Trade Show Marketing: A Basic Overview Even A Kid Can Understand

As marketing professionals, specifically in the trade show realm, we often find it hard to put into words what it is we actually do. I often get blank stares when I say I work for a trade show company. No, no, we’re not all just table throws and trinkets.

As a working parent, I find it even harder to translate what I do into anything remotely understandable to my child. I have the luxury of being able to work from home on occasion, so my children have seen drawings strewn about my desk, overheard me troubleshoot problems via FaceTime and seen photos of huge TVs being hoisted into the air. Sometimes they ask “What are you building today mom?”

Trade shows aren’t just about building, they are about marketing. We create the environments in which our client will sell their product or service. Transform boring hotel ballrooms and dirty, dusty convention centers into workable, beautiful spaces. We spend countless hours consulting with clients, designers, custom shops, furniture, lighting and flooring reps and I&D teams, so that our client’s product or service can shine.

We take our client’s product or service and wrap it up in the finest packaging with the prettiest bow on top so everyone wants to buy it. Before you get to the pretty stuff, however, you have to tackle the nitty-gritty important stuff. “Trade Shows 101” if you will – the basics that will drive the success of your pretty package.

Recently, an opportunity arose in which I could demonstrate some of those basics in a way a kid really could understand.

As most working parents do, I dread the “project packet.” You know the one – you have about a month to complete it, requires money to be spent, something must be created, a report must be prepared and countless amounts of time spent reminding your child to complete said project. But this time, the angels were smiling on me.

Each child was tasked to come up with an item to sell, keep track of expenses and time associated in creating the item and determine what price point it should be sold at using the current minimum wage scale. After all is said and done, they had to market their product. As in, set up a booth (aka their desks), showcase their product and sell it.

After scouring Pinterest, my daughter finally settled on magnets created using scrapbook paper, Mod Podge and glass beads. Easy. We had a quality product that was quick and inexpensive to make and easy to market.

Trade Show Basics Tip #1: Keep Graphics Simple
Sell Sheet

No one wants to stand around and read paragraphs about your product or service. We often recommend to our clients to use bullet points to help illustrate features and benefits. This helps keep the information concise and provides an opportunity for the exhibitor to further engage with the attendees.

I was impressed to come home to find this sell sheet of my daughter’s product. She had listened to my advice and created it all on her own.


Trade Show Basics Tip #2: Presentation is Everything
Finished Product

As an exhibitor, you may have a great product or service, but if your presentation is lack-luster, you will find your ROI is too. Make sure to practice your sales pitch, engage your customers and find a way to showcase your product or service so it stands out.Pick some of your favorite pieces to display that will give buyers an idea of what you have to offer and keep them wanting (buying) more. If you’re selling a product, package it attractively. When offering a service, consider a quick demo via a tablet or touchscreen TV.


Practice Set Up

The exhibit area should be neat, tidy and keep the décor

appropriate to the size of your space. It is not necessary to spend a ton of money to look professional.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t an event parents could attend, so I don’t have a photo of the final booth set up, but we practiced at home.


Trade Show Basics Tip #3: Dress Professionally
Professional Dress

Check the dress code for your event and plan accordingly. Whether you are sporting a suit or going business casual, make sure your clothes are pressed, you have sensible shoes and throw some Band-Aids and mints in your pocket or purse for good measure.


Trade Show Basics Tip #4: Ask for the Referral
Business Cards

We all appreciate when we gain a new client by way of a referral from someone who values what you do. So make sure you have those business cards handy.

I thought it would be fun to print up some business cards for my daughter as a surprise. Remember how excited you were when you received your very first business card back in the day? That feeling was not lost on my 9 year-old. I believe she muttered something like “This is the best day ever!”


Trade Show Basics Tip 5: Figure Out Your ROI

You have spent time researching, creating, staffing your booth and selling. Did your sales numbers justify the time and money spent to attend your event? Maybe they did, or maybe some adjustments need to be made to your expenses or profit margins.

Throughout the project, I managed to demonstrate to my daughter how these basic trade show tips could help her better market her product and increase sales. I was impressed that she seemed to understand and could implement them (pretty much) on her own. During our post-show meeting (aka the walk home from the bus) she said she had the longest line for her magnets and her supply quickly ran out. She also received a lot of compliments on her packaging and business cards.


Of course, I barely scratched the surface of trade show basics in the exercise, but I do think my daughter has a better understanding of what goes into marketing a product or service at a trade show. There is a lot more work that goes into preparing for these events than the pretty booth you walk in to on the show floor.

If you would like to share some of your favorite trade show tips, please comment below!


Article Written by Jennifer Bowen, T.E.A.M. Program Manager at PRO Expo Exhibits

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