Of course, you'll need literature stands, display racks or cabinets if you're a retailer or product distributor or manufacturer, depending on the type of show you're attending. Tables with table runners are also popular with some exhibitors depending on their product or service. On the aisles it's a good idea to have roll-up banners (a.ka. pull-up or retractable banners) or similar banner stands with an enticing reason for the show goers to step into your booth.
Aside from that, how's your marketing and sales thrust working for you. If you don't have a good working advertisement or two that are working in other venues, it is likely your also unprepared for a trade show or convention. What do I mean by this?
The Importance of Testing Your Advertising Message
Has your marketing department tested your primary message to learn if it hits your potential client's "lizard brain." His or her instinctual reaction that makes him or her say, "I gotta have that service" or "product?" Does it appeal to your buyer's emotional buying triggers? If not, I'd personally advise you wait a year and hone in your marketing and advertising method using some good old-fashioned direct marketing techniques. Because if your message goes into the black hole of consciousness, you're throwing your money after your message.
So, what do I mean when I say you need to speak to your customer's "lizard brain." I mean that you need to attract emotions such as the desire to be accepted and loved, a desire for good food (if you sell chocolate, for instance), pleasure (maybe you sell fine wines), the appeal of status or pride (upscale cars, jewelry, clothing, etc.), or any number of emotions that inhabit every human being on the planet, from rich to poor. The rich have more to spend, of course, so that's why they're targeted more frequently than the poor - but the middle class is still a very large percentage of the population, although it has shrunk about 25% since the 1950's; and they still have some money to spend, although not like it was 20 or 30 years ago.
Split Testing Your Ads
Hypothetically, let's say you are a chocolatier. You purchase the finest chocolate available from Europe, and create stunning chocolate creations that are not only beautiful, they are also incredibly delicious. You've had some OK success at mall kiosks, but you want to appeal to a national audience, not just the local market. Your target audience is those whose incomes are over $100K annually, so you locate a couple of upscale magazine publications that appeal to those who make a good income and have a fair amount of disposable income.
You purchase two half page ads near the front of each magazine, and run two distinctly different ads that appeal one to a desire for superior food, while the other appeals to the buyer's pride in his or her ability to be able to afford your luxurious chocolates. You find, in both magazines, that pride out pulls superior food, 2 to 1. The pride ad is the winner. You do this buy offering a special offer such as a "BOGO" offer (buy one get one free) with a special code. This helps you to track which ad is the winner.
On your second set of ads, you pit pride against pleasure, and pride wins again. Pride, by the way, since it is winning the ad competition, is called your "control" ad. Beating the control is the goal, but after six months, the motivation of pride is clearly the winner. Now you can rest on that, or, if you are tenacious, you can start testing different status messages in your ads. Let's say one of the staff creates an ad that appeals to status and it comes out of nowhere to beat the ad that's been winning, by over 40%. You're not sure that this may not have been an anomaly, so you run the brace again the following month. The ad out pulls the old ad by over 50% this time. You've got a new control. So you now continue to run new ads against the new control until such time as a new ad out pulls the control ad.
So, what does this have to do with a trade show display? A good quality display is desirable and shows your class and taste, but if your message has never been tested in real time, it is likely you'll waste your time and money going to a culinary trade show when you should have gone to a yacht show where the attendees have more money to spend. If you've tested your status messages for a while, and you know what appeals to your well-to-do clientele, you can simply replicate your message on your graphics at the show, and it is almost a lock that the show will be a success.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Barry 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!