If you’re about to start your annual trade show circuit, it’s time to learn the facts. Don’t let these 17 trade show misunderstanding hurt your bottom line.
#1: Most exhibitors fail to make realistic goals.
After sinking the funds into a show, you’d think most exhibitors would have a detailed plan of action. Well, guess again. All too often, you show up, set up your booth, and wait for the leads to pour in. The exhibitors that do best have daily leads and sales goals, and they work actively to meet them.
#2: Marketing is up to you.
Sure, the show has been marketed online, through the media, and in every industry rag out there. That doesn’t mean your potential buyers have heard of it. Whether you use direct mailers, take out your own industry ads, or just advertise in your shop, generating your own traffic to the trade show ensures that at least a few attendees are interested in your product.
#3: Staffers are often under-trained.
It’s way too common – the staffers at the booth have minimal sales experience or knowledge of the product. Sometimes, they are even temporary workers hired just for the show. Don’t be this person! A trade show is a first impression, so send your best and brightest, most personable staff to the show. Also, make sure your booth has at least one experienced person on duty at all times.
#4: Trade shows are about leads, not sales.
You likely won’t fly home from the show with a million dollars in your pocket. Yes, you’ll make some sales, but you probably won’t close any longterm deals on the show floor. Make your show about getting some product into buyers hands, while generating viable leads that you can follow up on after the show.
#5: Print trumps digital.
This may be the digital age, but your average trade show attendee is there because they prefer the face-to-face, traditional way of doing business. Don’t skimp on your print materials in lieu of going all digital. The best option is provide both print and digital promo materials.
#6: Experts draw the crowd.
What? You have celebrity sponsorship? That’s great, but not that big of deal at a trade show. Bringing in a celebrity may attract some looky-loos, but your real buyers want an expert on hand to answer their questions. If your expert also happens to be famous, then you’re in luck.
#7: Change is good.
Do you use the same displays and booth year after year? Many trade show attendees also go to the same shows every year. They aren’t there to see the same ol’ thing, they are looking for something new. Change up your displays so you can catch their attention again. If possible, roll out new products just before the trade show so you have something new and exciting to offer.
#8: Branding is often over looked.
Skip the suit and tie, or boring plain polo. And whatever you do, don’t let the staffers dress “business casual.” Everything needs to be clearly branded with your company logo, from the staffers shirts to the table cloth on the folding tables. Make sure everything you hand out also has your logo and contact info. It does you know good when the buyer gets home, remembers your amazing product, but can’t recall the name.
#9: It’s not all fun and games.
Trade shows often seem exciting to the initiated. Come on, you get to fly to a new city, stay in a nice hotel, and live off the company expense budget. Time out of the office! The truth is, a trade show is a lot of work. Don’t let your staff treat it like a vacation, and keep everyone on task. This means no after hours partying or late nights.
#10: Your neighbors may be your enemies.
I’m not talking about competing products. No, by enemy I mean they may undermine your business without even realizing it. While it’s nice to be friendly with your neighboring exhibitors, don’t get trapped by the chatty neighbor that detracts your attention from prospective buyers. Even worse is the neighbor that slowly encroaches on your display space. Be professional, be friendly, but maintain your boundaries.
#11: The attendees are also the buyers.
Most companies send their buyers to trade shows, not their buyer’s assistant. A good first impression is a must.
#12: The last day is just as important as the first day.
Buyers tend to spend money on the last day of the show, after they have checked out all the exhibitors. Don’t ruin a sale because you’re getting antsy to clean up.
#13: Many buyers prefer the face-to-face time.
That’s right, no hiding behind your display. Greet everyone that glances at your booth and engage them in conversation.
#14: Gimmicks aren’t always necessary.
Contests and such may give you a lot of leads, but are they leads for buyers or leads for people that want to win free stuff? Feel free to use contests, but make sure the prize is something that would only appeal to potential buyers.
#15: Overcrowded booths turn buyers off.
You don’t need to bring the whole shop to the show. A few clean and easy to read displays go much further than an overcrowded booth.
#16: Leads aren’t followed up.
Many exhibitors never follow up on their leads. Guess what, they aren’t going to call you. Have a plan in place to contact every single lead within two weeks of the show, when the excitement and memory of your display is still fresh in the buyer’s mind.
#17: Cleanup poses the greatest challenge to your booth.
When it’s time to break down your booth, don’t rush. Most damage to trade show displays happen at the end of the show, when you’re rushing to get out of there.
Don’t let this list overwhelm you. Arming yourself with knowledge will help you master the trade show circuit and avoid a lot of the most common misunderstandings.