To Be a Better Exhibitor, Be a Better Marketer

July 21, 2012

It’s understandable that as an exhibitor you get caught up in logistics, because no matter what, you have to get your booth from point A to point B (and to point C, D, E, and so on). But those required logistics can sometimes crowd out the even more important marketing aspect of trade shows.

So let’s take a few minutes to set logistics aside (don’t worry, they’ll still be there when you get back) and focus on how you can be a better marketer who just happens to use trade shows.

Target Your Best Personas

Personas are portraits you create to better understand your best clients as prospects. A good persona includes age, gender, income, ethnicity and even emotional aspects such as personality, likes and dislikes, their mentality, and key motivators. A persona gives your team a more tangible, living target to aim for when you create your marketing materials.  You can create and target several personas. 

For example, a car company may have car buyer personas that are driven by status, or economy, or hauling family, or sustainability. When you understand your buyer personas, you can tailor all marketing aspects to better appeal to them.

Write a Creative Brief

A creative brief is a like a mini-marketing plan for your trade show. It takes some time to pull together, but it saves you time in the end.  Include in your creative brief your goals for the show, your positioning, your strengths and weaknesses compared to competitors, what you want to have happen in the booth and after the show, how you plan to promote your presence at the show, and even your show budget. Once you have it, you can share it with your booth staffers and the vendors you are hiring for the show, such as your exhibit house or your promotions vendor.

Select the Right Shows

Rather than choose which shows to exhibit at based on cost per square foot or number of total attendees, your marketing mind should instead hone in on the number of attendees that fit your target market, or the return on investment you’ve received at previous years’ shows. 

You look at which vertical market shows exist where you have the greatest potential, even if the overall show attendance pales compared to your main industry shows. And you regularly reexamine your show schedule based on marketing potential and performance.

Design Your Exhibit as A Marketing Tool

Your trade show displays are not just pieces of furniture – they are marketing tools that both communicate a message and support your booth staff. Make sure your trade show exhibit lives up to its full marketing potential. 

Does it clearly communicate a compelling reason for your buyers to stop and visit you? Does it boldly say (with both images and text) what products and services you offer, and how you are better?  And if you are exhibiting at a variety of shows (based on personas in different job titles or industries), can you change your graphics to more directly appeal to your various personas?

Create Promotions That Appeal to Your Personas

Trade show promotions can get more people into your booth. Be sure to pick your promotions with a critical and inspired marketing eye, to ensure you excite your best buyer personas, and avoid attracting non-buyers to your trade show booth.  

This is the fun part of trade show marketing – when your promotions are so on-target that you build stronger relationships with your buyers because they recognize that you truly understand them. You do that with compelling offers they crave, and with a look and feel that matches your buyer’s personality.

Follow Up Leads More Than Just Fast

The logistical part of trade show lead follow up means getting the leads into the computer and out to the sales force quickly, and getting your packets in the mail within a few days.  That’s awesome, and essential. But with a marketing perspective you can go much further. 

Make sure you and your booth staff qualified the leads before your send them on their way, so your sales force knows which leads to pursue first. And don’t just send out a generic follow up packet – tailor your marketing materials specifically to what each attendee asked for.  You’ll create more sales with your trade show leads that way.

So, by all means, be an expert at getting your show paperwork in on time to get the early discount. Know how to set up your banner stands in under a minute flat. 

Just remember that you are at trade shows to build your company image, generate sales leads, and build stronger client relationships. Achieving those admirable marketing objectives requires you to sharpen your marketing skills.

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