Have you ever been to a trade show and see a great exhibit, but no one is there to greet you? Or you start to approach a booth and see a couple disengaged people slumped in chairs, hiding? Or the booth staff is occupied talking on their cell phones and texting? My bet is that you just passed this exhibit by.
The team who staffs your booth is a critical part of a successful event. Make sure they are properly trained, motivated and equipped to succeed.
- Select people to staff the booth who have the right attitude. You need people who are open and approachable, who can smile when their feet hurt, and who really enjoy meeting new people.
- Train your team so that they know the main messages you want to communicate at the show, and can answer most customer questions. Knowledgeable people in your booth will generate higher quality leads and more sales.
- If product demonstrations or structured sales presentations are part of the exhibit, make sure that every member of your team is at least loosely scripted and has rehearsed.
- If you have any special promotions, make sure the booth staff understands all the details and deal terms.
- Have a formal staff schedule and base the staff rotation on the expected trade show volume at given time. Develop a contingency plan to adjust staffing if needed.
- Establish a dress code which is consistent with your company’s or organization’s brand and the booth theme.
- Formalize the lead qualification process and make sure everyone uses the same criteria to qualify prospects and record contact information.
What do you think is the most important factor when selecting someone to staff your trade show booth: product knowledge or positive attitude?
When planning to exhibit at tradeshows, it’s impossible to forget the big items, such as your display, accessories, banner stands, banners, signs, and your booth staff. Unfortunately there are many other small items that need to be brought along with you that often fall between the proverbial cracks when packing for a tradeshow. Often, these small items can cost a ridiculous amount of money when you have to resort to buying them on-site or extremely inconvenient when you have to go off-site in search of them.
So to make it easier, we’ve compiled a list of items that you shouldn’t leave the office without when en route to a tradeshow. Most are small enough to either be brought in luggage by a staff member or shipped in one box to the event or to your hotel.
Tradeshow survival kit items include:
An extension cord. Will come in handy when you realize how far equipment or lighting is from the nearest outlet.
Scotch, Gaffers and masking tape. Can be used from everything from holding down a tablecloth to sealing boxes for shipment.
Stapler. What good is a stapler without staples? Pack extra!
Paper clips. What can a paperclip not do?
Velcro dots or strips. Use to adhere signage to you’re the walls of your display, hold up banners or keep tablecloths in place.
Sewing kit. Prevent wardrobe disasters with this handy kit.
Safety pins. MacGyver once saved the world with a safety pin and a rubber band. Enough said.
Push pins. Use to hold signage in place, posts messages or notes, or awaken sleepy staff.
Black permanent markers. Use for labeling boxes or marking items that you don’t want walking away.
Blue, red, and black pens. Yes, attendees steal pens so pack plenty.
Notebooks or pads of paper. Keep notes, reminders for staff, etc.
Rubber bands. See safety pins.
Small hammer and screwdriver. You don’t want to have to rely on on-site employees to loan you these handy essentials.
Spare pair of eyeglasses. Would be a really inconvenient time to not be able to see.
Wrist watch. Very important to keep scheduled meetings with the press or customers running on time.
Aspirin, Ibuprofen or other medications. Headaches are common at tradeshows due to late nights, over-imbibing, and lack of sleep.
Tissues. You never know when you’ll need these.
Paper towels. Prevent food or drink spills from ruining equipment.
Garbage bags. Especially handy when cleaning up after show is over.
Hand sanitizer or wipes. Shaking hands is a great way to make a good first impression, but it can also be a great way to catch a cold or other illness.
Alka-Seltzer. Plop, plop, fizz fizz…relief.
Throat lozenges. Everyone’s voices will be tired and sore from all the talking and dry air at tradeshows.
Lip balm. Indoor dry air and lots of talking equals chapped lips.
Eye drops. Won’t make up for lost sleep, but will help.
Comfortable flat shoes. Sure heels make you look great, but after hours of standing up, you’ll be happy you packed a more comfortable alternative.
Stain removal wipes. That meatball sub seemed like a good idea.
Granola bars. Perfect for a quick nourishment break.
Mouthwash or breath mints. Everyone has been trapped into talking to someone who has “death breath.” Don’t be that someone.
Extra batteries for equipment. This is one of the many items you’ll pay an arm and a leg for at the conference center’s gift shop.
Small digital camera. Take pictures of your booth, empty before the show to best show signage, displays, etc., and again while it’s filled with eager attendees for future promotional uses.
What’s on your must-have list? Share in the comments section.
You’re heading to the biggest trade show of the year. You’ve checked out your competition and your exhibit looks as good as theirs looks. You have last year’s team back. Everything will be as good as it was last year. You are ready to make the most the show. But are you ready for the real competition? An audience that is totally and completely bored.
You Have Only a Brief Moment to Make an Impression at a Tradeshow! Attendees Only Recall 15% of the Displays Visited.
People are surrounded with so much slick mass entertainment, on-demand info, interactive experiences, and noise and hype that they have moved beyond oversaturation – they are now tuning most of it out. Trade show attendees – and your target customers – are a product of this environment. They quickly scan a booth and make a very rapid decision about whether to invest more time or effort in a visit. Now, you not only have to beat your competition, you need to capture the heart and minds of your prospects that are harder than ever to engage.
Studies have found that on average trade show attendees can only recall 10% to 15% of the displays they visited 24 hours later, but the most valuable customers remember over 40% of exhibits even a year later. That is the dilemma – the casual show attendees won’t remember much but do not really matter; the high- value buyers probably remember what you did last year.
You have only one brief moment to make an impression. Do you want your target customers to see your trade show exhibit and think, “been there, done that”? (Don’t forget – your most valuable prospects never miss a show and they saw your booth last year.)
So ask this simple question: When was the last time you changed the appearance of your exhibit?
If the answer is more than two years, pick up the phone and call the best trade show exhibit designer you can find (we can help!). If your booth was typically forgettable, it will look dated. If your booth was the star of the show, it will be unforgettable and remembered as last year’s exhibit. No matter what, a dated exhibit will send the wrong message about your company and the wrong message about how you feel about the attendees of this show.
In this fast-paced, competitive world, trade show visitors want “new”. That doesn’t mean that you need a completely new exhibit, perhaps it just needs to be refreshed. But, now more than ever, it is important to show that your company understands how to succeed in this hyper-competitive marketplace.
Consider Insuring Your Trade Show Display
Tradeshow displays are very expensive marketing investments and as such, you should consider insuring your properties in case of loss or damage. While the likelihood of a significant loss is rather remote, it is possible. Natural disasters can strike the warehouse where your exhibit is stored or even convention centers (A tornado did considerable damage to the Georgia World Congress Center in a few years back).
Fire is the most common threat to your trade show displays. Trucks can be involved in accidents and trailers have been known to catch on fire due to tire problems. Warehouses are not immune to fires and in 1967 the entire McCormick Place Convention Center was destroyed by a fire with a large trade show set up and ready to open. The fact that losses like these are unlikely makes insuring display materials affordable.
Exhibit companies, for the most part, do not insure client-owned exhibits stored in their warehouse. Trucking companies normally provide very inadequate coverage based on weight (usually around $1.00 per pound).
If you are concerned about this, you should first check with your accounting department to determine what your company policy is regarding casualty insurance. Many large companies are “self insuring,” meaning that they simply pay for any losses themselves, rather than pay for insurance. Small and medium companies usually have some type of insurance coverage, but all assets need to be recorded, especially those that travel around like displays.
If you would like to insure your display, get an up to date inventory list and have your tradeshow exhibit company provide you with the replacement cost of the display. Be sure to update this information annually. Current photos of the display set up will be important if you have a loss.
If you do decide to purchase coverage, make sure that it covers your materials 24/7 no matter where they are. Need trade show advice? Let’s Talk.
The number-one priority of nearly every tradeshow exhibitor is to leave that event with a high number of qualified leads that with proper follow-up can be converted into future customers. Leads replenish the sales pipeline, bring in new customers, and generate sales revenue. Efforts to do this must start by developing a strategy for gathering and qualifying leads in the early planning stages for an event.
Assess an attendee’s interest in addition to obtaining relevant information
Representatives of your company who will be working in your booth need to know in advance what information they need to gather from each attendee to determine whether that person has the potential to buy your product or service. In order to determine that, the booth personnel need to assess an attendee’s interest in addition to obtaining other relevant information on their specific needs, budget requirements, and timing for a potential purchase.
Select an automated tracking system
Automated tracking systems can also facilitate the process of capturing prospects’ contact information, though they might lack the personal contact that conveys that your company is truly interested in their needs and how it might be able to help them meet those needs. Automated tracking systems can be rented and work by electronically capturing data by having booth visitors swipe their badges as they enter the booth.
These systems vary, so do your research. Be sure the system’s output provides all the data you require for post-show marketing initiatives. Educate yourself on which equipment and software will best achieve your objectives. If automated systems can’t provide all the information you need, you might be better off opting for manual means of tracking tradeshow leads.
Know as much as possible about each sales prospect
More is better when it comes to information about potential leads. By knowing as much as possible about a sales prospect, you can devise a more effective follow-up strategy that more closely aligned with the specific needs of each person. In addition, detailed information enables you to evaluate the potential of each lead so you can prioritize your efforts. With detailed lead information, you can fine-tune your post-show marketing efforts and focus on the prospects you can most likely to convert to future customers.
Follow-up after the show is also critically important. Be sure and have booth personnel make note of how each prospect would prefer to be contacted by a company representative. After the show, contact prospects by phone, mail, or email. Be sure and follow up—either by a personal call or written contact—within a week of the show. After the show, track leads to determine each show’s effectiveness and expand efforts in shows with the best return on investment (ROI).
As tradeshow exhibit professionals, we are constantly faced with justifying the value of participating in shows. The cost of exhibiting, the travel, diminishing show attendance, and the economy have turned up the heat.
One basic test that helps me answer these challenges is to pose a simple question to any bottom line accountable executive. The question: if you were given 2 minutes to explain the advantages of dealing with your company to a person who regularly buys the same products and services from a competitor, do you think that you could convince them to give your company a try?
If the answer to this question is no, perhaps they should consider working for the competitor or at least reexamining your product or service offering.
Most confident executives would gladly accept this challenge. The best place to set the stage for this scenario is at a tradeshow or convention. Couple this amazing opportunity with the fact that the buyer has paid their own way to the show and that they are receptive to this pitch in the show environment and you can easily see the value proposition that tradeshows create.
The clients that I have worked with over the years that have the most success at shows have enlisted the help of a tradeshow pro to put together an integrated tradeshow marketing plan that will result in producing the maximum number of these opportunities. Our exhibit management program focuses on producing successful shows with minimum stress and maximum value. Our on-site trade show specialists are there the entire time, from set-up to tear-down – Let’s Talk.
Ever considered a Hospitality Suite to improve your trade show results?
Many successful exhibitors use hospitality suites to provide additional sales opportunities at shows. This is normally a meeting room or suite in the headquarters hotel or a hotel attached to or near the convention center. The room is set up with comfortable furniture, televisions and is catered providing snacks and beverages of all types. There are often displays set up that provide promotional opportunities for the exhibitor’s new products or services.
The room provides a place to meet before, during or after show hours with important clients or prospects and encourages longer meetings and conversations. An invitation to a hospitality suite is a good way to keep from spending precious prospecting time in the booth talking to customers. The suite can also provide a good place for the entire booth staff team to get together and discuss strategies. This private room is a much better place to conduct important meetings than the booth, a restaurant or bar.
Customers and prospects feel like they are being treated as VIP’s when they are invited to the suite.
The challenge is to get attendees to take a portion of their limited time at the show and spend it in your suite. The suite usually works very well for customers but prospects are less likely to take you up on your invitation.
Suites can be rather expensive but if used properly can be an effective tool in getting the maximum results from each show.
Our on-site tradeshow specialists can maximize your trade show results.
What to Consider When Determining the Best Staff for your Trade Show Booth
It may not always be the best idea to have your top salespeople staff your tradeshow display. There are several reasons to consider others to staff your booth.
- Most salespeople are born and bred to “close sales” and very few sales can actually be closed at a trade show.
- Salespeople will most likely have a number of current customers at the show. Tradeshow marketing objectives are, for the most part, based on gathering leads. It may be better to allow your sales staff the freedom to spend time with their customers and use others to staff your booth.
- Salespeople are typically very hard to manage. A well trained, disciplined approach to booth staffing may produce better results.
So if not salespeople, then who does make the best booth staff? There is no one correct answer to this question. I believe that each company needs to look at the goals and objectives that they have established for each show and staff accordingly. Each tradeshow exhibit, large or small, should have a preplanned basic procedure for handling visitors that is designed to properly communicate your chosen message, answer any questions and record lead information for follow-up.
There should be people assigned to greeting and qualifying visitors to the booth. This role should be filled by a person who is approachable, pleasant, smiling, energetic and a good communicator. Choose people to fill this role very carefully, as they will make that first and lasting impression on your prospects. Once a prospect has been qualified, this person should also be capable of delivering a brief presentation on your company.
As conversation with the prospect continues into more depth, there must also be someone in the booth that is very product or service knowledgeable. This could be a technical person, manager, or inside sales representative. Ideally, with the help of your staff, the prospect gets the information they need and leaves your booth with a positive impression of your company.
Think about your goals for the show and make sure to select and send the staff that gives you the best shot at not only meeting your goals, but exceeding them.
About 75% of show attendees plan booth visits before the show starts. Surprisingly, research studies have also found that most exhibitors do not do any pre-show promotion. If you want to have a really successful show, you need to be part of their pre-show plans.
Pre-show promotion is inexpensive and often can just be an investment of staff time. Here is an example of how one trade show pro promoted his business before the show.
The VP of Sales for a furniture manufacturer stays ahead of his competition by having his sales team call every customer and key prospect before their most important annual show. They do not use the Trade Show attendee list; they call their entire target customer list. The sales team uses the upcoming show as a reason to call all of their target customers. The call is an invitation to a company-sponsored breakfast reception which has become an annual event at the show. When they learn that someone plans to attend the show, they take the opportunity to make sure they have the target customer’s current cell phone number so they can reach them during the show. They follow-up with two personalized e-mails to people who have said they will attend. Target customers, who are not attending the show, also receive two e-mails plus are sent a “breakfast in a box” gift along with information about the season’s new line of furniture and show specials.
The company uses a similar strategy for every trade show they attend: A phone call and follow-up emails to attendees and target prospects who are not able to attend the show.
It’s a simple plan. It’s easily executed by the sales team. They are careful not inundate their prospects and customers with lots of unwanted emails and promotional materials.
This well-orchestrated pre-show promotion has significantly increased the number of qualified leads generated from the show and has resulted in improving the ROI on the company’s tradeshow budget.
How can you put together a pre-show promotion that is successful?
- If you do not have a target customer list to contact, make sure to get the list of show attendees as soon as you can from the show staff. If you can get additional information about attendees that will be useful in quickly identifying prospects, make sure that it is included.
- Structure your pre-promotion campaign to start to build a relationship with your target customers before the show.
- Make sure that all materials and communication are professional and consistent with your company’s brand image. Design everything so that it is consistent with the graphic experience that your company will present at the show.
- Explore options for cost-effective pre-show communications in planned trade show mailings or emails.
- For major shows that have high traffic websites, think about online banner advertising. But be cautious about investing much of your budget in banner ads.
- Include a call to action that involves a commitment to meet during the show or to visit your booth at a set time.
Pre-show promotion takes some time and effort. It will increase your workload. But it will increase the number of qualified leads and sales that you get from the show. It gives you the opportunity to pre-sell your business. And it helps you focus your time and effort of the most important prospect versus anyone who wanders by your booth.
Do you have a pre-show promotion program? Have you found pre-show promotion is worth your investment?
Almost everything that is written regarding the justification for exhibiting at tradeshows, talks about marketing, lead generation, and sales. These are important benefits, to be sure, but here are several other very good reasons for companies to participate in shows and to make sure that they compare favorably to their competitors. For example:
The Investment Community – Companies of all sizes, public or private, need to consider that many investment analysts attend trade shows. Where better to gauge a company’s market position relative to their industry, than at a show? Financial statements are not the only consideration when deciding on investments. Savvy institutional investors often walk the aisles of shows to better understand current positions and future potential.
The Press – We have all seen shows like 60 minutes touring the Consumer Electronics Show or the Housewares Show, but these are not the only times that the press is present at shows. In every industry, people want to see what’s new. In addition, the information that is published will be posted on the internet, allowing global exposure. Favorable press coverage can really help your marketing efforts.
Recruiting – When a company comes to a show with a new or larger exhibit, prospective salespeople or managers see a financially strong, growing company, and are much more likely to consider becoming part of the team.
Market Research – When a prospect comes to your booth, why not do some market research? The key here is to formalize the information gathered by using a lead card. Asking a question like, “What would you think if we added an automatic feeder to our production system?” could provide valuable information for future product development.
While none of these reasons are going to justify the investment of exhibiting at a trade show on their own, they all add to the overall ROI. As such, be sure to consider ALL of the potential benefits when discussing the merits of exhibiting at a show.