5 Common Tradeshow Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

It’s tradeshow season! That means it’s time to rehearse because, after all, you and your company are on stage. We know that your plate is overflowing with 2015 priorities and we’d like to help you in any way that we can. Here are 5 Common Tradeshow Mistakes and how to prevent them from happening:

1. Size Matters

It’s important for your booth to be the right size for your company. If your company is new to tradeshow marketing, you’ll want to start out with an inline 10’ x 10’ or 10’ x 20’ booth. Get a feel for the pros and cons of these booths before shelling out big bucks for an island exhibit. Generally, smaller booths get less traffic than larger ones for three reasons—location, location, location! Bigger exhibits are usually closer to the main entrance, centrally located and along the main aisles. The biggest advantage of the larger (island) exhibits is square footage and height. Some island exhibits are two stories, can include meeting rooms, have multiple kiosks, presentation areas and floor to ceiling graphics. Smaller inline displays only allow for you to do so much.

More than likely, you exhibit at more than one tradeshow a year with the importance of some tradeshows outweighing others. At your main show, you’ll want a bigger presence while at others, you may only need a table top display.

The general rule of thumb is that you need to be at the trade shows your competition attends. Your booth needs to be as big in presence—if not bigger. More importantly, it’s vital to determine what your goals are for the show and what you need to do to exceed those goals.

2. Overselling
It’s more important to tell a story instead of selling your product or service. Be as visual as you can. Attendees can be very shy at tradeshows. They are very skilled at avoiding you and not making eye contact. Don’t jump on them when they enter your booth by trying to close the sale in the first minute. Greet them. Give them some time to look around and then ask them what questions they have. Your story will be far more engaging to them if you let them ask their questions first.

And don’t forget to start telling your story before you actually get to the show. How else will people know to look for you? Do some pre-event promotion using direction mail, e-blasts or electronic newsletters and social media.

3. Giveaways Just Because…

Don’t hand out giveaways just to give out giveaways. Sure, everyone likes logoed items, but if your items don’t have a purpose, you’re just giving stuff away—and inevitably—wasting money. Get people engaged with a game or contest or have them enter a drawing or answer a question to earn a prize. Even get them to “like” your Facebook page on the spot for a gift. We recommend having three levels of giveaway items at a tradeshow:

  1. Something for scoopers – this is an item that costs less than a dollar for the people that just come by the booth to get stuff. This item should not only have your logo but it should have a web address for them to visit in order to learn more about your company. Bonus: Have a special web address (or landing page) specifically for the show that gives them the opportunity to learn more about your purpose at the show. i.e. Introduction of a new product or service.
  2. Something for qualified prospects – depending on your budget, this could range from $2-5. The people who receive these items are ones who would be a good fit for your product or service. Perhaps they attended a presentation, a demonstration or entered your contest. The product you’re giving them should reinforce your company’s brand and offering.
  3. Something for clients – often times you’ll have clients visit you at a tradeshow booth. You’ll want to reinforce your relationship with a gift. Depending on the value of a client to your business, these can be $5-50. Often times, nice golf shirts are given to clients so they can be walking brand disciples for your company.

No matter the item, make sure it’s relevant to your tradeshow audience.

4. Booth Staff Not Trained

Staff training is an often overlooked area that makes or breaks a trade show. Just because you have sales reps in the booth doesn’t mean they know how to work a show. Training before the show and before the show each day ensures that everyone is singing from the same songbook. Each person who walks into your booth is deciding whether or not to purchase your product or service. A knowledgeable staff member can be the key to closing a sale or getting a prospective client interested enough to pick up the phone and call your company. Consider also having a top-level knowledgeable employee present to make on-the-spot decisions or negotiations.

And don’t forget—details matter. Make sure everyone at the tradeshow is on the same page. Is everyone wearing what they should be wearing on a given day? Is eating allowed in the booth? Can booth staff be on the phone or answering email while in the booth? These are just a few of the questions that need to be answered when you train your staff. It’s a big investment to be at a show; everyone should be on top of their game.

5. Poor Follow Up on Leads
To echo what was said in #4 – it’s a big investment to be at a show; everyone should be on top of their game. Your post show marketing plan is just as important as your pre-show plan to attract people to come to your booth. Leads should be handled within 48 hours after you get back to the office. Which means what? You’ll need to ask for, collect, organize and manage contact information at your show to make sure you know how to follow up.

Carefully tracking leads after a show determines the ROI for a show and if it is worth attending the next year. Interested prospects at the show may need that follow up call or email to be completely convinced. Don’t expect them to contact you first!

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