Aug 15, 2011

Putting your best foot forward at trade shows

Marketing your business on the road by exhibiting at professional trade shows is an excellent opportunity to make new contacts, sell products and increase exposure. However, without the proper planning and preparation, the results can be dismally disappointing. Time and money can be wasted by poor visual displays and unprepared, unfriendly staffing. Successful businesses know that advance planning and attention to detail can reap huge rewards that may translate into years of new customer and client relationships. By taking full advantage of trade show exposure, a business can increase its sales and services and thereby raise its profits.

Once the protocol has been worked out successfully, it can be repeated at show after show with the same positive expectations. The following steps suggest how any business can maximize the trade show experience:

1. SET GOALS for the visit. Why do you want to include trade shows in your marketing strategy? What exactly do you hope to accomplish. Are you trying to increase inventory sales, become better known or make important contacts and connections? Try to draw upper management into the initial strategizing process. With their hefty support behind you, the rest of the process will be much easier. Start outlining a budget for this project.

2. RESEARCH the trade shows you wish to enter. What types of attendees will be expected? What other vendors are participating? What are the logistics? What amount of space will be allocated to your business and who will be your neighbours? Are there wall space, electric outlets, tables and tablecloths? Is the lighting adequate? Is your spot a high or low traffic area? What precautions are taken for protecting the displays and equipment? When can you enter the building to set up and when must you take down?

3. DECIDE to enter and REGISTER as early as possible for best traffic position.

4. ADVERTISE your forthcoming trade show venture to clients, customers, suppliers and any other interested parties. Use your website to invite everyone to visit you and give clear directions to the show and to your booth. Make the idea even more appealing by announcing attractive giveaways.

5. DESIGN a captivating display that will stand out and clearly identify your business. Keep in mind the demographics of your target audience as you build this very important first glance. Create a stand-alone presentation board or wall hanging that is attractive, easy to read and supplies the most important information. The company name, logo and website are obvious, but a short, impacting, descriptive headline can also pack a punch. Graphics should be simple, bold and very understandable.

6. ADD your own tablecloth or runner in appropriate company colours for more impact. A PowerPoint display on a laptop can be interesting and engaging. Even a binder filled with pictures in plastic sheets that is available for perusal can be helpful. Keep the shortest items towards the front of your display and the larger ones at the back for more visual impact. Make sure that prices are clearly displayed because attendees will often walk away rather than wait in line to ask a question.

7. GIVE AWAY brochures, pamphlets, business cards, magnets, pencils, pens and other promotional items with the company name and contact information clearly marked. Even food samples can be a trade show hit. Gift certificates and free drawings allow you the opportunity to collect names and phone numbers for follow-up contact.

8. ASSIGN PERSONNEL who can best represent your company. They should be enthusiastic, polite and engaging. They should also be fully apprised of the goals for your trade show marketing. Dress code counts here as does overall personal appearance from hair to shoes. Manicured nails speak volumes when you are using them to shake hands all day long. The goal is to appear friendly and interested without intimidating or overwhelming visitors to your table. Listening rather than constantly pitching your product will be most effective in the long term. Many visitors do not make business decisions on the day they visit your spot, but they will remember what they saw and how they were treated, especially if they take home a promotional from your business. Line up enough help so that the table is never left unattended.

Trade shows offer businesses a great opportunity to advertise their products and services to interested visitors. When well-planned and organized, they can increase your sales and introduce you to potential long term clients and customers. Take the time to make the most of this marketing strategy and watch the positive results for your company.

About the Author: Thomas O’Rourke is a business marketing enthusiast who often writes on behalf of Marler Haley – providers of high quality roller banner stands. If you’d like to know more about promoting your trade at business exhibitions, feel free to get in touch.

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4 comments on “Putting your best foot forward at trade shows”

  1. Great information and outline for Trade Shows. We recently participated in a small technology Trade Show in our town. Everything in your list is very important but one of the biggest and instrumental things we could have done for ourselves was advertise. If we had not, I don’t feel like we would have made the new contacts we made from current contacts who shared our message about the Trade Show as well as people who may not have heard about it otherwise.

    August 16th, 2011 at 8:46 am

  2. Have a way to capture contacts with your giveaway, box or fishbowl.I like to give away something they will want, could be one of your products, make sure it is something you can upsell later. I often give away an article page on my online magazine.

    August 19th, 2011 at 6:05 am

  3. Researching before attending helps a lot otherwise it becomes more like wasting time, obviously it doesn’t make sense to be attending a trade show which doesn’t benefit us in anyway. At trade shows we get the chance of having a closer look at the products and a closer interaction with the parties concerned.

    October 20th, 2011 at 4:10 am

  4. It is truly a nice and helpful piece of info. I’m glad that you just shared this helpful information with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

    June 4th, 2012 at 7:49 am