While assisting a very successful entrepreneur ghostwrite his story, you pick up things. Even if you really don’t have a head for business, you become a sponge around an incisive mind connected to an articulate tongue. For contractual purposes, I cannot attach a name to these tips intended for small business owners looking to make the most of their trade show exhibits, but I will personally attest to the fact that these are from someone who knows what he’s talking about. Trade show exhibits can be a particularly effective marketing tool for small business owners, but only if done right. There is no one way to make sure you are doing it right, unfortunately. In fact, there is a vast array of things you can do that could make it a rousing success or a crushing failure. Then there is that selection of things you almost absolutely must do in order to really get the most benefit from setting up your exhibits at trade shows.
Remember the Why
Nobody who ever decided to cash in on the benefits of trade show exhibits ever did it successfully without first asking themselves why attending a trade show would be a boon for business. Lots of small business owners answer that question before putting their exhibits together, but then somehow manage to forget that answer over the course of the show. Are you there to find suppliers? Introduce a new product? Extend your brand? Or just check out the competition? Trade show exhibits can live or die by how meticulously you formulate and stick with a strong reason for being there.
Pick the Right Show
Clearly you would not show up at trade show about cutting edge technology in the office if you run a landscaping business. But you might be surprised to find out just how many small residential landscaping businesses will show up at a trade show designed for commercial landscaping owners who did not answer “to expand our very small commercial clientele” when they asked why they wanted to show up. Your exhibit could win a dozen “Best in Show” awards over the course of a year, but if what you have to sell is not what people are there to buy, it’s a waste of time and money. With the caveat, of course, that your answer to the question of why be there is “to collect as many “Best in Show” awards as possible.” Now do you see why “Remembering the Why” is so very important to experiencing trade show marketing success?
Be Seen, but Not Heard
Not literally, of course. Visual impact is of prime consideration at a trade show–maybe the single most important weapon at your disposal in some cases–and the more upscale the small business trade show, the more important the visual excitement of your display becomes. The world of trade show exhibits today is far removed from the poker table, folding chairs and colorful bunting that may immediately come to mind. Innovative use of space, graphics and visually-oriented multimedia should be enough to lure interested parties. You don’t need blaring music or corporate propaganda for the ears playing on a loud loop. Even if your small business is all about audio equipment, you need to do the homework spatial acoustics if you truly want to get everything you can out of the show. Because one of the single most important reasons for attending a trade is to create the opportunity for listening closely to what people all around you are saying about your exhibit as well as the exhibits of your competitors.
The design of trade show displays need to be like any other form of advertising or marketing. This is such an obvious truism that you would think it could go without saying. Those who are new to the world of trade show exhibits are more likely to commit the sin of overlooking this reality, but don’t be surprised to find small business owners whom you think you would know better allowing obvious things to lapse in their old age. While the visual design of your exhibit needs to display an irresistible temptation to qualified prospects especially, that is only the short term gain to be had from a trade show. Colors, logos, patterns and even certain textures you have chosen to associate with your brand absolutely demand to be incorporated into the design of the trade show exhibit. And if you think that there’s no way you could ever make such an elementary lapse in judgment, wait until you find your deadline for being at a trade show conflicts your suppliers’ deadlines in getting your branded exhibit display to you. Faced with the choice of missing out on a trade show opportunity or showing up with gear branded with your old logo can be a tough one. What would you do?
Here’s a final tip for success. Getting the most from a trade show means more than what you accomplish between setting up and breaking down the exhibit. You want your impact to linger on well after the lights go out and the doors are locked. Do what you can to be remembered even by unqualified prospects who will recognize your brand when they come across it a week, month or even a year later. But then gain, how will they even recognize you if they associate you with different colors, a hand-drawn logo and the scripted font decided not to use anymore just two weeks before the show came to town?