BInspired: Tradeshow Promotion Ideas

Industry Tradeshows are a major opportunity for most companies to gain exposure to hundreds or even thousands of prospective customers. Since tradeshows are typically focused on specific industries or markets, it enables companies to better target prospects that are most likely to have a need or interest in their product or service. Tradeshow Promotions including Tradeshow Giveaways are a key means of optimizing the potential of these crucial events. 
In essence, every aspect of your presence at a tradeshow is part of the bigger promotion. It’s important to keep in mind that a Tradeshow Promotion is not simply attending or posting a banner or giving away business cards or handing out trinkets, it’s the combination of everything that must be viewed as part of your tradeshow promotion.   Whatever you do, don’t simply stick an employee behind a folding table in the middle of the booth. We’ve all see that lonely guy sitting there bored stiff doodling, talking on his cell or surfing the net. 
Here’s some tips and ideas to help inspire your efforts to make the most of your next tradeshow.

Be There

If you pay for a booth, show up prepared. Nothing raises prospective (and current) customer’s eyebrow more than an empty booth with your company’s name and booth number on the back wall. If traveling a long distance or during periods when there’s risk of inclement weather, travel early to mitigate travel delay risks. Also, whatever you need (booth, samples, literature, etc.) early to ensure it arrives in time to be set up for the show. Create a checklist to help ensure you don’t forget anything.   If you can’t fulfill your commitment to be prepared for and participate in a show, how can prospective customers believe you’ll fulfill your commitments to them if they do business with you? 

Tradeshow Booth Layout

If you want to engage your customers, your booth should include a layout that fosters such interaction. 
Avoid Barriers: With staff sitting behind tables or counters, you’re creating a barrier between them and attendees that does not encourage attendees engagement. Staff should stand face to face with attendees walking them through the booth, showing samples, providing demos, or reviewing literature.
Include Conversational Areas: Include within your booth conversational nooks that will allow for one-on-one conversations with higher valued prospects as well as current clients. This may be in the form of a stand-up table or even small table and chairs located in corners or off to the side. While this may even include a more private room constructed within larger booths, beware of the potential that such booths can be warm and lack adequate airflow. Too, private rooms can create an appearance of favoring select clients which may not always impress other customers and prospects. 
Maintain Traffic Flow: Consider the flow of attendees through your booth and avoid obstructing the flow with one-way paths. While some may believe that obstacles to flow can encourage attendees to stop and look, there is also risk that an overly crowded booth may deter those who are interested in getting more information from doing so. The objective is to capture the attention of those who may be interested in your product or service while allowing others to move on quickly.
Maintain Access to Products: Strategically disperse samples of products and/or literature to make maximum use of the booth while avoiding overcrowding in one location. Too often, companies will simply line their products up on tables or shelves along the back of the booth requiring attendees to crowd around one space to see the products. In this configuration, your staff must stand with the attendees instead of in front of them or they will be blocking the products.  Instead, consider utilizing only segments of the back wall of the booth allowing room for staff to stand alongside of displayed products without blocking views. Augment the back wall with free-standing displays located strategically throughout the booth including along the main walkway where attendees can easily see merchandise.  
Avoid Bottlenecks: Strategically locate any traffic builders (e.g. prize wheels, etc.) so that they draw people to the booth but do not obstruct access to your products or literature. Try to avoid place traffic builders in front of your products or literature, rather place them in an adjacent are so that attendees pass by your products as they walk to and from the traffic builder. 

Tradeshow Booth Design

Let’s face it, appearance counts… and so does function. While an attractive and functional design may not guarantee attendees will stop at your booth, a cluttered and uninviting design may just keep people from stopping. Your design should not only reflect your corporate image (e.g. trendy, sophisticated, modern, high-tech, etc.) but should also take into account the attendees goals of visiting as many booths as possible and seeing as much as they can during a short period of time. 
Pop Up Exhibits and Custom Booths: Tradeshow exhibits and booths can be a great way to create a professional and cohesive appearance at a tradeshow. With a wide array of options like curved walls, integrated cabinetry, coordinated freestanding tables and displays; the end result can be a very impressive and functional booth. Keep in mind that there are costs beyond that of the booth including the storage, transportation and set-up/tear-down. Even if your budget doesn’t allow for an elaborate booth, with a little attention it isn’t difficult to coordinate elements of more basic booths and rental equipment through use of imprinted table cloths, customized backdrops and imprinted chairs or cushions. If possible, utilize displays and shelves rather than simply stacking products on folding tables to both better display more products and provide more space for booth visitors within your booth.
Colors: Even with your company’s name on the wall, customers can easily miss the sign as they are inundated in booth after booth. If you’re corporation is known for its specific corporate colors, try to fully integrate those colors into the design to help make it easier for attendees to recognize your booth. Think about how a big brown booth with yellow and brown signage could easily be associated with those Big Brown shipping trucks we see every day. Of course, their primary competitor could equally be recognizable with a deep purple and lighter grey booth. 
Signage: Make effective use of signage so that attendees can quickly and easily identify your company’s name in addition to the location of products or information of interest within the booth. For example, if customer routinely ask about new products that you are offering, use a banner or sign to designate the location that new products are displayed. Similarly, if you are offering demos of a product, you might use a pop up banner to identify the location for the demos. 
Height Counts: Remember, your booth visitors are walking and standing. From a standing position, items placed on higher shelving, bar-height displays and tables can be more easily viewed than products sitting on a folding table that is chair-height.
Consistency: For those participating in recurring tradeshows, it can be good idea to maintain a consistent design from one tradeshow to another.   First, it allows repeat visitors to more easily find your booth if they recognize it from a past show. Second, you can leverage the commonality in pre- and post-tradeshow marketing materials from one show to another.

Promote in Advance

Most Tradeshow organizers will provide those renting booths with contact information for registered attendees. Use, but don’t abuse, the attendee’s contact information to invite them to visit your booth.   Avoid sending out too many advance emails as that can be more annoying that inviting. If sending out more than one advance email, have something new to say rather than simply sending out the identical email multiple times.  If you are using a traffic builder to help encourage visitors to stop by, be sure to let the attendees know in advance to optimize the potential benefit of the traffic builder.  
Be sure to identify your booth number so that visitors know where to find you’re booth. If you can include a map showing the approximate location of your booth, do so. Another great idea for those who are utilizing a custom booth that they’ve used previously is to include a picture of your booth in your invitation. This will help the attendees to recognize your booth when they are at the show. 
It can also be a good idea to use the opportunity to schedule one-on-one visits with key customers while at the tradeshow. Use the meeting to present new products or services to your key customers or simply to say hello. Of course, it can also be important to ensure that you’ve met with clients prior to the tradeshow to ensure their satisfaction before they might meet your competition at the show.

Tradeshow Traffic Building Approaches

Instead of sitting back and hoping that attendees will make their way to your booth, take a proactive approach by using one or more Tradeshow Traffic Building Approaches to further encourage visitors to seek your booth out.
Custom Scratcher Off Cards: Offer attendees Custom Scratchers Off Cards with chances to win one of a variety of prizes or giveaways. Be sure to include a variety of prize levels with at least one higher valued “grand prize”. This can be a great way to also control costs by offering a limited number of higher value prizes. 
Prize Wheels: Prize wheels are another means of offering prizes at a range of values while controlling overall costs and still engaging booth visitors. Prize wheels can be customized with specific prizes in each segment of the wheel. The more times a prize appears, the greater chances are that prize will be won.
Customized Plinko Sets: These are the board that you insert a large token at the top of and it slides down through a series of protrusions into a slot at the bottom that correlates to a prize. As with scratchers and prize wheels, it can help control costs while offering a limited number of higher value prizes.
Basketball Arcade Game: Let visitors take a shot for a prize with an Basketball Arcade Game. Prizes can be offered for each successful shot or offer prize levels based on the number of consecutive successful shots made. 
Custom Golf Globe Game: While you could set up a golf putting game to operate like the Basketball Arcade Game, why not try a different approach. Hand visitors a Custom Golf Globe Game where attendees have to maneuver a golf ball onto a golf tee sealed within what appears to be a snow globe. In addition to taking up less floor space, you can utilize multiple games to better accommodate more attendees.
Raffle: Currently, a highly popular promotion is to raffle a high valued product to one lucky visitor who completes an entry form at your booth. Today, iPads are among the most popular items to be raffled. To be most effective, send attendees post cards or emails announcing the raffle, where to register and the time of the drawing. While some companies require attendees to be present at the drawing to win, this can be a less effective means of encouraging visitors since some attendees may not be attending every day of the event or would want to leave early. We recommend completing the drawing at a designated time on the final day and then emailing all those who entered to announce the winner. It’s a good way to ensure that you get accurate email addresses and contact information.   Don’t wait to pick winners after the show is over, it may be perceived to be a means of not awarding the prize or stacking the deck in favor of a specific individual.
Winning Hand: Send attendees a post card with a standard playing card attached and ask attendees to bring the card to the tradeshow to see if it beat the house card/hand. You can decide the cards that have to be beat.
Winning Key: Send attendees a post card with a key attached prior to the tradeshow which they bring with them to the show to see if it will unlock a padlock on a Treasure Chest. You can select the number of winners.
Winning Puzzle Piece: Send attendees a post card with a post card piece and ask to bring to the tradeshow to see what level of price the piece matches. You can select the number of winning pieces.

Tradeshow Giveaway Ideas

Tradeshow Giveaways are a key element of a Tradeshow Promotion. They provide customers with something to take away with them to remember you and your booth. In the day of electronic media, Tradeshow Giveaways can actually be even more important as business cards tend to be discarded after contact information is transferred into cell phones or computers. As such, the giveaway may be the only item featuring your logo that a prospect has to take back to work or home with them. And, of course, the reality is that many attendees have come to expect to pick up some cool free stuff at tradeshows. 
There are thousands of products that can be used for tradeshow giveaways. While the objective is to get sales, the selection of a tradeshow giveaway may serve a strategic purpose to ultimately achieving that objective. For example, consider how the following strategies can be facilitated by the associated products:
Meet Their Immediate Need:   From bottled water labeled with your logo to logo wrapper candies, food and beverage will get attention during long tradeshows where people work-up a thirst and appetite. As they stop for a drink or a bite, you’ll have an opportunity to at least meet and greet them and potentially engage them further. Another way to meet an immediate need is to offer a Custom Jotter and Pen set that attendees can use to make notes during the show or you could come up with a fully Custom Journal that allows them to make notes but also includes custom pages with all your product and contact information.
Build Traffic and Control Costs: Using traffic builders with giveaways of varying value can help build traffic while controlling overall costs. To build traffic, offer a limited number of higher value giveaways like leather Custom iPad Cases, Imprinted Solar Chargers, Logo Mobile Speakers, even Customized Collapsible Coolers with more moderately priced mid-tier giveaways such as Logo iPhone Stands, Custom Car Chargers and Logo Acrylic Tumblers. Control costs with lower priced giveaways like Imprinted Pens, Stress Relievers and Koozies.
Meet Their Functional Need: Giveaways that meet a functional need of recipients will not only be used but retained longer. There are a wide range of options available that meet this need so consider selecting products that are related to your ideal customer’s industry, your industry, your product line or booth theme. For example, if you’re targeting high-tech customers, consider giveaways like Logo iPhone Cases, Customized iPad Cases, Custom Ear Buds or even screen cleaners. Also, consider giving away Custom Printed Styluses or Imprinted Stylus Pen Combinations. Targeting the Pharmaceutical Industry? Consider giveaways like Custom Printed Pill Shaped USB Flash Drives pre-loaded with your product catalog, Imprinted Beaker Stress Relievers and Custom Syringe Pens. 
Help Them Relax: With all that time on their feet walking from booth to booth, many attendees will appreciate any help they can get to relax a bit. In addition to having a couple director style chairs that can be imprinted and folded for transport, you can help them relax with your giveaways. Unless you’re at a Podiatrists or Pedicurist Convention, you probably don’t want people taking off their shoes at your booth but you could send them home with an Imprinted Foot Massager. Custom Back Massagers and Scalp Massagers can be great too. Customized Aromatherapy Products can also be a great option like Logo Candle Tins, Imprinted Bath Salts, Printed Aromatherapy Diffusers and Log Bath Kits.
Help Them Make a Fashion Statement:   Fashionable and trendy products will not only attract attention, be kept and used but will also be shown to many others leading to more impressions with your logo printed on the product. On these products it is often advisable to utilize a smaller and more subtle imprint of your logo or to integrate the log into a trendy and eye-catching design imprint. Consider offering attendees a Fashion Tote as an alternative to the traditional tradeshow tote that they received on the way in. For a women-focused event, offer Custom Handbag Hangers to marry function and fashion. As a trendy option, consider imprinted neon sunglasses or more subtle wayfarer styled sunglasses.
Promote Safety:   Showing concern for prospects safety can be another strategy that will be appreciated. There are a wide range of personal and workplace safety products available that make great giveaways. It can be as simple as a Custom Printed Whistle or Imprinted Personal Alarm or an Logo Auto Safety Tool that features a flashlight, seat belt cutter and window breaker. Logo Hand Sanitizers and Wipes can be handy at the tradeshow or maybe Imprinted Sunscreen for summer Tradeshows. Promote workplace safety with Customized Safety Themed Playing Cards featuring safety tips on the face of each card and your logo on the back.
Give Them a Laugh:   Who doesn’t like a good laugh? Consider giving attendees something that will bring a smile to their face and that they’ll want to take back home to show coworkers, family and friends. You can accomplish this through the selection of an amusing product as well as creating entertaining artwork to imprint on any product.   Examples of products that many people find amusing include a variety of Custom Novelty Pens, Logo Toilet Plunger Cell Phone Stands, Imprinted People Shaped USB Flash Drives, Humorous Logo Shaped Stress Relievers, and Custom Talking Stress Relievers to name a few.   The Customized Butt Station Desk Accessories almost always get a smile and a second look and a lot of people love to collect the Logo Novelty Rubber Ducks customized to look like people. And… an Imprinted Flying Monkey that Screams as it flies through the air is always good for a chuckle or two.  Imprint a funny phrase on lapel pins or cartoon artwork on a PC mouse. The possibilities are endless.
Help Them Have Fun :   Give them something to have fun with and that they’ll want to take back home for their kids to enjoy too. These can also be great attention getters at shows if you have your staff playing with the giveaways during slower periods of the show. There’s a wide range of options including from Logo Promo Poppers that fly up in the air to Custom Light Up Bouncing Balls, there are plenty of products that people will have fun with. Other ideas include Logo Mini-Basketball Games, Custom Frisbees and Custom Printed Puzzles. Logo Decision Makers like the Imprinted Magic 8 Ball and Dice are also popular.

Tradeshow Staffing

Staffing Tradeshow booths can be one of the biggest challenges for companies. It’s important to plan how many staff are needed, the level of expertise required, how they’ll be utilized and how they’ll be recognized by attendees.   
Staffing Levels: Unfortunately, there’s no easy rule of thumb to determine staffing requirements for a tradeshow since it is a function of many factors including: number of attendees anticipated, size of booth, complexity of products or services offered and, of course, budgets. In general, it’s far better to have more staff than are needed than not enough since most attendees will not wait more than a couple minutes to speak to a representative. 
Use of Temporary Staff: Many convention centers offer services of temporary staff to augment your employees during tradeshows. Clearly, this can be a double edged sword. These temporary staff may help achieve higher levels of interaction with attendees, however, they may not be able to answer many attendees’ questions. That said, it may be possible for temporary staff to keep interested attendees engaged long enough until someone with expertise is available to address specific questions. Use of temporary staff may be limited to roles that are less likely to require expertise such as scanning attendees’ badges, maintaining displays or manning traffic builders. 
Expertise: It’s important to have at least one individual with a high level of expertise in your products or services to answer the most comprehensive questions from prospective customers. It is better to be equipped to answer questions on the spot than to assume that a follow up conversation will actually take place if the question goes unanswered at the show.
Staff Roles: For larger staffs, consider identifying specific roles for staff. These roles range from greeting customers as they enter the booth, scanning badges, manning traffic builders, organizing displays, performing demonstrations and, most importantly, selling your products or services. Where practical, it might be advisable to rotate assignments so that staff avoids burn-out during busy shows. 
Service: It’s important that staff be focused on responding to attendees. There’s not much more annoying for an attendee than to be ignored by staff members who are standing along gazing off in the distance, chatting among themselves or busily texting on their phones.  Of course, simply issuing an edict to engage or be evicted isn’t going to garner much enthusiasm among staff. Instead, create a fun contest among staff members based on number of badges scanned, number of confirmed leads generated or something comparable that helps to keep them engaged as well as rewards them for their efforts. Another great option is to reward the entire team if they achieve combined goals to help encourage them to work collaboratively. Reward them with a higher-end corporate gifts, incentives or gift cards.   It’s also important to give staff adequate breaks so that they can maintain their enthusiasm and level of engagement with attendees.
Attire: While no one likes “uniforms”, attendees need to have some means of easily identifying who is working in the booth vs. who are other attendees. For that reason, it’s highly advisable for team members to wear something that will easily identify them as your employees. Ideally, custom polo shirts imprinted t-shirts or embroidered dress shirts in a corporate color and featuring your logo will do the trick. Even an imprinted shirt alone can be help. Other options include embroidered ball caps, imprinted aprons, logo scarves or even custom flashing buttons.

Follow Up After the Tradeshow

After you’ve invested in participating in a tradeshow, the biggest mistake that you can make is to not conduct a timely follow up with prospects met at the show. During the show, it’s can be helpful to have staff assign a rating to attendees that they meet with based on the potential for sale. This then can facilitate determining the priority, type and timing of follow up with high prospect attendees receiving prompt telephone calls to schedule a personal visit while those who are less likely to convert to sales receiving follow up emails with subsequent telephone calls. 
As a rule of thumb, it’s best to complete an initial follow up on all prospects within a month of the tradeshow and high-valued prospects within 2 weeks. Waiting three or four months to send out an email referring to your meeting at a tradeshow is likely no more valuable than sending out an unsolicited bulk email to prospects… and maybe less so given the impression prospects may have about your follow-through. Likewise, if you’re staff has promised a prospect to follow up with a sample, literature or response to a question, it is critical that these actions take place as a priority to demonstrate your ability to fulfill commitments. 

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