Trade Show

Exhibiting at a trade show is always an exciting opportunity to connect face to face with potential customers who might not have found you otherwise despite your amazing marketing strategy.

Even though you have a captive audience roaming the trade show floor, that doesn’t mean they are automatically going to stop at your booth. And when they do stop at your booth and talk to you, it doesn’t mean they will remember you after speaking to sometimes hundreds of other brands.

Here are eight things you can do to stand out among the trade show crowd to make the best impression possible.

Do a giveaway contest

If you’re not doing some sort of giveaway you’re missing out on an easy opportunity to build your email list. The challenge with giveaways is that it can really be a race to the bottom if you try to out do everyone else by giving away more and more for free. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars or give away a huge chunk of your stock to have a successful giveaway. You need at least one of two things:

  • To provide value
  • Make it fun

Figure out what your audience really needs and go from there. Then you will know you are providing value for them. If you have an amazing product, then definitely use it for a giveaway so you can get it in the hands of your customers, who will then talk about it to their friends and on social. Otherwise, gift cards, prize packs, etc. are always winners.

In order to make it fun, try to gamify your booth in some way to draw people in. For example, you could:

  • Have a prize wheel – make it colourful and big enough to draw attention
  • Guess the number of objects in the jar – use something that relates to your brand if possible
  • Photo contest – have a branded photo wall in your booth for those Instagram-worthy moments that you can track through a unique hashtag

Go bigger or better than your competitors

It’s common to see the same competitors over and over at the trade shows you do. If you are new to a trade show, try to find pictures from the last event to see what types of set up other companies have. If you can, figure out what your competitors are doing and base your strategy off of that. You either want to do what they are doing only better, or you want to do something totally different. That way you ensure you can stand out visually from your competitors.

Refresh your branding

There are two reasons you may want to consider a brand refresh before a trade show:

  1. Your look and messaging is outdated: It happens. You don’t necessarily need to reinvent the wheel, you could do a refresh by revisiting your messaging and creating new signage. Regardless of your audience, if you look like you don’t care about your own branding, then you may find it hard to sell people on your product/service.
  2. You look like everyone else: In this case, it’s more about your logo and your colours. If everyone in your industry is skewing towards teal circles and 5 of your competitors have a logo with a teal circle, then maybe it’s time to change things up. You will just blend in with everyone else if you’re all the same. Take the time to review your messaging and develop a great brand visual that will help you stand out and connect with your target audience.

Don’t settle for generic

Most trade shows will set up with pipe and drape (Usually black or white) and a table with two chairs. In many cases, the table will have a black table cloth. If that is how the show is set up, that means that EVERYONE has pipe and drape in the same colour, making it easy for your booth to blend in with your neighbour’s. Spice up your both with some colour, images, product displays, etc. You would be surprised at how far a coloured table cloth and well-designed banners will go to help you stand out.

Tell people where you are

Trade shows are visual, so get visual with your social media posts while you are there. Tell them your booth number, and even do a video walk through of the show floor from the entrance to your booth. The more visuals they have, the more drawn to your booth they will be.

Another way to ensure there is chatter about where your booth is is to cross promote with your booth neighbours. Make new business and social connections and shout each other out on social media. While attendees might miss one booth, it’s hard to miss three in a row. Once they see the grouping of booths, they will likely visit all of them.

Greet everyone who walks by

This can be the most awkward-feeling thing you may do, but remember you are at a trade show to connect. It’s hard to do that if you don’t engage people in dialogue. Even if you feel awkward, a smile and a greeting is memorable and you will likely get more attention on your booth if you acknowledge attendees walking by.

Got swag?

Everyone loves getting swag. Period. And swag isn’t that great brochure you just had designed. We’re talking pens and trinkets that provide value or are just plain neat. Pens are always a classic but also try to get creative. Can you do a really cool branded t-shirt that they can put on right away? A reusable bag (that is bigger than everyone else’s so everything gets put into your bag? Stress balls? Phone holders? The list goes on. If you can get it, you can likely brand it. Don’t forget to consider candy, mints, or gum as well. While it’s something that won’t last forever, they’ll remember you for it.

Start early

Sure the trade show happens on specific dates, but your work to promote your appearance should start way before then! Use social media and add to the trade show chatter by using their hashtag. Interact with other brands and attendees wherever possible. You could even arrange for a ticket giveaway contest either through the organizers or if you get a few free tickets with your booth. Last but not least, utilize your email list to let your existing customers know you will be there.

Trade shows can be exhausting, but they can also be extremely valuable when it comes to building your business.

A version of this article was originally published to the SongBird Marketing Communications Blog.