The key to great exhibiting is marketing. But marketing is a very inexact
science that leaves room for a multitude of errors to occur. The following
are 10 of the most common marketing mistakes that exhibitors often make.
Learn to avoid them and you will increase your chances for a successful
1. Have A Proper Exhibit Marketing Plan
Having both a strategic exhibit marketing and tactical plan of action is a
critical starting point. In order to make tradeshows a powerful dimension
your company’s overall marketing operation, there must be total alignment
between the strategic marketing and your exhibit marketing plan. Tradeshows
should not be a stand-alone venture. Know and understand exactly what you
wish to achieve - increasing market share with existing users; introducing
new products/services into existing markets or into new markets; or
introducing new products/services into new markets. This is the nucleus on
which to build.
2. Have A Well-Defined Promotional Plan
A significant part of your marketing includes promotion – pre-show, at-show
and post-show. Most exhibitors fail to have a plan that encompasses all
three areas. Budget is naturally going to play a major role in deciding what
and how much promotional activity is possible. Developing a meaningful theme
or message that ties into your strategic marketing plan will then help to
guide promotional decisions. Know whom you want to target and then consider
having different promotional programs aimed at the different groups you are
interested in attracting. Include direct mail, broadcast faxes, advertising,
PR, sponsorship, and the Internet as possible ways to reach your target
3. Use Direct Mail Effectively
Direct mail is still one of the most popular promotional vehicles exhibitors
use. From postcards to multi-piece mailings, attendees are deluged with
invitations to visit booths. Many of the mailings come from show
management’s lists and as a result, everyone gets everything. To target the
people you want visit your booth, use your own list of customers and
prospects--it’s the best one available. Design a piece that is totally
benefit-oriented and makes an impact. Mail three pieces at regular intervals
prior to the show, starting about four weeks out, to help ensure your
invitation is seen. Wherever possible, use first-class mail. There’s nothing
worse than a mailing that arrives after the show is over.
4. Give Visitors An Incentive To Visit Your Booth
Whatever promotional vehicles you use, make sure that you give visitors a
reason to come and visit you. With a hall overflowing with fascinating
products/services, combined with time constraints, people need an incentive
to come and visit your booth. First and foremost their primary interest is
in “what’s new!” They are eager to learn about the latest technologies, new
applications, or anything that will help save them time and/or money. Even
if you don’t have a new product/service to introduce, think about a new
angle to promote your offerings.
5. Have Giveaways That Work
Tied into giving visitors an incentive to visit your booth is the
opportunity to offer a premium item that will entice them. Your giveaway
items should be designed to increase your memorability, communicate,
motivate, promote or increase recognition of your company. Developing a
dynamite giveaway takes thought and creativity. Consider what your target
audience wants, what will help them do their job better, what they can’t get
elsewhere, what is product/service related and educational. Think about
having different gifts for different types of visitors. Use your website to
make an offer for visitors to collect important information, such as an
executive report, when they visit your booth. Giveaways should be used as a
reward or token of appreciation for visitors participating in a
demonstration, presentation or contest, or as a thank-you for qualifying
information about specific needs etc.
6. Use Press Relations Effectively
Public relations is one of the most cost-effective and successful methods
for generating large volumes of direct inquiries and sales. Before the show
ask show management for a comprehensive media list, and find out which
publications are planning a special show edition. Send out newsworthy press
releases focusing on what’s new about your product/service, or highlighting
a new application or market venture. Compile press kits for the press office
that include information about industry trends, statistics, new technology
or production information. Also include good product photos and key company
contacts. Have staff members at the booth who are specifically assigned to
interact with the media
7. Differentiate Your Products/Services
Too many exhibitors are happy to use the “me too” marketing approach.
Examine their marketing plans and there’s an underlying sameness about them.
With shows that attract hundreds of exhibitors, there are very few that seem
to “stand out from the crowd.” Since memorability is an integral part of a
visitors’ show experience, you should be looking at what makes you different
and why a prospect should buy from you. This is of particular concern with
generic products in your industry. Every aspect of your exhibit marketing
plan, including your promotions, your booth and your people should be aimed
at making an impact and creating curiosity.
8. Use The Booth As An Effective Marketing Tool
On the show floor your exhibit makes a strong statement about who your
company is, what you do and how you do it. The purpose of your exhibit is to
attract visitors so that you can achieve your marketing objectives. In
addition to it being an open, welcoming and friendly space, there needs to
be a focal point and a strong key message that communicates a significant
benefit to your prospect. Opt for large graphics rather than reams of copy.
Pictures paint a thousand words while very few exhibitors will take the time
to read. Your presentations or demonstrations are a critical part of your
exhibit marketing. Create an experience that allows visitors use as many of
their senses as possible. This will help to enhance memorability.
9. Realize That Your People Are Your Marketing Team
Your people are your ambassadors. They represent everything your company
stands for, so choose them well. Brief them beforehand and make sure that
they know: why you are exhibiting; what you are exhibiting and what you
expect from them. Exhibit staff training is essential for a unified and
professional image. Make sure that they sell instead of tell; don’t try to
do too much; understand visitor needs; don’t spend too much time; and know
how to close the interaction with a commitment to follow-up.
Avoid overcrowding the booth with company representatives. Have strict rules
regarding employees visiting the show and insist staffers not scheduled for
booth duty stay away until their assigned time. Assign specific tasks for
company executives working the show.
10. Follow-Up Promptly
The key to your tradeshow success is wrapped up in the lead-management
process. The best time to plan for follow-up is before the show. Show leads
often take second place to other management activities that occur after
being out of the office for several days. The longer leads are left
unattended, the colder and more mediocre they become. It is to your
advantage to develop an organized, systematic approach to follow-up.
Establish a lead handling system, set time lines for follow-up, use a
computerized database for tracking, make sales representatives accountable
for leads given to them, and then measure your results.