Last month one of our favorite clients – Exhibit Systems, a company specializing in designing and building trade show booths – asked Crux Creative to help them create a special exhibit to market their services. This exhibit was to be used at the International Cheese Technology Expo in Milwaukee, WI. and then in various industry shows around the country. Crux’s assignment was to assist with the development of a theme as well the creation of graphics, pre-show and post-show communications, giveaways and booth activities for the show. We’re happy to report that if the crowd’s reaction to the booth at the Cheese Tech Expo is any indication, Exhibit Systems can expect a significant increase in their business this year!
If you’re considering participating in a trade show now or in the future, here are six ideas to keep in mind when developing your own exhibit. They worked like a charm for Exhibit Systems and should do the same for you.
1. Go where your clients are
If you provide a business-to-business service, you can connect with current and potential customers as well as check out your competition by exhibiting at trade shows for your own industry. However, you can also try something that may seem counter-intuitive – namely, participating in industry shows entirely unrelated to your own business, but where potential customers may be exhibiting and visiting.
Exhibit Systems, for example, isn’t in the cheese industry but since they’ve designed and built booths for several companies who were exhibiting at the International Cheese Technology Expo, they decided to exhibit there, too. By having their own booth at this show, they were able to demonstrate their services to a prime audience that might not seek them out on their own. As a result, they had several orders from new clients before the show had even closed!
2. Tell people what they want to know
Many trade show exhibitors seem to assume that showing pictures of their products under the company logo will be enough to bring visitors flocking to their booths. But that premise ignores rule one of marketing – sell your product’s benefits not just its features. Tell your prospective customers how your product is going to make their lives better and their businesses more profitable than they are right now. Exhibit Systems did this with a simple word play on a quote from the American classic fantasy film – Field of Dreams. Their headline – and their product promise – was “If we build it, they will come.” Simple. Direct. And exactly what an exhibit company’s client wants to hear.
3. Create a way to interact with customers
Trade shows are all about meeting and connecting with potential buyers. But while these events are ideal for opening a sale, they are not necessarily the best places to close one. That’s why contacting booth visitors within a week or two after the show is over is so important. Yet, during the show itself you can still start developing a positive rapport with booth visitors by engaging them in activities that are fun, easy, rewarding and memorable.
The activity that Exhibit Systems offered was in keeping with its baseball theme – a Wii Baseball game. Corny? Maybe. But it was also a crowd pleaser. Everyone wanted to either play, watch as other people played, brag about their own performance or tease their friends about theirs. People walking by the booth and hearing excited chatter, laughter and occasional cheering stopped by to see what was going on. Soon they were trying for a home run, too. If they scored one (a relatively easy thing to do), they were invited to compete for a free mini-iPad by putting their business card in the container. But the prize was really the icing on the cake. Being able to “play” during work time made everyone feel like a winner.
4. Raise expectations before visitors even arrive
Pre-show communications shouldn’t just let customers know where your booth is, they should also create a sense of anticipation about visiting. Whether you send out postcards by snail mail or email, create a special landing page for your website or develop a social media campaign before the event, make sure you mention the fun visitors will have at your booth as well as your product’s benefits. In the case of Exhibit Systems, we did all of the above and people came expecting to have a good time, which they did.
5. Don’t forget to put the “show” in trade show
Trade show exhibits, if they’re done right, should have a sense of magic to them. Of course, the products and services being presented are serious, but there should still be a touch of theatrical entertainment to how they’re displayed. In the case of Exhibit Systems, the booth looked like a baseball field complete with batters playing the Wii game. Adding to the effect, everyone from Exhibit Systems wore a baseball t-shirt with the words “If we build it they will come” on the front and the company logo on the back. The result? It was everything a trade show exhibit should be – attractive, engaging, intriguing and fun.
6. Follow through
Now that you’ve put on a great show it’s time to reap your reward. Regardless of how you get the names and contact information of new prospects from the list of exhibitors and visitors – whether from business cards you’ve collected, or by some other means – this is the time to set up appointments to turn inquiries into sales. You might offer to bring a gift to a one-on-one meeting at their office or perhaps a free sample of your wares to reinforce your message. Whatever you do, keep the conversation going so that the impression you made at the show remains and is deepened with every contact.
We hope these suggestions will help you prepare for your next trade show. We know that they worked for Exhibit Systems and we’d love to make them work for your business, too. Call us at 262-885-6084 to see how we can help you.