Tradeshow 101: The Most Important Thing to Buy for Your Booth

Image result for exhibit hall picture

“Dear Hannah,

I am a marketing manager with a non-existing budget.  This year my company wants us to have a booth at a major industry tradeshow.  We have a tabletop, backdrop and podium.  It’s enough to fill up a 10×20.  With limited funds I’m not really sure where to put the bulk of it?  Should I invest in giveaways or a better booth or something else?  If giveaways, what are your favorites?

Sincerely,
Tabitha”

Tabitha,
Tradeshows happen to be one of my favorite topics.  In fact, in response to your email I’m going to write a series on my top tradeshow tips.

I know all too well how expensive tradeshows are and how unrealistic marketing budgets can be.

Here is hands down, the #1 most important thing you should buy for your booth:

Carpet Padding.

Image result for carpet padding tradeshow

It is the most under utilized, under valued and most important thing a marketer can spend money on for their booth.  More than giveaways, more than the booth itself, more than collateral… carpet padding is king.  And best of all, it’s cheap.

Carpet Padding can accomplish 4 critical things:

  1. Entice people to come to your booth
  2. Entice people to stay at your booth
  3. Keep your team’s energy up
  4. Make you look like an event marketing genius

1. Entice People to Come to Your Booth

Let me paint a picture for you.

Image result for professional woman outfit plusKelly works in an office and rarely gets to do something fun as part of her job.  Maybe she travels to other offices, but it’s rarely a good time.  For the most part she works at her desk, rarely has time to eat or exercise properly, and hardly ever gets to rub elbows with her company’s executives.

Her company decides that she will join several others at a conference in Las Vegas – now they’re talking!  She will be joining her VP and a few directors.  She decides to pack her cutest, professional outfits – which include heels.  Kelly doesn’t think about the fact that she’ll have to walk a mile from her hotel room to the convention hall.  She doesn’t realize the convention call is all concrete slightly covered by carpeting.  It never occurs to her that 3,000 exhibitors means spending an entire day on her feet in the exhibitor hall.  After 2 hours, her feet and back are killing her – and she has another 3 days of this.

Then Kelly walks past your booth and you complement her on her amazing heels and state Image result for feet are killing you“… but your feet must be killing you!  Come enjoy some carpet padding.”  She will shake your outstretched hand and come join you on the carpet, just to be polite.
Then Kelly’s eyes light up.  OMG!  Double carpet padding is instant relief.  Triple carpet padding feels like a cloud.

It sounds crazy, but it works 4 out of 5 times.  This is true of men and women alike.  Men’s shoes can be just as terrible, especially when you’re carrying a few extra pounds and are not used to this much walking.

2. Entice People to Stay at Your Booth

When they feel that relief, they are instantly in a better mood and are happy to listen to your elevator pitch.  If you opt for the triple padding, some people may actually take their shoes completely off.

They will tell you their life story for 3 minutes of relief from their feet and back.  Then you can better qualify them at the booth and hand them over to a nearby sales rep who can more expertly answer their question.

If people are running away from your booth, chances are you haven’t given them a good reason to stay.

3. Keep Your Team’s Energy Up

Image result for ready okayNo one should be sitting at the booth.  It is a hard rule at my events.  No one sits.

It is exhausting smiling, standing and being completely “on” for 8 hours 3 days in a row.  I get it.  If you expect your team to be “on” and on their feet, pay for the extra carpet padding.  Chances are they didn’t pack the right shoes either.  They will thank you.

4. Make You Look Like an Event Marketing Genius

geniusMarketing gets a bad rap for spending too much money (see a previous post on the topic), but you can reverse that when you demonstrate how much traffic you’re bringing in without having the nicest booth and coolest gadgets.  Point out to your team how other booths are not doing the same thing.  They have the coolest booth in the world and people are picking up their goody and leaving.  No valuable conversations at all.

When you’re team observes this, you can point out that you spent 1/3 of what the others did and we’ll probably get double the traffic.

You’ll look like a genius.  You’re welcome.

If anyone has any marketing questions feel free to email me at hlhoward71@hotmail.com.  I’m all ears and you may get a shout out on the blog.

 

3 comments

  1. I work for an outdoor deck company so our booth at trade shows are always a display of a deck that we bring in, not the most comfortable material to be standing on for hours on end. Is there another way to entice people in more than a pretty looking display? Our next show isn’t until September, but I would like to bring up any ideas to my boss now since we just finished our previous show this past weekend.

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    1. Marissa,
      I’ve thought about your question for a day and here are some thoughts.

      1) You are not selling decks, you’re selling a lifestyle. People build decks because they want to enjoy a better life that includes sunlight and BBQs. You might consider a design that utilizes cushioned vinyl flooring that “looks” like wood, but is super comfortable for long days on your feet. https://www.airbornevisuals.com/trade-show-flooring/rollable-vinyl-flooring/

      Then decorate the booth with accents that remind visitors of a deck, like railing, faux fire pits, etc. In the back you can have a display or television with pictures of past builds, which will create a flow from the aisle to the discussion.

      2) If traffic is your objective, you need to think like people who visit. They want to feel empowered, like a winner, successful… whatever. Create an environment that drives a feeling, rather than sells a product. Games and prizes can do that. Sometimes lighting effects, music, or scents can do it too. I encourage you to attend some events on your own, outside of decking, but related to lifestyle sales to get some ideas. How are other companies creating an environment that people want to visit.

      3) You are the star attraction, not the booth. Take some time to practice pulling people into the booth from the aisle – I’ve got a post coming out next week on exactly how to do this. You can have the crappiest location or display and still pull in 4-6% of attendees simply by sticking out your hand and smiling.

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