Exhibiting is only becoming more expensive. Booth rentals can run several thousand dollars (at this year’s HR Technology Conference, booths start at $5,300 for a 10×10 and run up to $132,500). And when you add in sponsorships, airfare, hotel, food and other related expenses, exhibiting can really empty out a company’s pocketbook.
But for top exhibitors, these costs are a bargain, considering the leads and other marketing benefits they generate.
To be a top exhibitor, you need to stand out from the crowd, to attract prospects to your booth. Doing so requires a combination of strategy, tactics and interpersonal skills, plus a significant amount of preparation.
Exhibitors at SHRM Annual Doing a Great Job Representing Their Brands
Let the 33 tips in the blog post serve as a place to start.
BEFORE YOU DECIDE TO EXHIBIT
1. Identify your exhibiting goals. You need to answer two questions. What are you trying to achieve? Will exhibiting help? Possible goals include increases in new leads and sales, increasing your brand visibility, expanding your social media network and even the creation of content for your content marketing activities.
2. Determine how to measure your results. Measurement allows for evaluation, and helps you adjust your tactics if need be. For example, if your goal is new leads, specify how many new leads you want to generate. After the event, compare your new leads against the goal.
3. Consider booth design. If you are a new exhibitor, you need to factor in the time and money to build your display. Costs for a display can range significantly, from a couple thousand dollars to more than $100,000. Or, you can use simple pull-up banners, but they aren’t cheap and you still need to invest in design.
4. Consider the investment of time. Managing event logistics and maximizing marketing opportunities takes a lot of time. The bigger the show, the more hoops you jump through in order to exhibit and make arrangements.
5. Consider how many industry events you want to exhibit at, and which ones. Some companies choose to exhibit at just one or two industry events, while others choose more than 20. You might elect to be a small fish in a big pond (major events such as SHRM annual) or a big fish in a small pond (regional events with a much smaller number of exhibitors), or to mix it up. Unsure of what events to go to? Sometimes the events your competitors exhibit at can be a good place to start.
6. Take into account your target audience and how many attendees are expected. Are enough members of your target audience going to be at the event?
7. Pay attention to conference specifics. Examine the agenda to see how much networking and exhibit hall time is allotted. Consider the conference organizer. Is it a reputable industry-related association, publisher or professional “conference” company? Also consider the event’s history. Does it have a proven track record, or is this an inaugural event?
BEFORE A SHOW
8. Identify all of your goals for a given tradeshow months in advance. Examples are the same as in the “Before You Decide to Exhibit” section: increases in new leads and sales, increasing your brand visibility, expanding your social media network and the creation of content for your content marketing activities.
9. Based on your goals, determine the action you want people to take. It could be, for example, you want people to read an article you created. Put the URL or QR code on all of your materials related to the show, such as signage or giveaways.
10. Come up with a realistic budget for your exhibiting. If your exhibiting fee is $5,000, plan on two to three times that as a minimum investment. Of course, if you are going for a major branding push, you can go “all-in” and maximize the event with significant investments such as a major giveaway or a significant sponsorship.
11. Be prepared for other costs. Budget for the inevitable price gouging from the hotel, the exhibit hall, the unions and anyone else who can take a piece. Getting upset by unforeseen charges can ruin your exhibiting experience.
12. Consider increasing your visibility by purchasing a sponsorship, but be sure to get the most out of your investment. Before you sign the contract, ask for more. Are you getting a post-show lead list? Can you send an email pre-show to the registrants? Can you get a conference discount that you can offer/promote to clients and/or prospects? Depending on the event, sometimes you can build a great partnership with event coordinators to get more exposure for your investment.
13. Promote your participation. On your website. In emails. On social media. Perhaps via a press release. On social media, use the event’s hashtag.
14. Make sure everyone on your team knows and can deliver your “elevator pitch.” An elevator pitch is a quick (30-60 seconds), clear and distinct message to someone who isn’t familiar with your company or its products and services. To create one, consider using Harvard Business School’s Elevator Pitch Builder.
15. Identify 20 prospects to take to a very nice dinner (no more than 10 at a time). Arrange the conversation at dinner so everyone comes away charged and feeling they received value. Make the dinner reservations before you go.
16. Come up with a giveaway that everyone wants. Kid-friendly items are better, as many attendees are looking for presents for their children. Try to come up with something unique.
17. Create a clear target list of top prospects you want to meet at the show.
18. Pre-schedule demos in and around the conference. Save the booth for engagement of actual new leads.
19. Consider having everyone wear the same uniform—or not. The upside of a uniform is a cohesive look can be a great addition to a large-show branding strategy and can make it easier to engage in conversation to/from/during the show (oh, so you’re with XYZ company—what is it that you do again?). The downside is a great way to see who is faring poorly is to look for clumps of color. A clump of people with identical polo shirts can stop traffic in an aisle. Having dissimilar shirts makes it look like you are busy, which encourages traffic.
HRmarketer Helps You Find The HR Events You Should Be At – And Boost Your Visibility
Global listing of HR conferences and speaking opportunities and lists of the people and brands engaging in the events.
DURING A SHOW
20. Schedule at least three detailed tours of the conference hall. One to see what the competitors are doing; one to see what great booth design looks like for next year; one to identify new competitors.
21. Have someone taking photographs and working social media from the booth with backup support from the home office.
22. Put giveaway items in a place that’s easy to get to. This keeps giveaway hounds from getting in the way of business conversations.
23. Expand your space. Having smiling, happy people in the booth is not enough. Work your way out into the aisle. View your space as “as much as you can occupy.”
24. Find a way to quickly separate the lookie-loos from the serious leads. Have your people at the outer perimeter do the screening.
25. Don’t look hungrily at passers-by from your booth. Desperation shows, and is also a turn-off.
26. Make one point to passers-by with as few words as possible. You have three seconds to get them to pay attention. You then have 10 seconds to make sure that the wrong ones don’t waste your time. Then deliver your elevator pitch.
27. Assign one person on your team to network and be responsible for finding the people on the target list you created before the show. Everyone, however, should have a copy of the list close at hand in case they connect with the leads.
28. Make your demos sought after and hard to qualify for. Scarcity is a good thing.
29. If the conference is providing lead lists, then don’t bother collecting business cards unless the person is a real lead.
30. Think content. Conduct customer interviews for testimonials and case studies. If possible, attend sessions to get topic ideas for content. Take photos and videos.
AFTER A SHOW
31. Send follow-up emails to leads within 72 hours. Research shows that 80 percent of tradeshow leads are never followed up.
32. Connect on LinkedIn with the people you met.
33. Put prospects into your lead nurturing process. Most won’t be ready to buy immediately. Nurture them with quality content to strengthen engagement and trust.
There is no guarantee for exhibiting success, and we certainly don’t guarantee that following these tips will make your exhibiting a success—ultimately the quality of your product and your sales skills will play a major role. However, we do believe that by using some, or even all, of these tips, you will see better results. If you’d like to learn more, please contact HRmarketer.
And remember, “There Is Rarely a Bad Trade Show, Just Bad Booth Personnel“.