When an equipment dealer has carefully identified a trade show or outdoor event that enables them to reach the greatest number of customers, the hard work really begins: preparing for the show.
Luckily, there are plenty of resources on the web to help you with that. Many of these sites encourage exhibitors to begin preparing a year – that’s right, a year – in advance.
Unfortunately — particularly if you’re new to exhibiting — you might not have a year. That’s OK, too, if you’re prepared to put in the hours, and probably the expense, it will take to make your exhibit and your participation a success.
Work Your Resources
Don’t be shy about asking for help. As an equipment dealer, one caution you deliver to every customer is that reading the operator’s manual is key to successful ownership. Similarly, it’s just as important for you to seek out guidance in exhibiting.
If you use an advertising agency, work with them. Agencies frequently specialize in event management, and even if your firm does not, it likely can refer you to an agency that can.
You also can find many resources on the Internet. Here are a few suggestions:
Plan Your Exhibit
A booth design firm can help you lay out your exhibit, whether it is a small, 10 x 10-foot informational booth or a large plot with space for plenty of equipment. If your exhibit is outdoors, consider setting up a tent for covered displays and private meeting areas. Think about padding for the ground and providing chairs and refreshments for customers and staff alike.
Every sales person at your booth represents a touch point for your brand. Make sure they will be an effective representative.
Remember that signs may require artwork, designing, proofing and printing, so the process takes longer than you might expect. You don’t want to set up your exhibit only to discover misspellings in your signage.
Don’t wait until the last minute to think about your promotional materials. Work with your OEMs to get sales sheets on the products you’ll feature.
Many companies liven up their exhibits with games, promotions and giveaways. At the 2009 Farm Progress show, for example, one equipment manufacturer collected competitors’ caps from visitors in a glass container in exchange for its cap. The promotion sent plenty of growers off in new red ball caps and left a growing, multi-colored pile of discarded competitors’ caps in the glass container as an entertaining display.
Organize Your Staff
Trade shows — particularly those targeting outdoor markets — can be physically draining. Your booth may be exposed to the elements, which will take a toll, particularly when you’re forced to remain in “meet-and-greet” mode. Booth staff should be energetic, outgoing and, most importantly, well-versed in your messaging about all your products.
Multi-day shows require more staffing than single-day events. To maintain a fresher booth staff, you may want to rotate people into the booth in shifts. Make sure your staff conveys that energy to customers by smiling and greeting everyone warmly.
Remember that different audiences relate to different salespeople. It is wise to vary booth staff by age, gender and ethnicity when possible to give customers an opportunity to speak to someone with whom they identify.
Practice Makes Perfect
The point of a show is to give you face time with customers. That means you and your staff need to be more prepared than ever to deliver concise and consistent messages about your company and your company’s brand.
Everyone in your booth represents a touch point for your brand. Before every trade show, make sure everyone who works that show will be an effective representative of the brand standards on which your company is based. You’ll also need to lock down the message you want to deliver to ensure that a consistent experience is delivered to every customer and prospect that enters your booth.
Decide which products, promotions and promotional items you will feature in your booth. Then decide who will be the “experts” on each product so that staffers know how to direct customer questions. Finally, prepare an “elevator speech” for everyone that covers the basics about the company and its booth. This speech would highlight:
- The company
- New products
- Sale items
Don’t Forget the Media
Foot traffic isn’t the only audience that you can reach at these eventsMake the media part of your public relations strategy.
If you have a new product or announcement, alert the media that you’ll hold a press conference at your booth or the trade show’s media tent.
After that, develop a news release to distribute at the show. If it’s for a new product, your OEM or your agency — if you have one —can help you.
What’s Your Goal?
You should have a goal with a trade or outdoor show exhibit, be it a sales total or lead-generation number. Be realistic when setting this goal. Establish it by keeping in mind the costs of show, your overall annual marketing budget and the intangible benefit you might get in the community for supporting a local show.
The decision to exhibit at an outdoor show or a trade show is like buying a new quad for the first time. It’s scary. It’s exciting. And it’s somewhat overwhelming. It’s a big decision, not one to be made lightly or without research. But it’s one that can pay big rewards in the long run with proper research and planning.