Question: We're considering promoting our company this fall at a trade show. What are the key issues we need to consider in designing our trade show booth?
That is a loaded question! There are so many facets to planning to promote your company at a trade show, and the trade show booth and graphics are only a portion of what you need to consider in your preparations.
If your company already has brand recognition, which is unlikely unless you're working for a major consumer products company, your marketing department needs to know what is working to attract clients in other advertising venues, such as billboards, emails, online advertising, magazine and/or newspaper advertising.
Determine Which Ad Potential Customers Respond to
If you're getting business from these venues, that's great! But if you don't know which one or more your clients are responding to, and you may have lots of different approaches to varying markets, you could choose the wrong message for your trade show display graphics, which would be costly not only in terms of the graphics and booth (about half the cost of attending a trade show is typically the booth and display graphics), but also in potential client lost revenue.
If you are using direct marketing techniques, such as advertising codes when clients respond to specific ads, then you may already have addressed this most important aspect of attending a trade show. If you have tested many advertising venues, then you're ahead of the curve, so to speak.
As a hypothetical example, let's say your company sells golf clubs. Not just any clubs, but a revolutionary design with a grip that has been endorsed by a famous golf champion, and your company is growing by leaps and bounds. You have advertised online using Google's AdWords, and with testing found out which phrases and headlines out pull other advertising. Google Analytics is a great tool for doing this without having to use the old-fashioned method of promotional codes.
However, you know that not all golfers are technically savvy, or maybe they just don't like shopping online for various reasons. So, you've placed ads on strategically located billboards near golf courses, in golfing magazines, and in the sports section of various newspapers offering a free DVD to golfers who called in to request the DVD and mentioned the code.
You've targeted the phrase, across all forms of advertising that is the most successful with your customer groups, though possibly you're unsure what type of trade show to attend, but your marketing staff, who are obviously savvy marketers, research golfing demographics, and determine that most stock brokers play golf, so you make your target a convention of financial managers and brokers. This is the type of trade show that will attract high wage attendees, just the type of people you want to target.
Since you're obviously a company that knows how to advertise, and you have "the phrase that pays" at your fingertips, you can now have your ad agency create your booth graphics. Because this is your first go, but you have a decent budget approved by the CEO and the Vice President of Marketing, you're able to procure a 10' x 20' corner booth in a good location near the entry and across from a major car brand that has a good reputation... location, location, location!
Calculate Your Trade Show Booth
The typical way to calculate the cost for this trade show booth is to figure the cost at around $25 per square foot, multiply that times 3, then multiply the total times the square footage of the booth, which in this case is 200 square feet. So, the calculation should look like this - (3 x 25 = 75) x 200 = $15,000.00. That will be your approximate booth budget. Note that I said approximate. There is a lot of variety available for trade show displays and graphics, so you could easily spend double that amount without much difficulty. But since your VP of Marketing approved $30,000.00 for the show, and this is your first dance, so to speak, you can still get a very attractive booth with collateral materials, retractable banners or similar on the aisles to beckon passersby, fabric banners in the booth, attractive cloth table runners, and a multimedia display or two within your budget without much difficulty.
The Success Factor
Again, the main success factor is not stunning graphics, though done well, they won't hurt anything and can definitely catch the show goers' eyes, but that one phrase that has worked in all your ads, front and center, will almost certainly create success for your company at this trade show. We've seen it, over and over, where the booth graphics are OK, but the advertising headline has a great hook, so the show is a success. We've also seen stunning graphics cost a lot money and potential clients when the message didn't resonate with passersby. The message, then, is what we'd consider to be the key element to a successful trade show booth.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Barry K. Brown has been in the Sign, Banner, Decal and Display Business for over 20 years. It isn't what he thought he'd do with his life, but he says he knows too much now to do anything else!
He has been marketing these products online since 1998, and the company he was general manager of in 1998 was the first sign company to be listed on Yahoo!