blow off into oblivion?


Never make your booth an accidental find. Make it a destination. Depending on the venue, there are numerous opportunities to pre-market your booth and brand. Do as much as you can to promote your brand prior to the show(s). Many promotional companies offer a multitude of marketing opportunities that range from print through digital advertising. Additionally, companies can rent or purchase mailing lists of past and present attendees to ramp up direct mail and email newsletter campaigns. Any advertising that you are currently doing could also include a call-to-action by including words like, “See us at…” to entice others to specifically seek out your booth; it’s creating a destination. Finally, be sure to have all of your social media outlets updated to help generate traffic to your booth and website. It’s the simplest way to generate the most potential leads while keeping your followers informed about the brand.


Use every square inch of your booth to promote, demonstrate, network, or sell to your attendees. From top-to-bottom your booth needs to educate the doubters, enhance the experience of potential customers, and demonstrate to everyone why you are the authority in your industry. Your booth needs to emulate your brand, as this is the setting the first impression upon the attendee. Consider what best represents your brand down to the very material(s) your booth is made out of. For example, GoPro uses glossy white materials in their booth designs to help convey the sense of purity and a futuristic outlook. There are numerous solutions provided by companies to help you communicate your message: banners, tents, backdrops, and modular geometric walls to name a few. There are also a multitude of companies that offer rental booths if you do not plan on going on a tour to multiple venues.

If you know children will be attending, be sure to have items for them to keep them entertained while promoting your company. Things like drawings, a friendly dog, quick and simple games, and branded toys such as Frisbees or tennis balls will immediately grab the attention of the child (and forcibly the attention of the parent/adult). Always have enough marketing materials on hand. I like to use tear-away pads for the immediate attendees, as these are inexpensive but effective marketing pieces. These are typically the standard size of 8.5x11” paper. The second promotional material can be found further into the booth that I hand out once I have established the credibility of the lead. These are more expensive pieces that have more style, more thorough information, are less likely to end up in the trash, and have more dedicated design/production time. No matter what, look like you are in business.


I see improper booth etiquette happen all the time and it completely de-rails the hard work of others, and squashes the whimsical state you want your attendees to be in when they visit your booth. Do your brand a favor and keep these simple points in mind:

  • Dress for the event: branded clothing, company lanyards, branded backpacks, etc.
  • Staff should be knowledgeable and experienced to deal with all the questions and comments of attendees
  • Never use the booth as your lunch room
  • Keep the booth neat and tidy
  • Always have a trash can
  • Have anti-bacterial soap for both yourself and the visitors
  • Provide bottles of water with your brand on the label
  • Stay off your phone or computer


    Follow up with your potential leads immediately after the show. These will be key in making your brand more noticeable than the rest.