Secrets of Successful Trade Show Messaging

April 10, 2014

A trade show is one giant competition for attention. Consider all the clamor and distractions that the average attendee experiences as they walk the aisles: booming presentations, flashing lights, streaming videos, and more. It can seem like so much screaming.   So how does an exhibitor communicate the right messages to the right people in a compelling way? Following are a few secrets of success from trade show experts.

Understand your market and build on your brand.

The first step in designing a new exhibit is a business review with the exhibitor. The review takes into account all the aspects of the brand and marketing messages, from the company’s history to its overall business goals, products/services, target markets, competitors, sales process, brand image, and marketing communications. 

Establish measurable goals for each show and speak to those goals.

The most effective messaging will be based on your business goals for the show. Are you trying to raise awareness of your company? Capture 100 leads? Sell 1,000 products from the show floor? Hand out 10,000 samples? As your goals differ, so should the messages and how you convey them. If you want leads, for example, determine your exact targets, how to qualify your leads, and what your best prospects need to hear from you.

Differentiate your products or services from the competition.

What is unique about your company and your products or services? Even if you have ten competitors at the same show who offer the same basic products, identify your unique selling points and make them stand out in your booth graphics and text.

Speak to your target market’s priorities.

Let’s say you are selling a technical product. Does your target market really need to understand the intricacies of how you manufacture your product or do they need to know what it will do for them? Will it help them make more money, save time, gain peace of mind, or operate more effectively? Avoid getting bogged down with product features and focus on the benefits to your customers and their needs. Market research can help you define those needs in their terms.

Establish a personal connection with attendees.

Anyone who has attended a trade show knows the feeling: the booth staffers are staring at you as you walk by and you feel intimidated by all the attention. According to Randy Bernstein, an entertainer and magician who specializes in trade shows and corporate events, the key is to engage people in your message on a personal level.

Hone your message to a few key points and keep it simple.

Experts agree that the biggest mistake you can make with trade show messaging is trying to say too much.  Marketers are attached to all their messages, but you cannot say everything in a booth. Don’t put a complicated chart on a banner or expect to use a wall of talking points. The best approach is to use high-impact imagery and simple, catchy messaging to draw people into your booth and get them to ask questions – something that pulls on their heartstrings, their purse strings, and their attention.”

Create a visual experience.

The same principle of simplicity applies to the graphics in an exhibit, which work best when they show, rather than tell, your products or services. Your exhibit creates a visual environment and that you show your product in use, rather than just display photos of the product itself. We are seeing design trends in exhibits moving to faux textures and optical illusions that capture the imagination of attendees. For example, he points to an exhibit that created the effect of a garden path and deck, with printed carpet and wood tones on the exhibit walls.  

Use interactive technology to individualize the message.

More exhibitors are employing high technology to get their messages across, using iPads, kiosks, giant video screens, and even interactive screens for customized messaging.  It is advised that exhibitors make their materials digital and make them accessible from the show floor. Having a library of digital information can help customers find exactly what they want. For follow up, exhibit staff can keep records on the specific interests of the leads they receive.

Go beyond the booth to coordinate your messaging and branding.

Consider that an exhibit is just one part of an entire marketing and branding campaign.  If your company invests in an impressive new exhibit, it is important that all your materials convey the same look and feel. 

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