by Caryn Smith © 2007

Trade shows provide an incredible marketing opportunity.  Where else can you gather an entire arena or convention center full of people interested in what you do?  For a modest investment, you can position yourself to rack up loads of leads.  Why then do so many trade show exhibitors fail?  Most often the reason lies in their lack of planning and creativity.  To help you overcome the challenges that plague far too many exhibitors, here are five tips designed to boost your success rate.

Escape the Ordinary

When you’re in an environment full of competitors, differentiation becomes key.  You have to make it easy for customers to choose you over everyone else in the room.  That means you’ll want to stand out visually (to attract passersby) and also to make it immediately apparent why you are better or different than other options the customer has.

Bright colors, large posters, unusually shaped desks and tables, special effects such as lighting, large displays including inflatable mascots or product replicas, and other options capture attention.  Having a sheet or brochure handy that outlines your unique selling points will keep visitors in your booth longer.

Have a Plan

If you walk into a trade show blindly, you’ll most likely be met with confusion. Think through the steps involved and develop a plan of action before you arrive at the show.  For instance, where will visitors approach your booth from?  Do you have a corner location?  Are you on an aisle?  Do you need to have multiple displays to grab their attention from different angles?

Why will they want to stop at your booth?  Do you have something visually attractive or unique (as discussed above)?  Have they been invited to come to your booth?

Once they stop, what will your process be?  Do you have a way of qualifying leads quickly?  Can you immediately assess what step in the buying process they’re in?  Do you have preprinted materials to give them that are specific to their needs?

What will they leave with that will keep your company in their memory? 

Pre-Promote Your Booth

As mentioned above, you might want to send a pre-promotional mailing or emailing that invites leads to your booth.  Give them the date, time, location and your booth number.  Let them know in advance that you’ll be giving something away that is of interest to them — then name the item.

Another way to take pre-promotion one step further is to include a lapel pin on your mailing card.  Inform your leads that, if they visit your booth while wearing their lapel pin, they’ll get something special other attendees won’t get.  Maybe you could enter their names into a drawing.  Perhaps you could offer them discount coupons for your products or services.  These techniques work extremely well because people love to be part of an exclusive crowd.

Make Memories

When visitors leave, you want them to remember who you are and what you do.  This also can be accomplished with lapel pins or other promotional items such as buttons, ink pens, etc.  If you skipped the pre-promotion, you might want to use lapel pins or the other items as your takeaway/giveaway. 

Follow Up!

Within 24 to 48 hours of the show’s conclusion, you need to follow up with the leads you collected.  Just like bread, leads go stale if not attended to quickly.

With a bit of planning and forethought, you can make your next trade show the most successful one yet!

Caryn Smith is Manager of Signature Pins. When you need affordable, memorable employee rewards with a high perceived value, lapel pins are an excellent option.  Visit today for custom lapel pins in just 10 days, guaranteed!

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