A trade show exhibit is a rare opportunity to surround your key prospects with your brand experience. An exhibit is not an impersonal 2-D experience like a TV commercial. It is not virtual and passively interactive like your company website. An exhibit can be a real 360-degree brand experience, alive with people and almost completely in your control.
When you invite key prospects into a 360-degree brand experience, your booth has a chance to be one of those few memorable moments from the entire show. And the exhibitors who create these memorable moments are almost always the show sales leaders.
Be true to your brand position and personality.
Make sure that you start out with a platform that is consistent with your brand position and personality. If you are a technology company, you can be playful and use a comic book superhero theme. On the other hand, the same theme is probably not appropriate for a health care benefits company who needs to establish credibility and trust. Similarly, if your company manufactures euro-design furniture, your booth can be sleek, experimental and minimalistic. But if your company makes traditional American style furniture with a focus on fine craftsmanship, your booth design should reflect that heritage.
“Surprise and Delight” your target customers.
To create a memorable moment with your booth, you need an overarching theme and concept that will surprise and delight your target customers. You are looking for something that will break out of the endless sea of logos, photos of smiling customers, and product images. Based on surveys of trade show attendees and exhibitors, the memorable booths are not the biggest booths, they are the ones that had one big idea and focused on it.
I can’t give you a list of foolproof big ideas. You’ll need to work with your team and exhibit design company to create the concept. I can pass on one secret – get your internal and external team members to think only about your brand and what would really “Surprise and Delight” your target customers. Don’t be distracted by what your competition did last year or even what your company did last year. Brainstorm first, then evaluate the ideas once you have a list.
Once you have a concept, everything else will fall into place.
One unifying concept will pull everything together. If you have multiple products or divisions involved with the show, use the concept to unify everything. Make sure every aspect of the entire exhibit – accessories, product displays, signage and lighting – builds on the big idea.
And never forget: when it comes to a great trade show exhibit, less is more really applies. Focus relentlessly on your brand and your concept.
Preparing a corporate marketing budget these days is a daunting task. All companies need to increase sales leads and amp up revenues, but shrinking marketing budgets have forced companies to carefully consider what must stay and what must go as far as budget items. An important component of the overall marketing budget is the portion allotted to tradeshows, which can be a valuable tool to help increase the visibility of your company and boost sales.
The reality, however, is that no matter how you look at it, tradeshows are expensive endeavors. You have to rent the space, create a display, promote it, stock it, and staff it. So before you decide to undertake a tradeshow, take a comprehensive look at all the costs associated with exhibiting as well as the expected returns.
Establishing an accurate tradeshow budget early is essential to developing an overall strategy that will achieve success and assure upper management buy-in. The amount you allocate to tradeshows will depend upon the scope of your efforts and the number, size and location of the shows you are planning on exhibiting at throughout the year. Though strategies will vary from company to company, the methods of establishing a tradeshow budget remain relatively the same.
Let’s take a look at some of the larger components you’ll need to be cognizant of when preparing your overall tradeshow budget.
Space rental. Exhibit halls will charge your company based on the size of your display so determine early what size booth you will be using so you can more accurately estimate how many dollars to allocate to booth space rental.
Utilities and related booth expenses. There will be a charge for installing and dismantling your booth. Other expenses include electricity, gas, water, and any other items you may require at your booth during a show.
Exhibit display, signage and accessories. This would include everything from display production, graphics, and banners to booth furniture, literature racks and any equipment needed to demonstrate your products. Crating and storage costs should also be added to this category.
Shipping and drayage. This would include all expenses associated with transporting your exhibit and materials to each location. Freight would include charges for shipping your exhibit, literature, and any other materials to the event location and back to your office or warehouse. Drayage costs account for items delivered to and from your booth space from the loading dock of the exhibit hall or conference center.
Travel and entertainment. Try to put together a realistic estimate on what it will cost you and your staff to attend each tradeshow. This estimate must include travel expenses (airfare, taxi fares, rental cars, etc.), meals, and hotel expenses. This category would also include any expenses associated with entertaining prospects and customers during the show.
Show marketing. This would include all the marketing and sales collateral required to support the exhibit. These materials could be used at multiple shows, so keep in mind that these costs will be spread over a number of shows. These might include product literature, handouts, staff training, and show promotional items.
Want to know how to leverage our experience and make your trade show budget go further? Let’s talk.
Exhibiting at trade shows is a costly and time-consuming marketing activity. Though that is indisputable, the costs are often more than recouped when the show is a success and your company leaves with many promising sales leads that can— with proper sales follow-up —be converted into future customers.
So how do you determine whether a trade show was a success and worth the expenditure? In order to determine if the cost of attending a show was justifiable, you’ll need to calculate the show’s return on investment (ROI). In this case, ROI is the gain or loss from the money spent on various marketing activities (tradeshows, sales promotions, advertisements, etc.) that are intended to drive sales.
Calculating ROI is pretty straightforward. You simply divide the gross sales dollars resulting from the effort, in this case a tradeshow, by the cost spent to execute it. For example, if your company generated $600,000 in gross sales as a result of sales leads generated at a trade show event and it cost $150,000 to attend.
ROI: $600,000 ÷ $150,000 = 4
ROI is expressed as a ratio so it would be 1:4, which means for every dollar invested, your company got back four dollars. The tricky part is that it’s very difficult to determine exactly which sales leads from tradeshows resulted in actual sales. So in this case, you’re estimating ROI, not calculating an actual ROI.
In order to estimate ROI from tradeshows, companies use a variety of methods. Some companies have determined through past experience the average number of qualified leads it takes to get a specific number of opportunities to pitch to potential buyers, and how many of these will ultimately result in a sale.
The number of presentations that close in a sale are known as the “close ratio.” Over time, a company will be able to compute an average close ratio. Once a company has determined a close ratio, it can use leads generated at a show to estimate potential ROI from that event.
Another way to estimate ROI is to perform a sales conversion study. This is a controlled interview technique that is conducted via email or phone within a few weeks of an event. The intent is to uncover buying intentions and purchasing time from a pool of qualified leads collected at an event.
ROI: Gross dollar buying intentions ÷ cost of the event and the cost of the survey = Potential ROI
Don’t overlook the soft benefits
While you are calculating the dollars and cents, don’t forget to consider the benefits of exhibiting that can’t be expressed in numerical terms, like:
- Strengthening relationships with current clients.
- Increasing brand awareness.
- Consumer education efforts.
- New product introductions.
- Investor relations and improving perception of your company in the financial community.
- New market introductions.
- Public relations including editorial coverage.
- Competitive intelligence.
- Customer insight and research.
Though measuring exact ROI is difficult, these techniques can help you estimate your possible return using information that is more easily accessed from your internal sales groups. Using a projected ROI is a great way to strengthen reported results from tradeshows as well as to increase your credibility with upper management.
You can spend lots of money creating an eye-grabbing, elaborate trade show exhibit, but lose potential customers if your booth personnel are not well trained and prepared. Make it an essential part of your pre-show strategy, right along with pre-event marketing and demo preparations. Keep in mind that these people will leave a lasting impression, good or bad, on your attendees and potential customers when they leave your booth, so pick the best and brightest to represent your organization.
Here are a few more tips on how you can ensure that everyone in your trade show staff is show-ready:
Make sure they are well versed. This is particularly important when using temp workers. These people need to know detailed background about your company, its mission, goal, target audience, products or services, as well as your sales and marketing message.
Practice makes perfect. Establish a pre-show training session and conduct them before every show. Prepare a list of objectives and make sure everyone is aware of their role. For example, some people might be assigned official greeters, while others might be reserved for fielding more detailed technical questions.
Choose friendly folk. This might seem obvious, but the more outgoing and friendly a person is, the better they will be at engaging prospects.
Stick to the script. Training booth personnel should include a well-practiced script that includes a quick introduction of themselves, a one-minute overview of your company and its products; a few questions to qualify the attendee as a potential prospect; and a request for contact info for effective follow-up after the event.
Dress the part. Make sure that booth staff understands what is expected of them in terms of how to dress, proper etiquette (no gum chewing, eating, etc.), the importance of arriving early and being prepared, and how long they are expected to be on duty.
Don’t overstaff. It’s human nature to avoid excessively crowded spaces and nothing is more intimidating then walking into a booth and being besieged by a throng of over-eager salespeople. Proper staffing will depend upon the size of the actual booth.
Put sales staff on the front line. Even if you rely on temporary help at trade shows, it’s vital to have salespeople in the mix and preferably taking the lead in greeting visitors and doing demos.
Listen more, talk less. Companies can learn more about potential customers and how they might be able to help them by taking the time to listen to their needs, pain points, issues, etc. Booth staff should adhere to the 80/20 principle: listen 80% and talk only 20%.
Hiring tradeshow talent and booth staff can provide an exhibitor much better returns on investment than in years past, providing that one understands the need, and seeks the most qualified candidate(s) to fill that need.
Pre-Qualify Prospects: Trade Show Talent Acts as an Ambassador for Your Booth
Browse the internet for convention and tradeshow models, and you’ll find that there are hundreds of agencies providing this type of service. With so much to choose from, where to begin? First, prioritize your needs as an exhibitor. The early days of car show models & booth babes have expanded into tradeshow talent that can not only greet attendees but also demonstrate products and engage attendees in conversation. When considering hiring staff, be sure to consider what the role of this hired talent will be.
When Hiring Talent for your Tradeshow Booth, Find a Reputable Agency
If you expect superior communication skills, good eye contact, and a witty personality, then you shouldn’t just go online and start looking for price quotes. You’ll want to start by finding a reputable agency, preferably one recommended by a display house, that has numerous testimonials and references. Furthermore, you will want to outline, in writing, precisely what you will expect from your hired tradeshow staff. They are, after all, an extension of your sales staff, as the CMT agency states on it’s website “More important than just being attractive, they know and exemplify the fact that being outgoing, friendly, engaging and professional are what matter most on the tradeshow floor.”
Base your search for hired staff on your written outline of criteria. Speak to the agency about the qualifications and experience of each booth model. Ask the agency the tough questions, don’t be afraid to shop around. You will find that some agencies book superior talent, far beyond what might be considered standard or acceptable, including interpreters, product presenters, costume characters or entertainers. Find some talent with more than just a pretty smile. You might find that a well-qualified presenter just happens to be available during your show days, and needs the work. Why settle for a bikini model when you can have an excellent ambassador in your booth?
Include Tradeshow Booth Talent in Your Booth Staff Training
Before the show, outline a plan for your hired staffers. Share it with them well in advance so they may ask questions and get clarification. Expect them to show up well before the show starts each day, and have a briefing about expectations and or goals. INCLUDE THEM IN YOUR BOOTH STAFF TRAINING! You will want to emphasize the importance of pre-qualifying prospects, a major part of booth staff training. At the end of the day, have a wrap-up meeting, and again, include them with your staff. You are, after all, paying a premium – so why not demand a little more? If you make your staffing choices well, you can not only increase traffic and lead generation, you will also ratchet up tradeshow ROI.
Exhibiting at a trade show is a marvelous way for your company to capture the attention of its target market in order to introduce a new product or service, generate valuable sales leads, get media attention, or sell products. Garnering that attention, however, can be tricky when your booth is amid hundreds of competing booths, each staffed with eager employees trying to grab the often-fleeting interest of passing attendees.
So how do you make your exhibit stand out? Research shows that exhibitors have mere seconds to grab the attention of attendees, often weary and overwhelmed by the vast number of booths. You can’t meet your tradeshow objectives unless you get those folks in your booth to hear your pitch, so exhibitors must always be on the lookout for new and creative ways to make their exhibit stand out.
One way is to walk the show floor and take note of what other exhibitors are doing with their trade show exhibits and displays. Notice what types of marketing strategies they are using to attract booth traffic. Also, pay attention to what booths seem to be drawing in the largest number of attendees. Is there an enticing giveaway drawing in hordes of people? Ask attendees that have stopped in your booth which exhibitors’ booths they were most drawn to and why.
Leverage your relationship with your display provider as well. They often can offer specific expertise on what has proven successful for other customers as far as boosting traffic. It is their job to stay on top of the latest in exhibit design, event strategies and promotional trends.
Another potential source of innovative ideas are trade show associations and industry consultants. The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (www.ceir.org) is another great resource for ideas on how to increase your tradeshow exhibit’s visibility. Once you have developed some new strategy ideas to boost booth traffic, lead generation and possibly sales, just make sure they all align with your company’s brand positioning.
Here are a handful of promotional ideas to draw in visitors to your booth:
Entertain them. Magicians, caricaturists, and celebrity look-alikes are sometimes cheesy but often effective in grabbing the interest of attendees, giving your booth staffers an opportunity to strike up a conversation.
Photograph them. Take a digital photo of visitors and superimpose them on unique backgrounds, such as magazine covers to create a memorable takeaway. Or use the image to perform a virtual makeover, so visitors can see what they would look like in various hairstyles or clothes.
Let them play. Provide a chance to play virtual sports, such as golf or baseball using simulation software systems. Winners take away balls with your logo printed on them.
Feed them. Weary and often hungry trade show attendees tend to flock to booths offering free food, coffee or beverages. While they are munching or sipping, make sure your booth staffers introduce themselves and give them the two-minute pitch.
Reward them. Offer an incentive to stop by your booth. A creative giveaway— with your logo and marketing slogan on it—could include tote bags, laser pointers, memory sticks, apparel, golf tees, pens, coffee mugs, etc.
Give us the opportunity to help you find the best way to stand out on the show floor, among other things – we are confident that you’ll respond in much the same way as these happy clients attest.
One of the most important decisions you need to make about exhibiting at a trade show is what information you should collect from your key prospects.
Many trade shows place barcodes on attendee badges and have scanners available for rent at a reasonable fee. This streamlines the process of building lead lists and provides a fast, unobtrusive way to gather critical information for follow-up.
When a prospect enters your booth and inquires about a product, just ask permission to scan the bar code on their badge. Then also record the products or services the person is interested in knowing more about. Most trade shows will email a spreadsheet to participating exhibitors with complete contact information and other information about the prospects.
It is a simple, effective and useful way to systematize prospect information and prioritize sales leads. And you will have almost all of the information you need to effectively follow-up on your trade show leads.
Some Exhibitors have taken data collection to a whole new level
One Fortune 500 company tracks everything imaginable about a trade show prospect using a special RFID barcode that they place on prospects when they enter their booth. They track the prospect’s path in the booth, the specific displays and demos in the booth the prospect visited, the total time spent in the booth, who accompanied the prospect to the booth and so on. Then they combine this information with registration data to create a prospect profile. In all, this company collects over 200 pieces of information about every prospect. The catch is that they didn’t have any idea what to do with most of the information they gather.
What information should you collect about prospects?
The most important part of a trade show is that it provides an opportunity to establish and build a personal relationship with each prospect. It is vital to make sure that you do not interfere with the 1-on-1 dialog with a series of questions designed to gather information. Work to make the conversation very natural and focus on the vital info.
If you can get contact information from the trade show registration, then you do not have to do anything more than scan a badge and you can focus on the critical questions and answers:
- What products or services are of interest?
- When do the buyers plan to make their purchase?
- How much does the buyer plan to spend?
- What are the most important benefits and features the buyer is looking for?
- Who is your competition and what advantages does the buyer believe the competition offers?
Does it matter if the prospect spent 8.4 minutes or 6.2 minutes in your booth? No. What matters is that you can identify the high-value prospects to sell to during the show and to contact after the show and that these prospects have a positive experience at your booth and remember your company and your staff favorably.
A reality of the past years of recession is that companies across all industries have had to tighten their belts when it comes to marketing initiatives. One of the biggest and most costly pieces of the marketing pie is trade show exhibition. Marketers and exhibit managers are then faced with a challenge. How do they increase sales and bottom-line revenue without the resources to amp up their marketing efforts?
Borne out of necessity and a lack of monetary influx into their existing budgets, many marketers and exhibit managers have found creative ways to do just that. And, it’s no magic trick. Simple cost cutting measures that help shift resources and reallocate money into areas of your company’s marketing efforts that can deliver the most benefits and payoff during economic downturns, such as trade shows.
Here are a few ways you can cut money out of your exhibit budget:
Buy, don’t rent. Renting accessories, equipment and individual components (display racks, folding chairs and tables, etc.) from an exhibit hall or show- appointed vendors adds significant expense to your overall exhibition budget. Save big bucks by shipping these items from your home office or storage warehouse. Even with shipping and drayage costs, you’ll still come out ahead for most items. This logic applies to your actual booth itself; if you exhibit at multiple shows per year, but don’t rent.
Cut travel expenses. Hotel costs for traveling staff members can very quickly add up and bloat your trade show budget. Learn to negotiate with hotels to get the best deals; also, bigger shows typically negotiate with local hotels to offer special “show” rates for exhibitors and attendees. Join hotel chains’ customer loyalty programs to get other free bonuses, such as free stays after a certain number of stays. Double up employees of the same sex in one room and look for hotels that offer free breakfast.
Lighten your load. Reduce your shipping and drayage costs by taking a close look at what you’ll really need on-site and in your booth. Focus on one product to highlight; don’t bring every product in your line. An overcrowded booth is a turnoff for attendees and makes it more difficult for visitors to focus on the one product you’re announcing or launching at the show. You might also be able to trim some off your drayage costs by shipping some things, such as brochures and other collateral material, directly to your hotel.
Order show services carefully. This is kind of like the hotel mini-bar. Seems so convenient, but when you check out and see that you shelled out $7.50 for that can of pretzels, you might think otherwise. Order the necessities (electricity, lighting, booth cleaning, etc.) by the earliest deadline and you might be eligible for a discount. Determine the actual wattage needs of your equipment and make sure that you don’t order more than you need and bring your own electrical power strips.
The trick to effectively coordinating trade show freight services and logistics to transport your trade show booth display for on-time delivery to a show venue is meticulous planning and coordination. Larger companies that exhibit frequently often use transport companies that specialize in trade show shipping to handle the logistical details.
Once an exhibit arrives at a venue’s loading dock, contracted logistics experts may be used to ensure that crates are delivered to the booth area and supervise exhibit assembly, dismantling, and return shipping.
For smaller companies, however, this might not be a luxury they can afford. In this case, an employee is often tasked with handling trade show logistics. Options for getting your display to the show include transporting it yourself or contracting with a freight carrier to ship your exhibit crates from your storage location to the venue.
If you decide to hire a shipping company, choose one that specializes in tradeshow logistics so they will fully understand the requirements of transporting exhibit components. Ask the shipping company representative how long the company has been in business, check references, and request a price quote for the shipping in advance.
Before making a decision on a shipping company, check with the trade show’s management to see if there is a freight company that serves as the official carrier for the event. Often, these companies might offer perks such as special benefits, extra exhibit moving services, and discounted prices.
Once you’ve submitted your exhibitor registration for a show, the event sponsor will provide you with an exhibitor’s kit that will include all the information you need regarding show participation. This kit will include exhibit moving and shipping instructions, a list of providers of trade show freight services, and forms required by the show’s drayage contractor.
This contractor is responsible for:
- Instructing shipping company drivers when to get in line at a designated dock to unload exhibit crates.
- Moving your exhibit crates to your booth location in the exhibit hall.
- Removing your crates and boxes once you’ve assembled your display and returning them to you at the end of the show.
- Directing shipping company drivers to specific loading dock lines when exhibit crates are ready to be picked up.
- Loading your crates and boxes on the truck for delivery.
Once the show is over, you must complete a “bill-of-lading” and submit it to the event’s drayage contractor, which is what activates the process by which your crates are returned to your booth so you can pack up your booth display and prepare it for shipping.
When your booth is dismantled and packed, the drayage contractor will take your crates to the loading dock and alert your driver that your exhibit is ready for pick-up. Proper labeling of boxes and crates is essential to ensuring that your shipment will get to its proper destination. If items are not labeled properly and inadvertently get left behind, they will be shipped to the event contractor’s warehouse for storage until the exhibitor makes arrangements to have it returned.
You need a new exhibit for an upcoming trade show. Should you buy or rent your trade show exhibit? Well, if you have a limited budget, unusual needs for one show, want to test a concept, or have a scheduling conflict, renting can be a perfect solution. Here are a few examples of when you should consider renting your exhibit.
One-time event: One of the best reasons to rent a trade show exhibit is because you have an event with unusual needs that will not reoccur in the near future. Perhaps you have an unusual size booth space, a unique audience, or a special corporate occasion.
Concept test: You have a new idea for a trade show exhibit but you are not sure it will be the breakthrough concept that you need. Before you buy an exhibit, why not rent it and get feedback from attendees and other exhibitors? It is a great risk management strategy.
Special promotion or new product introduction: You are planning a special promotion or a new product introduction that will not be repeated. You are planning a larger exhibit than normal and your existing booth just won’t work.
Schedule conflicts: If your company participates in a lot of trade shows, you can run into conflicts with overlapping show schedules. This is a perfect time to consider renting a trade show booth.
Need to update your exhibit but only have a limited budget: You can update and/or supplement your existing exhibit with rental exhibit components. It will cost far less than a new booth or even most remodeling efforts.
Rental Booths can have a custom look!
When you rent your exhibit, a custom look can still be incorporated. Components can be selected to meet your needs and graphics designed to convey your brand identity and core message.
Save more by renting a modular exhibit
You can rent a modular exhibit and, if properly designed, further reduce your trade show operating costs. Modular exhibits are often lighter and easier to set up resulting in reduced freight, drayage, and labor costs.
How should you decide whether to rent or buy?
If you are in a situation where renting an exhibit might make sense, consider three factors: financial benefits of renting vs. buying, logistic needs, and marketing results. You may find that renting is the perfect solution for your company. Let’s talk.