Trade Show Booth Promotion
So you've decided to exhibit at a trade show as a way to market your product or service. You've done a little research and you've picked a trade show, and you've signed up for a booth space at the show. Now what? Well, if you think that you just go to the show and people show up at your booth with orders and checks, you may want to stop reading this article and keep dreaming. But if you realize that trade show marketing is hard work and you want to know the nuts-and-bolts basics of trade show booth promotion, then keep reading. Trade show booth promotion is another way of saying getting traffic, that is, qualified traffic, to visit your amazing but unknown trade show booth and then converting that qualified traffic into business. If you want your trade show exhibit to be a success, you need traffic, and if you want traffic, you need to promote your trade show booth. I like to break trade show booth promotion into three easy steps or phases: (1) Before The Show, (2) At The Show, and (3) After The Show. Actually, the third phase isn't so much promotion but converting your successful promotion into business success.
PHASE ONE: BEFORE YOUR TRADE SHOW
First you need to find and select the right trade show to exhibit at, and then you need to develop a detailed budget with all the costs of exhibiting at that show, and you need to confirm that there is the potential to make more money from exhibiting at the show than it costs to exhibit there (budgeting 101). Once you've done that, you can focus on promotion. Most if not all trade shows will provide exhibitors with a mailing list for the attendees that are signed up for the show. Get that list and send out a pre-show mailer. Your mailer should let the attendees know you'll be exhibiting, where your booth will be, and why they should stop by (how you can help them). In addition, I am a big fan of providing an incentive for them to stop by, such as free trade show giveaways. Your trade show giveaway must fit into your budget of course, but it must also be valueable enough to entice people to stop by, and valueable enough (or useful enough) to insure people keep it when they leave the show and that it doesn't end up in their hotel room trash can. And of course your trade show giveaways should have your company name and contact information on them. You may want to consider coupling your trade show giveaways with a contest or raffle. You can offer everyone that stops by a "courtesy gift" (maybe a pen or box of breath mints) and then also have a raffle to give a way a new Rolls Royce (or ipod, depending again on your budget :) ). Part of your pre-show planning should also be ensuring that you have a trade show display for your trade show booth, and that your trade show display has eye-catching, mouth-watering, amazing, captivating, over-the-top, out-of-this-world (ok, you get the picture) trade show graphics with a clear, focused message of what you can do for your prospective customer (at this point you may want to read my other hubs, Designing Trade Show Displays and Trade Show Booths and Duct Tape).
PHASE TWO: AT YOUR TRADE SHOW
After you get to your trade show booth and set up your amazing trade show display, you need to prepare for the deluge of booth traffic you're about to receive (you read and followed phase one, right?). At your booth, you want to be personable and professional, but you also want to qualify people that stop at your booth and determine quickly if they are a valid prospect. If they aren't, thank them for stopping by, and then politely send them on their way. But if they are a qualified prospect, be sure to get their contact information for Phase Three, and then talk to them about how you can help them. Of course, in order to figure out how you can help them, you'll have to ask them questions to find out what they need, and then you'll need to listen to their answers. Let them do most of the talking, but be sure to explain how you can help them. From there, it's just basic business and selling (trade show selling, a hub coming soon). In addition, because you don't want people waiting and walking away, it's best to have at least two people working your trade show booth at all times.
PHASE THREE: AFTER YOUR TRADE SHOW
Many exhibitors make the mistake of thinking their trade show booth promotion job is done when the show is over and they pack up their trade show display and ship it back to their company. While in a strict sense, the promotion is over (no one is going to show up to your booth after the show), if you stop now, most of your promotion will have been for naught (translation ~ worthless!). Once you get back from your trade show, you can take the weekend off if you want, but then you must FOLLOW UP! You need to email and call all of the prospects you met at your trade show booth. If you call and they aren't in, leave a message, but if you don't hear back from them, call again. Now your job is to convert your successful trade show booth promotion into business success by converting your trade show booth prospects into business customers... but we'll leave the details of that (trade show follow-up) for my next hub. Just remember, after your trade show, you must FOLLOW UP!
BONUS TRADE SHOW BOOTH PROMOTION IDEA
There are many ways to promote your trade show booth. This hub focuses on having a contest, raffle, or giveaway, and announcing it via a pre-show mailer (or multiple mailers) to the trade show attendees. Another idea is to hire several people from a staffing agency and have them walk around the trade show floor as walking human billboards for your booth with loudly colored (i.e. hot pink) T-shirts with a simple message or question on the T-shirts that entices people that read the shirt and then come to your booth. The message can be as simple your booth number and a big question mark. Whatever your trade show booth promotion idea, you still want to break it into the three "phases" above. It does seem that some of the best ideas are those that come from thinking outside the box, as the main point of your promotion is to get your booth to stand out from all the other trade show booths and to get attendees to make the time to stop by your booth (as opposed to your competitors).
As I said above, there are many ways to promote your trade show booth. If you have an idea for or an example of a successful promotion, please feel free to let me (and the future readers of this hub) know with a comment below. Thanks, and thanks for stopping by!
Additional Reading Recommendations
If you enjoyed this trade show booth promotion hub and you've read my other trade show hubs, and now you'd like to read more sage advice and wisdom about trade shows, trade show marketing, and trade show exhibiting, you may want to check out my blog (the Trade Show Guru) ~ your source for trade show marketing advice and enlightenment. If you have any questions about trade show anything, feel free to stop by the Trade Show Promotions Guru and ask me.
If you need to purchase a portable trade show booth, and you value good old fashioned things like excellent quality, customer service, and free ground shipping, you may want to check out the trade show booth company where I work and where you can buy a trade show booth online 24/7, 365.
If you like my image above (How not to promote your trade show booth!), you can find it and millions of other high quality, affordable stock photos at www.istockphoto.com.