Trade shows – they’re a blessing and a curse. They can be an invaluable way to build brand awareness, gather new customer leads and find out what your competitors are up to. But they can also be an absolute sinkhole for time and money.
With so many brands jostling for attention on the trade show floor, standing out from the pack can be difficult, especially if you don’t have a big budget to play with. But, with so many potential customers comparing you to your competitors, it’s essential that you not only look professional and reliable but that you attract attention and stay memorable.
From branded marquees to cupcakes and iPads, we have 8 tips that will help you stand out from your competitors, both on the trade show floor and in the memories of your customers.
1. The trade show doesn’t start at the trade show
With so much going on at every trade show, your customers will likely be flooded with information from the moment they arrive. So, make sure your customers are aware of your brand and are thinking about you before they arrive.
Start building buzz in the weeks leading up to the trade show. Make use of email marketing, content marketing and social media to spread the word across your client database or industry. Let your database know that the show is coming, that you will be there, and what’s in it for them to attend. Also, consider giving them some kind of incentive to attend.
2. Invest in a great space
It doesn’t matter if you’re a small player or an industry leader, if you rock up to a trade show with nothing more than some pamphlets and a folding table, you’ll struggle to draw a crowd.
Invest in professional custom branding. A digitally printed or branded marquee is a great way to draw attention and take advantage of the free advertising space that comes with a custom marquee. Branded flag banners or tear-drop banners are also a great way to catch the eye. Investing in top-quality digital printing also means that you’ll have your branded marquee ready for any future trade shows, product launches or community events.
3. Create a unified design
Your exhibition space shouldn’t look like it’s been cobbled together from marketing collateral leftover from earlier events. Be sure to present a unified branding design that takes in all elements of your space. That means that the branding design on your printed marquee and banners should match your pamphlets and literature, uniforms, show bags, multimedia displays and anything else you’re offering. And don’t skimp on the design. Your prospects will judge you based on the quality of your branding, from your multimedia displays down to the paper stock.
Use clever and unified design as a differentiator. A well-designed exhibition space will be more eye-catching, more memorable and will help to present your brand in the best and most professional light.
4. Select your staff carefully
Think carefully about who you have representing your brand. Depending on your product or industry sector, your staffing requirements may be quite different. For example, an alcohol brand might benefit from having young, bubbly, attractive people who can embody the ‘lifestyle’ aspect of the product.
For a tech company, on the other hand, it might be more important to have someone with extensive product knowledge who can field questions and carry out in-depth product demonstrations. Having the right people representing your brand will go a long way to creating a memorable impression on your potential customers.
5. Dress to impress
Selecting the right outfits for your exhibition staff is also important. As mentioned above, properly branded uniforms are an integral part of your cohesive visual design. So, make sure that your staff are appropriately attired to complement your branding design and to clearly signal who are your brand ambassadors.
It’s also important to select the right style of clothing. Have a think about the type of customer you’re trying to attract and what the outfit will say about your product or brand. Having your staff dressing fun or sexy may grab attention, but if it’s not suitable for your business it can undermine confidence in your brand. Likewise, having your staff dressed in business suits can be off-putting to some industry sectors or younger audiences.
6. Make use of multimedia
In this day and age, this may seem blindingly obvious, but you’d be amazed how many companies arrive armed with nothing more than product samples and pamphlets. Make use of video content, especially something that will catch the eye from a distance and across a crowded space. Use big screens with videos of product demonstrations, how-to videos, testimonials, and whatever else will provide your customers with a more in-depth understanding of your business or product. Make use of iPads to allow customers to explore your product or business on their own. And don’t be afraid to make some noise.
7. Feed the masses
The best way to your customer’s heart is through their stomach. Offering free food is a great way to get people to your display. Make sure you offer food that is quick and easy to eat and doesn’t require plates or cutlery. Even better, give away sweet treats like cupcakes, lollies or chocolates. The time it takes someone to stop and grab a free treat is all the time you need to start hitting them with your pitch.
8. Research the competition and talk to people
Do your research ahead of time. Knowing which of your competitors are going to be at the show and what they will be presenting can be invaluable to your pitch. You will be better able to answer questions, speak in depth about your competitors and promote your points of differentiation. Basically, it means that you will be better prepared to convince prospects of why you are better than your competition.
On the day of the trade show, make sure you take the time to see exactly what your competitors are doing. Take note of what’s working and what isn’t working. Chat to some attendees and find out what’s caught their attention, what they’ve enjoyed and what they’ve remembered. This will all provide invaluable insights and ideas for your next trade show.
Remember, every trade show, industry expo, community event or product launch is a place to learn, gather ideas and inspiration and speak to potential customers. As great as customer data is, there is no substitute for actually speaking to real people. And this is perhaps the best way to really stand out and stay memorable at a trade show: simply speak to people openly and without a pitch.
Mike works as an outreach manager for many property and real estate businesses. His expertise lies in finance, safety products, and real estate.