Was it Good for You?

How to Create a Trade Show Experience You AND Your Customers Will Both Enjoy

 Trade show season is upon us, and how many marketing reps are dreading yet another year with the same-old, same-old trade show booth? Pop-ups looking pooped? Backdrop in need of some back-up?

 It may be time to put a little excitement back into your trade show experience.

 “Your trade show presence has to fulfill others’ expectations as well as fulfill your own desires. In other words, it has to be mutually satisfying,” says Debbie Nierman of HGX Creative.

 “People do get excited about possibilities,” she continues. “Whether you’re an exhibitor or an attendee, you make connections, you leave excited about certain possibilities and grandiose ideas are flowing. Notebooks are filled with new ideas, bags are stuffed with giveaways and collateral, and flights home are often spent planning, but reality hits when you’re back at the office. You play catch up, fires need to be put out, and daily responsibilities take over – none of which have anything to do with the show you were just at and the innovative spirit and rain-maker attitude you left with.”

 It can be a letdown, she admits, but one that can be managed. The team at HGX Creative has worked with countless clients to create memorable trade show presentations that make a lasting impact.

 “We’ve done pop-ups, table top booth, tents and backdrops, banners, back walls, table throws – anything and everything,” says Nierman. “We do things that bend, hang, stretch, click, you name it. We design it and have it manufactured and ready to go from show to show. In addition to the structural environments, we also build out show materials with collateral, loop presentations, exhibition handbook ads, signage for special events, gifts and giveaways, in-show contests and sweeps.”

 A few tips from the trade show pros at HGX Creative:

 Think in terms of a “carry on” vs. a “takeaway.” Everyone leaves trade shows with bags with collateral and giveaways that sit in the corner of their cubicle or office for weeks, never gets looked at again and finally gets tossed. What you need are cards and collateral that find their way to an attendee’s personal-use bag or briefcase that will get the second look. Give your booth attendees a “carry on” – something that compels them to take it with them onboard the flight home that’s worthy of reviewing, using and keeping.

 Don’t forget that a wonderfully creative booth or interactive display won’t make up for an incredibly blasé staff. Be sure your team is as fired up about the new booth or display as you are, and that they’re supposed to share that excitement and enthusiasm with anyone who stops by. “There’s nothing more deadly to new client traffic than a sales rep who looks bored or who’s too busy chatting on her smartphone to meet and greet visitors to the booth.”

 Be choosy and act fast. Okay, you’ve gotten a lot of attention and traffic at a trade show. Now what? It’s not enough to leave a show with a large lead list. Make a contact list manageable and realistic – you don’t want to waste time on contacts who aren’t going to buy or don’t meet your customer profile. Choose your targets and follow up within 24 hours.

 The end is just the beginning. For exhibitors, the show doesn’t end at booth breakdown. It’s critical to present a cohesive theme and/or message skillfully carried through to all print and electronic materials, displays and virtually everything the show attendee comes in contact with. The experience must carry through to all touch points immediately following the show as well.

 File ‘em or forget ‘em. The HGX team recommends you categorize your leads. For example, create tiers A, B, and C:

  • “A-hot” prospects are contacted 24-48 hours after the show via a personal call to follow-up on specifics discussed. These contacts usually have an immediate need you can fill.
  • B’s are prospects that have potential to be good clients, because they fit your target profile. These people are contacted by way of email, mail, etc… depending on the show plan (This is why post-show themes and messaging should reflect your show theme).
  • C’s are leads that don’t have much potential because the prospect’s company doesn’t meet enough of your desired profile. Figure out what, if any, direct sales and marketing efforts are needed. Eventually, C’s need to move to B’s after a predetermined period of time or they get tossed.
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