Trade Shows — What Could Possibly Go Wrong

  • Nov 1, 2017

Exhibiting at a trade show can be an effective way to gain new business, while connecting with current clients. But in many cases they represent a sizable investment, so it takes detailed attention to maximize the return on that investment. Just showing up with a booth and literature from the closet is not enough. APTCO has helped clients prepare for trade shows for over 20 years. Here are some of the things we’ve learned that can go wrong.

Trade show booths should have an inviting design.

  • Thinking that a large booth guarantees success. Actually, the location of the booth can be more important than the size. Booking early allows you to consider the traffic flow of the entire show and gain an advantageous position. Then, don’t forget to let your customers know the booth location.
  • Thinking everyone should get your expensive literature. That full-sized catalog is not for everyone. Do some qualifying first. Research shows that on average, about 12% of attendees are prospects for a particular exhibitor’s goods or services.
  • Thinking your booth has enough staff. If you’ve done the right pre-show marketing, you’d better be prepared for the traffic that’s coming. The last thing you need is overwhelmed staff unable to attend to all the visitors. And don’t forget that your staff needs breaks. Plan for enough backup that they can take a break, get something to eat, and return refreshed. Never leave your booth empty.
  • Thinking rookies can handle it. On-the-job training has its place, but remember that a show is the time for a company to put its best foot forward. The most experienced and knowledgeable employees should lead the way. These are the people who know your best customers, and how to identify your best prospects.
  • Thinking everyone is a prospect. Of course, you know that isn’t true. But you’d be surprised how many booth staffers act like it is. Rather than indiscriminatingly scanning every badge, take time to gather some information from your visitors. Have something special to give to the most likely prospects.
  • Thinking you can measure success by the number of badge scans. When the show is over, the work is just beginning. Follow-up takes time. Consider adding some other metrics:
    • number of after-show appointments
    • number of quote requests
    • number of sample requests
    • number of orders
  • Thinking a logo will draw them in. 6 seconds is about all the time you have before that person walks right by. Don’t be boring with booth graphics. Make a compelling statement and promise that will serve as an invitation.
  • Thinking booth layouts are all the same. How many booths have you seen that have a big table positioned right at the front? Try a more open approach, for more free-flowing interaction.
  • Thinking follow-up can be figured out later. It gets really busy really fast when you get back to the office. You’d best have a system already in place to send out that follow-up information, sample, or gift. Slow or forgotten follow-up is the number one complaint from trade show attendees.
  • Thinking you should exhibit at a show just because your competition is there. Trade show opportunities are not in short supply. Consider your options carefully, and attend the ones where you will be prepared in every way to make them profitable.
  • Thinking it’s OK to close early if things are slowing down. Sure, it’s been a long day. But you spent a lot to be there, and you never know if that last person to pause on her way out is going to be your next big customer. And don’t think for a moment that hasn’t happened. It could happen to you.

Did You Know?

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