Seven Deadly Exhibiting Sins and How to Avoid Them

Since exhibiting comprises so many different components and functions, it's no wonder that we make blunders trying to remember everything that needs doing. However, some are more lethal than others and as such should be avoided at all costs. The following seven points fall into that category.

Learn to avoid them and you will increase your chances for a more successful and profitable tradeshow.

Sin #1: Failing to have a proper exhibit marketing plan.
In order to make tradeshows a powerful dimension your company's overall marketing operation, there must be total alignment between the strategic marketing and your exhibit marketing plan. Tradeshows should not be a stand-alone venture. Know and understand exactly what you wish to achieve - increasing market share with existing users; introducing new products/services into existing markets or into new markets; or introducing new products/services into new markets. This is the nucleus on which to build your program, which should include pre-show, at-show and post-show promotional activities. Know whom you want to target and then consider having different promotional programs aimed at the different groups you are interested in attracting.

Sin #2: Failing to set quantifiable exhibiting goals.

 Goals, or the purpose for exhibiting, are the essence of the whole tradeshow experience. Knowing what you want to accomplish at a show will help plan every other aspect - your theme, the booth layout and display, graphics, product displays, premiums, literature, etc. Exhibiting goals should complement your corporate marketing objectives and help in accomplishing them. Make sure they can be measured after the show to establish how well you did.

Sin #3: Failing to build brand awareness with your booth.

 On the show floor your exhibit makes a strong statement about who your company is, what you do and how you do it. Everything your company stands for, no matter how large or small, is being exhibited on the show floor. This means that there needs to be total consistency, congruity, clarity and focus in every aspect of your exhibiting program, before, during and after the show. The purpose of you exhibit is to attract visitors so that you can achieve your marketing objectives. In addition to being an open, welcoming and friendly space, there needs to be a focal point and a strong key message that communicates a significant benefit to your prospect. Opt for large graphics rather than reams of copy. Pictures paint a thousand words while very few attendees will take time to read. Your presentations/demonstrations are a critical part of your exhibit marketing. Create an experience that allows visitors to use as many of their sense as possible. This will help to enhance memorability.

Sin #4: Failing to give visitors an incentive to visit your booth.

 Whatever promotional vehicles you use - direct mail, broadcast faxes, advertising, PR, sponsorship, and the Internet, make sure that you give visitors a reason to come and visit you. With a hall overflowing with fascinating products/services, combined with time constraints, people need an incentive to stop at your booth. First and foremost their primary interest is in "what's new!" They are eager to learn about the latest technologies, new applications, or anything that will help save them time and/or money. Even if you don't have a new product/service to introduce, think about a new angle to promote your offerings.

Sin #5: Failing to have giveaways that work.

 Tied into giving visitors an incentive to visit your booth is the opportunity to offer a premium item that will entice them to stop. Your giveaway items should be designed to increase your memorability, communicate, motivate, promote or increase recognition of your company. Developing a dynamite giveaway takes thought and creativity. Consider what your target audience wants, what will help them do their job better, what they can't get elsewhere, what is product/service related and educational. Think about having different gifts for different types of visitors. Use your website to make an offer for visitors to collect important information, such as an executive report, when they visit your booth. Giveaways should be used as a reward or token of for visitors participating in a demonstration, presentation or contest, or as a thank-you for qualifying information about specific needs etc.

Sin #6: Failing to realize that your people are your marketing team.

 Enormous time, energy and money are put into organizing show participation - display, graphics, literature, premiums, etc. However, the people chosen to represent the entire image of the organization are often left to fend for themselves. They are just told to show up. Your people are your ambassadors. They represent everything your company stands for, so choose them well. Brief them beforehand and make sure they know: why you are exhibiting; what you are exhibiting and what you expect from them. Exhibit staff training is essential for a unified and professional image. This means making sure that they sell instead of tell; they don't try to do too much; they understand visitor needs; they don't spend too much time with visitors; and finally, they know how to close the interaction with a commitment to follow-up.
Sin #7: Failing to have a proper follow-up plan.

The key to your tradeshow success is wrapped up in the lead-management process. The best time to plan for follow-up is before the show. Show leads often take second place to other management activities that occur after being out of the office for several days. The longer leads are left unattended, the colder and more mediocre they become. It is to your advantage to develop an organized, systematic approach to follow-up. Establish a lead handling system, set time lines for follow-up, use a computerized database for tracking, make sales representatives accountable for leads given to them, and then measure your results.

Written by Susan A. Friedmann,CSP, The Tradeshow Coach, Lake Placid, NY, working with companies to improve their meeting and event success through coaching, consulting and training. Author: "Meeting & Event Planning for Dummies," and "Riches in Niches: How to Make it BIG in a small Market" (May 2007). Website:  

 In addition to custom building branded trade show environments, The Rogers Company is also a full service trade show and event implementation partner providing turnkey services and support for its corporate clients throughout the country. 

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