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Having a Successful First Show

There are so many aspects to consider when attending your first trade show. It can be very overwhelming at times and many people don't even know where to start. Having a successful show is important because attending these shows allows a company to attract new prospects and demonstrate new products and information that the mainstream public may not have seen yet. This is your chance to get your company name out there and a great way to build an impressive reputation in the industry. Every company should have a goal in mind when thinking of their first trade show. What do you expect the outcome will be from attending? How much will it cost? What do you need to do? These are some important questions that I hope I can answer for you.

Book Early

First thing any company should do when thinking of attending their first trade show is to do research. Find the event you want to attend, find out how big the booth spaces are and the layout of the show because no one wants to be put in the back corner of a convention center. It is a good practice to get into to book your space early so that you are able to get your booth space in a desirable, high traffic area.

Establish a Budget

Having an established budget is essential in the trade show industry because it is very easy to over spend on things that aren't paramount to the needs of your company. The budget can determine the type of booth the company will use to market themselves. A good guideline that the Trade Show Institute uses is to figure out the trade show cost which is about three times the cost of the exhibit space. So for example if the square footage of the exhibit space is 200 and each square foot costs $24.00 then $24.00 x 200sq x 3=$14,400. The next important thing is to figure out how much space is needed. Most booths will attract only 10 percent of the attendees, which creates a target audience. The Audience Interest Factor (AIF) calculates the number of highly interested people. So if 20,000 people attend the show only 2,000 people are the target audience but it is unlikely that 2,000 people will stop by your booth. AIF says that about 45 percent of your target audience will actually stop by your booth. So out of 2,000 people only 900 people are highly interested visitors. Now of course not 900 people are going to stop by your booth at one time this is of course spread out over the amount of days that you are there.

There can be unexpected costs that the company may not be aware of that pop up for instance, rush fee's or shipping costs for a display to be expedited. It is a good idea to have wiggle room incorporated into the budget. Having a clear laid out plan with all costs incorporated into it will allow the company to feel more at ease with making purchases related to the trade show event. As the Trade Show Institute said " Don't be afraid to ask for 'guesstimates' from suppliers. " Making a planned budget is good way to cover yourself from putting too much into one area and not enough into another. You don't want to make the mistake of putting too much into your trip costs and not enough money into your marketing needs. In this article from the Trade Show Institute they drafted up a budget cost summary that would be a great way to model your own budget plan after.

Have a Clear Marketing Strategy

Having a clear marketing strategy is important because exhibitors need to know what their target audience is looking for. Marketing tools is one of the most important aspects when thinking of attending a trade show. Booths that are hastily thrown together at the last minute are not going to be successful because their market strategy isn't going to be well thought out and executed and believe me it will show. This will leave the attendee leaving confused and it will be very unlikely that they will remember you and return. Each company needs something unique that sets them off from their competitors. Putting a marketing strategy together and sticking to it is going to be very valuable in the end result. Leslie Farnsworth President and CEO of Frog Dog puts it very nicely in her article "Marketing in a Down Economy, " she said "more than ever, marketing needs to be aligned with a company's business strategy, targeted to its audience." Another valid point that she made was that "ideal clients should be profiled all the way down to what they do for fun." This is important because companies need to understand and acknowledge what type of clients or potential customers they want so that they can be targeted in the correct manner.

Choosing the Right Display

Choosing the right trade show display is important because it is what the attendees see first and it sets off their first impression right off the bat. There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a display for your booth. First thing to consider is the type of event you are attending. Is it a large or small event? The reason being is that the booth space is a lot smaller at smaller events and having a large over the top display won't work because it won't be hitting the companies target audience and is not cost effective. Another thing to consider is where the booth space is located. If the space is going to be located by the door and seen by everyone then you will want to do something unique that will stand out which can be done with the graphic design of your display. If the booth space is located in the back and will not be seen by a lot of people, then spending a lot of money on a large extravagant display isn't logical. Another thing to consider is the budget. Some budgets do not allow for the customized 20ft double story display but a smaller more economical display can be made to stand out with the right graphic design work. Having a clear picture of what you want as far as branding, photo's, text/information and unique company attributes is a good idea. For those choosing a large graphic we suggest these guidelines to make your graphic effective. First, keep the message simple. Attendees do not want to have to think hard about what your company is trying to say. People like things that are easy to understand. Secondly, graphics should have a clean and focused design element. Flaws are easy to point out. Attendees should be focused on what your display is trying to say not on the design flaws. Thirdly, minimize text and bullet points. Let's be honest, people are not going to take the time to stand there and read everything on your display. This is why you have booth staff and marketing materials. Fourth, do not add contrasting colors. It is important for the colors and graphics to flow together, not compete with each other. Lastly, lay out the design to draw focus to the primary message. Everything should flow together and meet at a major focal point, whether it is a logo or picture. The message should be loud and clear with the type of design you choose.

Training Your Booth Staff

An important aspect that is sometimes missed by the exhibitor is training the booth staff. Specialized training is important because the booth staff are representing every aspect of your company. It is paramount that the booth staff know what the company goals are. Having a clear idea in your head of what you expect to be your outcome is essential but is also important that your employees know and understand it as well. These are the people who will be representing you. If the booth staff doesn't understand or care about what the companies goals are it is going to show. It could end up being a huge waste of money if the staff isn't able to make contacts or effectively market for your company and everything you spent money on could be wasted. The Trade Show Institute(TSI) put it wonderfully in their article " How to Get the Most From Your Booth Staff." The Trade Show Institute said to work with your marketing team to establish your exhibitor's goals. I think this works at the booth staff level too because they need to know what they are aiming for. TSI said "your staff is your most important marketing tool at these shows." A great resource to use is the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR). CEIR produces primary research studies that prove the effectiveness and efficiency of exhibitions as a marketing medium. According to the CEIR survey 85 percent of the time that a sale is attributed to the trade show, it is because of the booth staff. This is why it is important that they are prepared and well educated with information. One thing to remember is that the attendees are not there to buy something, they are there about future purchases that they may want to make. They are the best marketing tool that you got, make it count!

Conclusion

Wrapping up these are some of the key aspects an exhibitor needs to know when attending your first trade show. Each one of the points that were made are things that Northwest Creative Imaging has learned over the years since supplying products to exhibitors for trade show events. Remember to book early so you can be front and center of the action and be seen by everyone attending the show. Always establish a budget because no company wants to over spend on things that are not essential to the needs of the company. Have a clear market strategy so that the target audience is being addressed. Choose the right booth for what your company needs are. It is no always the best choice to have the biggest and most flashy display. Sometimes clean and simple gets the same message across. Lastly, train your booth staff. Each person representing your company needs to know and understand your companies goals are in order for the show to be successful. I hope that these points were effective in making your first trade show successful!

Resources:

Trade Show Institute. Trade Show Budgeting. tradeshowinstitute.com/trade-show-resources/. Retrieved February 27, 2013 from http://tradeshowinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Trade-Show-Budgeting.pdf

Farnsworth, L. Marketing in a Down Economy. frog-dog.com. Retrieved February 27, 2013 from http://frog-dog.com/articles/detail/marketing-recession/

Trade Show Institue. Getting the Most from your Booth Staff. tradeshowinstitute.com/trade-show-resources/. Retrieved February 27, 2013 from http://www.tradeshowinstitute.com/downloads/boothstaffwhitepaper.pdf

Center for Exhibition Industry Research. Retrieved February 27, 2013 from http://www.ceir.org/