Top Trade Show Mistakes Your Company Should Avoid

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For many organizations, high-profile expos present huge opportunities. This traditional marketing strategy allows companies to network with potential clients or collaborators and to showcase their unique offerings. And despite the fact that trade shows have long since been a mainstay in marketing, they’re still one of the most profitable business-to-business strategies. In 2016 alone, trade shows generated more than $12.8 billion in revenue. And 99 percent of exhibitors agree that expos like these provide value that isn’t offered through other marketing channels.

In other words, many businesses rely on these events to increase their brand awareness, boost sales, and ensure the longevity of their strategy. If you don’t make the most of your time there, you could be in trouble. By avoiding the most common trade show pitfalls, you’ll be sure to make a positive and lasting impression on everyone you meet. To that end, here are some trade show mistakes you’ll wait to avoid at all costs.

Neglecting your booth design

If you really want to reel in people from the start, you have to prioritize the physical design of your trade show booth. Opting for an overly basic backdrop or putting a large table between you and your visitors won’t do a thing to invite them in. In fact, they might very quickly decide to pass right by if there’s a barrier in the way or it looks like you didn’t really try.

You’ll want to make use of all available space, which means you shouldn’t opt for the biggest booth just because it’s available. Think about how much room you actually need for your desired setup and presentation. If you overestimate, you could end up paying more than necessary for a space that simply won’t impress.

At the same time, don’t be afraid to go all out. Whatever size booth you decide on, it should be filled with vibrant graphic displays. If you’ve been using the same images or the same booth design for years, it’s time for an upgrade. Make sure everything looks professional and enticing while supporting your central brand message. If you nail the booth design from the start, you’ll get over that initial hurdle of getting attendees to take notice.

Forgoing a plan and a pitch

When you attend a conference, expo, or other networking or marketing event, the concept of “winging it” should never be even considered. To be successful, you’ll need to plan every detail carefully. That includes coming up with specific goals for each trade show and identifying the ways in which you can achieve them.

Setting overly vague goals (like “increasing brand awareness” or “generating leads”) isn’t really all that effective. After all, there’s a big difference between getting 50 new leads that might not pan out and five excellent ones that are likely to translate into repeat customers. Many experts agree that it’s a good practice to attach quantifiable values to those kinds of goals so you can really track your progress. It’s also advised that you write down these goals and discuss them with your team. This can improve transparency and accountability within your organization and will allow you to assess the areas in which you’ve been successful (as well as the ones that need improvement).

It’s also important to plan out exactly how to welcome attendees into your booth. The reality is that not everyone is a natural exhibitor. Some might take quite a bit of practice to gain these skills; others may never really take to it and may have talents that can be better used elsewhere within your organization.

Getting the right people into the booth is important, but it’s also essential to prepare your pitch and develop a winning idea that will invite in passers-by. That could involve an amazing demonstration, an awesome giveaway, a fun game, or something totally new. Keep in mind that a study for the Center for Exposition Industry Research revealed that 59 percent of trade show visitors want to see interactive displays. If you assume you can rely on talking points and posters alone, you might want to rethink your approach.

Failing to use social media

Although you probably think of the trade show you’re attending as one big marketing opportunity, you can’t neglect other forms of marketing leading up to this event. In the digital age, it’s essential to promote your involvement through online channels.

Before the expo takes place, you should make a concerted effort to contact B2B clients and collaborators to find out whether they’ll be in attendance. Feel free to send out some email blasts and post about the show on social media to drum up some excitement.

During the trade show, you should devote time to posting on your own social media channels in creative ways. Share behind-the-scenes access on Instagram stories, conduct a Facebook livestream, or share some photos with tags to the show’s own social media accounts. Be sure to use relevant hashtags, location services, and other features that can help attendees find you. As of 2017, 50 percent of global respondents said that using social media marketing helped bring visitors to their company’s booth. If you neglect this essential networking tool, you’ll probably regret it.

When your company chooses to partake in a trade show, you’ll likely be investing quite a bit of time and money into this opportunity. To make the most of it, avoiding these common missteps will be essential. As long as you prepare well in advance, pay close attention to your booth design, and embrace every possible chance to promote your organization, you’ll be well on your way to increasing awareness, leads, and sales.