Question: When I walk into a trade show or convention, what strikes me is how much, visually, overwhelms the show attendees. We’re attending a trade show in December, and we’d like to know what we can do to our booth to make it stand out from the “noise.”
Answer: An excellent but tough question. As Gary Halbert once said (and I paraphrase as I don’t want to find the exact reference at this lazy moment), the best way to sell hamburgers is to have a hungry crowd.
Obviously, you have something you believe will improve the planet, or at least some portion of the planet that you know needs improvement. If it is a new product or service, though, people may not know they’re hungry for it, so it is up to you to convince them of that hunger.
If your product is a commodity and a hundred other companies are represented at this trade show – like business cards or bed sheets – you have a tougher battle ahead of you than if you have a unique service you’re offering, or a brand new and highly useful product you’re launching, like a robot that spotlessly cleans your home completely with zero accidents while you’re at work and has dinner on the table for you and your husband or wife and kids in the evening. Now that would sell!
Odds are, though, that you’re one of a number of companies exhibiting similar products to people who need your service or product, but who may already by satisfied with their current servicing company or the product they purchased six months ago and don’t see a need for another at the moment.
However, at any convention or trade show, there are people needing what you have, whether it is a commodity or not. If you can’t boast the lowest price at the show (which, by the way, is an effective sales pitch, but has inherent dangers if someone else is actually lower in price than you are, or suddenly goes lower than your pricing, or they match your pricing, or they possibly have more ability to go lower with their pricing than you do), then what do you need to do to present your product as superior to the “low price leader” at the trade show.
Eleven years ago, I went to a trade show in New Orleans, representing the company I was working for that sold business cards. Other companies at the show sold business cards, but none were better than ours, and for the service we offered, and the quality of our laminated, radius corner, credit card sized business cards, we were the best in show. But what truly set us apart was that if you ordered the cards today by noon, anywhere in the continental US, you could have them on your desk the next day 99% of the time. And our pricing was amazing as we’d worked a sweet shipping deal with a major shipping expediter.
Our booth, though, was not what you’d think would catch anyone’s eye, except for the headline on the banner in the back of the booth that stated “Order by noon anywhere in the CONUSA, and get your new business cards tomorrow, guaranteed!”* The asterisk was because there are some remote locations that take 2 days in the CONUSA, which we had no control over.
So, in answer to your question, the best way to find out what message will resonate with your clients is to test your market as quickly as possible by putting ads in trade journals or by using Google AdWords and tracking the response. Once you find what words catch people’s attention in those venues, the next course of action would be to replicate the message, front and center, to your trade show booth.
Of course, a nice design and a 40′ x 40′ booth will also help your marketing efforts, but most small firms don’t have a budget for that size of booth, and maybe can only afford a 10′ x 10′ booth on an aisle away from the main entry where traffic dwindles as the day goes on. Your message must resonate with the show goers if you’re going to accomplish what you came for, or your money spent will be money wasted.
Nice graphics are only useful if there is a strong message and call to action. Our message at the show eleven years ago was enough to make the show a huge hit for the company I worked for at the time because there was a great hook. Very few companies at the time were doing what we did, and especially at the quality we were printing at, so when people saw the message, they’d stop to look at the cards and invariably were highly impressed with their quality. So, while our booth would’ve made a graphic design firm cringe, show goers were impressed. The message was strong and the product was good. That’s a good start.