Posted by: brandextenders | January 2, 2013

This isn’t Your Grandfather’s Trade Show

Back in the day, you could have a cute “babe” or two in your trade show booth or a has-been star who’d sign autographs and you’d be inundated with attendees. Chances are though those attendees weren’t really interested in what you were offering, just in the babes or autograph.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Now management actually expects a ROI to justify the cost associated with exhibiting. The days of putting out a bowl of giveaways or a glass jar for business cards won’t cut it in generating real leads that grow business. And with attendance at shows slowing since the economy tanked, it’s more important than ever to engage attendees.

2013 portends some interesting changes in how exhibitors display their products and how attendees interact. Here are just a few to ponder:

  1. Use of iPads: The most innovative technology used to be creating a video of your product or service and letting it play on an endless loop. Boring! iPads can act as portable kiosks in a “no hassle” area of an exhibit to display product pictures, specs or other information and qualify an attendee’s interest. Booth staff should also carry iPads to further engage with prospects, capture email data, collect customer feedback, complete surveys and more. ArmorActive is by no means the only company creating apps and selling hardware for iPads at trade shows, but is a good place to begin to understand how this technology can help you stand out from your competitors.
  2. A Leap Ahead: Have you played Fruit Ninja? It’s a game on touch screen iPads or smartphones where you use your finger as a sword to slice and dice fruit. Leap Motion has created an inexpensive way to use this same gesture control technology to do some amazing things. The $70 device will be available early in 2013 and third-party developers are already jumping on-board and creating apps to integrate with it. Using  fingers and hands to swipe, poke and grab allows users to manipulate and control 3-D environments like never before. Imagine taking a blob of virtual clay and being able to create a piece of art through the use of hand gestures.
  3. Social Media: Many companies are using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube,  Pinterest and blogs to connect with potential trade show attendees before, during and after an event. Before the event you can post reasons to stop by your booth, tease new product introductions and show pictures to generate interest. Create a promotion and use hashtags which are like a secret code on Twitter. Learn to pre-schedule posts using an app like HootSuite or Tweetdeck and start a month or more out to build interest. Tweet during the show, post pictures to Facebook and Pinterest and after the show write a blog about the experience and interact with those who attended.
  4. The Display: Smaller seems to be bigger these days when it comes to trade show booth design. But what will set a booth apart from others are colorful graphics, fabric colors and lighting. First impressions hold true with trade show booths and attendees will be attracted to and learn about your company through bold graphics, visual displays and professional looking staff. Illuminated floors have become a new trend along with the use of lighting to highlight products and display cases. Display booths should be open and inviting so attendees want to venture in and learn more about your company. They should capture the imagination and clearly define your brand visually and boldly.

During one brief period in my career I sold billboards and what I learned is these oversized ads must get the brands message across in a matter of three to four seconds. Simplicity is the key using a visual and as few words as possible. The same is true for a trade show booth. People walking by will decide in just a couple of seconds whether they want to see what you have to offer. If they see a boring booth, staff dressed haphazardly, people eating or staffers standing together laughing and talking chances are you will be passed by.

The final key to a successful trade show is to follow-up. So many companies spend huge amounts of money to exhibit and gather contact information, but when they get back there is no plan on how to follow-up on those leads immediately. Plan beforehand how you will follow-up on the leads you get. Be sure to make notes during the show of what people are interested in so when you call them later you can jog their memory since attendees see so many booths they may have forgotten what you offer. Did I mention follow-up is key to trade show ROI?

Trade shows can be a great way to build your customer base and reach people you may otherwise have never met. And just as you wouldn’t call on a customer without some sort of pre-planning, why would you exhibit at a trade show without a plan to build interest beforehand, qualify prospects at the show and follow-up afterwards? Be proactive, plan ahead, use social media, make sure the booth staff is knowledgeable about your company, your products and that they follow-up in a timely manner.

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