Tips for trade show success

Editor’s Note: Here at Dispatches, we are always looking for ways to help our readers do things. For some of our readers, that means helping navigate the working world, for others, it means assisting in the ever challenging question, “what’s for dinner?” For still others, it means figuring out how to balance family life with everything else. In an effort to aid in all of these endeavors, we have collaborated on this article written specifically for our readers.

When you want your business to be successful, you put the time in to develop a good product or service, you formulate and execute a tight marketing strategy, and keep an eye on its success to figure out the next steps. Aside from various details about tax and legal issues, there’s only one thing missing: networking. Networking (which isn’t a bad word) with other business owners and influencers within your industry is a part of ensuring your business’s long-term success. However, if you’re a little inexperienced with it, it can be a daunting prospect. If you’re set to attend your first trade show, here are some tips for making it a success.

Stand Location
Before the dawn of the information superhighway and e-commerce, the location of a business’s premises was considered one of the most important factors to its overall success. That old adage “location, location, location” still comes up a lot in the real estate and other location-specific businesses. While the incredible progress of technology over the past few decades has rendered this less important, when it comes to trade shows the location of your stand is extremely important. The organizers know this, so the most visible spots for your stand or booth are going to be more expensive. While you may not be able to afford these practically, I certainly recommend planning to spend a fair amount on your stand location. If you’re thinking of attending a trade show in the long-term and buying into a contract with the organizers, then you’ll want to spend more initially. However, if you’re just testing the waters, try a more mid-range location. Whatever you do, act quickly! Stand locations sell out fast, and you don’t want to be left having to settle for scraps!

Make it Attractive
Investors, partners, customers, and general attendees are attracted to good-looking booths. This is another important aspect you should invest time and effort into if you want to get the most out of your time at the trade show. How your booth looks and what you present can make the difference between people passing you by or stopping to find out more about your company. Again, you should set aside part of your budget for the aesthetic design of your booth. If you’re dead set on attending more trade shows in the future, then you may want to buy the materials for setting up your stand. However, these can be pretty expensive if you want a stand that’s going to catch people’s eye. For most business owners, the best option is reaching out to a booth rentals company, as these are more affordable and offer superior quality in terms of aesthetic attraction. Most importantly, make sure that your messaging is going to be clear, and visible from several directions. You should also use good lighting and visual materials which will tell people what your business is all about at first sight.

Make it Approachable
As well as having a good location and an appealing look, you need to make sure that your booth or stand seems approachable to someone who knows absolutely nothing about your company. You’ve already done all you can in terms of aesthetic attraction, so making your stand really approachable is mainly down to the attendants. If you have people in the business who demonstrate excellent customer service skills, then see if they’d be willing to represent the company at your trade show. Just make sure they’re senior enough to answer any questions from the kinds of people you’re trying to network with. Another important part of making a booth approachable is including a range of formats for the information on your company. Some people like pamphlets, flyers, and lengthier reading materials, whereas others are going to be more receptive to videos, interactive displays, or product demonstrations. Some will prefer to get all of their information through conversation or recommendations. While you may have a pretty clear idea of what your ideal audience is going to be attracted to, a lot of trade shows are full of people from all kinds of backgrounds and industries. You don’t want to risk chasing anyone away! Source a wide range of materials to display at your booth so that you can appeal to as many attendees as possible.

Promotions and Contests
Everyone likes to get something for free, or at least the chance to get something for free, and you can leverage this to maximize your chances of success at a trade show. Free samples, trials, or other promotions related to your product can be a huge winner if they’re appropriate. Aside from that, you may also want to consider prize drawing (by collecting business cards!) or other ways to collect potential customer contact information in exchange for the chance to win something.

Snacks and Drinks
It’s usually the higher-ups and execs in charge of acquisition at a business who are sent out to trade shows. Everyone likes snacks and drinks no matter their role in an organization. Snacks and drinks may encourage more people to loiter at your booth. If it’s at all possible, make the drinks and snacks you have on offer somewhat aligned with your company culture, or the tone of your marketing materials. Although it shouldn’t really come too high on the list, you may want to invest in branded packaging to give your stand that extra little dose of professionalism. Failing that, you can attach a sticker or bottle wrapper or other subtle marketing materials to the snacks and drinks you hand out.

Show your Expertise
There is massive value in content marketing. Understandably, you may think of this as something completely confined to the digital area of marketing. This isn’t entirely true! While you can’t leverage technical SEO, you can certainly use content to demonstrate your level of expertise in your industry, and convince prospects that you’re worth their attention or investment. If you have any press releases in well-known publications, then get a copy of these and leave them out for people to read. Other things like a whitepaper on the future of your niche, lists of top 10 products, features on emerging tech, can also be very valuable. If there’s time, you could compile all of these kinds of materials in one professionally designed booklet. If the trade show is near to where you’re based, then another good idea is simply offering some information about the local area to out-of-town attendess; lists of the best restaurants, bars, places of historical interest and so on. Just make sure you keep any mentions of your brand subtle! You didn’t found the city, after all.

Keep Active on Social Media
I know, I know. The whole idea of you setting up at this trade show may have been to go past your constant digital marketing, to take the “social” out of “social networking”, so to speak. However, even when you’re sitting there at your booth, social media can be a great tool for assuring maximum success. The most straightforward way of doing this is simply engaging people who have checked in at the venue on social media, or mentioned the trade show in a post or comment. Even if the account is a little divorced from the kinds of professionals you were hoping to meet at the show, it can be worth interacting with them just to get your company name seen, and to let people know that you’re attending the show. If you see anyone talking about it who is in your target market for the day, go ahead and invite them to come and check out your booth.

Promotional Products
Make sure you source some promotional products and pass them onto the people who show an interest in your stand. Even if they don’t follow up themselves, these products will get around, and there’s always a chance of your ideal customer, partner or investor coming across it. Pens are the go-to one and even though they’re kind of clichéd, you can guarantee they’ll change hands a lot! Cups and mugs, provided they’re well designed, will also fly off your stand. Lanyards could also be a good idea and are more affordable end of the scale. If you’ve got a little more to spend, then think about getting USB sticks or even portable chargers! Promotional products will not only sell your business but give your stand that last little touch of professionalism.

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