Trade shows are a tried-and-true marketing tactic. And even though they require a lot of time, money and effort, the return on investment (ROI) is well worth it — as long as your trade show displays and marketing materials are on point.
Here are a few of our favorite insider tips that should help you stand out at your next trade show:
1. Start Preparing Early
A lot of work goes into planning and attending a trade show — especially if it’s for one that requires traveling and shipping items. But even if you think your trade show displays and associated items will be easy enough to put off until the last minute, you can still run into delays, errors and other issues.
Avoid unnecessary stress by planning for the trade show at least two months before show time. This will give you plenty of time to plan your trip, design displays, prep materials and ship everything. Plus, the earlier you book your trade show booth, the better location on the floor you can get!
2. Brand Your Display Space
Your trade show display is your chance to make the best first impression possible. Coming up with creative ideas to help your company stand out is one of the most fun parts of the show, but first you need to understand the logistics.
Before you start designing the custom trade show display of your dreams, you should know:
How Much Space You Have
Have the dimensions of your trade show space in mind well before you start getting creative with the display. A 10×10 booth won’t have the flexibility that a 20×20 booth will have — and the last thing you want is to cram a ton of items into a small space. You can better visualize your space by taping the measurements on the floor of a conference room or large area in your office so you’ll have a better idea of your limitations.
Just as there will be space constraints, you’ll want to be conscious of your budget limitations from the very beginning.
Who Will Set Up the Booth
If there will only be one or two people from your company setting up the trade show display, it will need to be relatively simple to assemble. If there will be a team of people ready to help, then you can get a bit more creative. Most conferences offer on-site set-up assistance for a fee, but you’ll need to book in advance.
The tighter your deadline, the more limited you may be. Detailed customizations will take longer than simply displays, so prepare well ahead of time if you’re planning on a more complicated exhibit.
How Often You’ll Use the Display
There’s a big difference in the production process if you’re going to be using a banner just once vs. multiple times. The frequency with which you expect to use the display will determine the type of materials they need to be made of.
Once the logistics are figured out, you can get to the fun part: brainstorming the design! There’s an endless amount of event signage options available, some of which include:
- Self-standing displays
- Branded tents (for outdoor exhibits)
- Hanging banners
- Wayfinding signage
- LED-powered, high-resolution displays
Ultimately, your exhibit needs to be approachable and welcoming to all attendees. Also, be sure to bring and display supportive materials like flyers, brochures, marketing materials, business cards and anything else that conveys your industry expertise.
3. Create an Interactive Experience
One of the best ways to attract people to your booth is to offer a way for attendees to see and feel your products and services.
You can do this by immersing them into your brand through a combination of print and technology techniques. Some options can include:
- Product demos
- Interactive digital signage
- Presentations on tablets or flat screens
- Audio and visual messaging
There will be a lot of customization with an interactive experience, so be sure to start the planning process early and work with an experienced vendor like DGI if you choose this route.
4. Offer Contests & Giveaways
Who doesn’t like winning prizes? A great way to attract people to your booth is to offer something they can engage with. Some type of game or contest will pique the interest of attendees, especially if they can win something.
When people are attracted to your booth, it’s an opportunity for you to start a dialogue with them that can become a valuable connection.
Contests can include something simple like drawing a business card, or you can get more creative with a game related to your company’s products or services. Some trade show vendors go beyond the business card drop: A ring toss to win wine, putting to win golf balls, spinning a prize wheel or video game challenges for branded giveaways. Make sure to spread the contest out over the course of the day. Then, you can tell people to come back to your booth at a certain time to find out if they won. This will keep your company and your trade show booth in their mind throughout the entire day. With any contest, be sure that the host approves of something that goes beyond the business card fishbowl.
If a contest isn’t your style, you can give away branded freebies. Add your company logo to products related to your industry, like a cell phone charger for a telecommunications conference or a laptop case for a digital marketing trade show. Even the tried-and-true candy bowl is known to drive traffic to booths.
5. Market Yourself Before the Event
A few weeks before the event, make sure to reach out to your prospects and clients to let them know you’ll be attending. You can do this by marketing yourself before the event even begins through:
- Email marketing campaigns
- Social media posts
- Temporary website announcements
Inviting your best clients to an event is like having living testimonials walking around on behalf of your brand. Don’t forget to extend a personal invite to them! Are there high value prospects in attendance? Maybe a private cocktail hour where you invite them along with your best customers can drive sizable, future business.
6. Follow Up with Leads Soon After the Event
We all like to think that we leave a lasting impression. But the truth is that the longer you wait to follow up with leads, the better chance there is that they’ve completely forgotten about you.
Ideally, you should be setting up meetings with prospects during the event but that doesn’t always work out. Follow up a day or two after the show, once everyone is likely settled back at home and ready to move forward.
To maximize success, your displays and presence should fit with your brand as well as the industry. A trade show is a substantial investment, so make sure you make the most of it.
P.S. You can always reach out to our team for help with design, production or custom branding experiences for your next trade show. We’re happy to help you knock it out of the park!