A trade show exhibit can make a significant difference in your company’s bottom line for the rest of the year. Reserving a space and setting up a booth are the relatively easy parts. The challenging aspect of a trade show is to stand out from a large crowd and stick in visitors’ minds. Some of the most memorable things you can do at a trade show involve thinking outside of conventional business practices while still projecting a professional image.
1. Spend Some Time Outside of Your Booth
It may sound counter-intuitive, but business owners who network on the trade show floor away from their own booths are those who bring in more foot traffic. Meeting and talking with others in your industry is a very good way to spread the word about your company. If you learn about other entrepreneurs’ businesses and send interested customers to their trade show booths, these owners will quite often do the same for you. While you work the trade show floor, make sure to take along a stack of your business cards or brochures to hand out.
2. Offer Memorable Promotional Items to Customers
Standard fare for promotional items includes pens, coffee mugs, tote bags and similar items for many trade show exhibitors. The main problem is that a number of visitors discard these items or put them away and forget about them once they leave the trade show. One idea is to give out promotional items that offer a little extra everyday convenience for potential customers during their daily routines. Examples include electronic sensors used to locate misplaced car keys or a pocket-size digital recorder for dictating notes on the go. Customers who can use these promotional products daily are also much more likely to remember your business.
3. Break Away From Conventional Booth Layouts
The standard trade show booth features a table with printed brochures in the front and sample products in the back. This layout is so common because it has worked just well enough for many business owners for years. If you want your returns from a trade show to be exceptional instead of “just good enough,” consider mixing up the layout of your booth. Try displaying your product lines in the front, sectioning your booth into different product-line-specific areas or including a walkway that naturally draws curious visitors further into your display area. Using panels to create more separation from the main trade show floor is another tactic of successful exhibitors. Customers who feel they are in a “mini-store” of sorts are more likely to stay longer, browse through more of your products and engage more with your sales staff.
4. Showcase Your Products Both Online and Offline
One of the goals of a trade show booth is to get visitors interested in learning more detail about your products and services by visiting your website, blog or social media pages. Studies have shown that potential customers who look up a business online, bookmark its website or follow it on social networks are several times more likely to come back and make future purchases. As part of your incentive plan, offer each new customer a small reward for liking your Facebook page, following you on Twitter or connecting with your Google+ page. If it’s in your budget, you can even offer double rewards for those who refer a friend to your online pages. Displaying a QR code to be scanned with smartphones allows customers to connect with your company right from the trade show floor.
5. Get Your Customers to Participate
People enjoy getting involved directly with a trade show exhibitor whose products interest them. Holding raffle drawings, scavenger hunts or wheel-spinning for a prize are all excellent ways to interact with customers. These activities are fun and effective at strengthening buyer loyalty. They also provide trade show visitors a welcome break from passively browsing through booths and listening to sales pitches. Gift certificates towards your products are popular to give out as winning prizes, and you can even hold a raffle drawing for a bigger-ticket item such as a laptop or tablet. Adding these contests and activities to your exhibit may cost a bit more, but the returns can be much bigger as more visitors tell their friends in attendance about your trade show booth.
6. Don’t Simply Have a Sales Pitch; Tell a Good Story
Many customers want to hear the specifics about how your product or service will make their lives easier or solve a certain problem they often encounter. A sales pitch that simply lists features and benefits is no longer sufficient because most people do not mentally connect these points to their everyday lives. Based on your target audience demographics, create a narrative presentation that takes them through how they would commonly use your product.
Some of the best practices at a trade show do not simply involve fancy colors, lights or graphics in your booth design. They instead emphasize building solid connections with customers and with other vendors in your industry. Incorporating these ideas into your next trade show will help you noticeably stand out from the competition.