It is often difficult to tell whether a trade show display or booth is good or bad without taking it as a whole. For instance, it may be an absolutely glorious visual display, but have nothing that tells you definitively why you should stop by. Of course, if the display is for a nationally or internationally recognized brand, it can get by with more than if your company or the company you represent if you're trying to gain a foothold in a market or have a new product or service that is an unknown to potential clients.
When A Trade Show Booth Becomes an Eyesore
Then the opposite may be true as well. A booth may be an eyesore with horrible design and colors, yet be immensely successful if it can still convey the message about its product or service in a way that is immediately recognizable to the convention attendees. Of course, the best of both aspects would be most desirable.
Designing Your Booth When You're not a Pro
Obviously, if you are designing your own booth and are not a graphic designer, I'd first off encourage you to hire a good designer, but just for design and not for the marketing message, unless you know of a good designer who also understands marketing, which is not the norm in my experience.
For instance, I have a pretty good understanding of basic advertising and marketing having read many great books and articles on marketing by great marketers like Jay Abraham, Gary Halbert, and Dan Kennedy, to name a few. These gentlemen, for the most part, learned from older marketers who understood that the message was the medium, and that any media used must convey a message, and that only if you knew which message resonated with consumers, then you could successfully market to potential customers using a "control."
Coming Up with Your Control Message
A control is a message that has some sort of code tied to it, even if it is just the headline. You've seen advertising that says call in and mention this code to get the sale price. If the advertiser understands marketing, or more concisely called direct marketing, they will likely be running several different "controls" with different coding in order to determine what percentage of respondents are responding to a different number of ads.
So, let's say that your company has a revolutionary new bicycle tire that doesn't go flat, yet is as light as an air-filled tire. You know, as a veteran in business, that when you build a better mouse trap, the world will absolutely NOT beat a path to your door. At least not most of the time. You have to get out there and advertise your tire. You have to tell people why your tire is better.
Find the One that Knows Your Market
So, you hire a marketing firm that understands how to test market your tire. They put out two ads in a cycling magazine advertising a free DVD that will tell you why you will never use any other tire, and ask the respondent to mention code ABC or XYZ, depending on the ad they're responding to, when they call or email for the free DVD. Within a few weeks, the marketing firm is able to pronounce that code ABC has out-pulled code XYZ by 62.4%, and starts a second round of testing with code DEF. Again, ABC out-pulls DEF by 45.5%. But on the 3rd round, code GHI out-pulls ABC by 30.2%, so it becomes the control.
The message is tested a few more times (ideally), and GHI consistently wins 2 to 1 over all other ads, so the message can now be used in other media. You can now take the message to a cycling trade show in Vegas or New Orleans or wherever, and make it the main message of the trade show display.
Here's where a good graphic design firm can make a good booth a great booth. Using excellent design fundamentals, the graphic designers can take the message and make it "pop." Because the message has been tested for some time, the message of code GHI becomes the theme of your booth's main message, and your booth is a hit at the show.
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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!