A Well-designed Trade Show Exhibit is Only the Beginning of Trade Show Success


The process of building a new exhibit is complicated. There are many moving parts, and coordinating the input from all stakeholders can be daunting. But let’s be honest: building a new exhibit is also exciting. Your marketing strategy dictates you select the right show for launching the new exhibit, one that is a major event in your industry or in an industry where you are introducing a new product.

You develop a creative brief and search for a partner that not only can build the exhibit but is also a good fit for your company.  A partner with the right level of experience, one that is financially solid, and whose work you have actually seen on the show floor. Next, you elicit design preferences, which often boils down to taste, from product groups, sales, and senior leadership. You prepare a reasonable, well-defined budget, get graphics approvals, and determine the experience you will provide your target market.

Don’t leave anything to chance. Approach the project holistically. Don’t merely talk about what the exhibit will look like but start mapping out a strategy that includes how you will engage the target audience before the show, at the show, and after. You cannot attract attendees with yesterday’s architecture, with outdated interactive technology, or with the ‘if you build it, they will come’ approach to exhibiting.

Trained by consumer markets to expect experiences, attendees now anticipate an experience in a business-to-business environment. If the experience is missing, no matter how much of a “wow” factor your exhibit has, you won’t generate meaningful engagement.

Optimal attendee engagement takes advantage of all possible touchpoints: websites, email, social media—everything that leads up to the experience on the show floor and everything that follows after the show closes. In your planning process, be mindful that besides the shiny new exhibit itself being part of the attraction, you want the conversations with your target market at the show to lead to sales and loyalty.  Consider;

  • Industry surveys indicate the average trade show attendee spends slightly more than 9 hours in the exhibit hall, visiting an average of 26 exhibits.
  • 20 of those 26 visits are part of a must-see agenda the attendee compiles before coming to the show floor.
  • The other 6 are happenstance, arbitrary choices made during the show—some, of course, influenced by the appearance of the exhibit.

The secret, of course, it to be one of the 20 companies on the must-see agenda. But what if you are new to the market, often the case when a new exhibit makes its debut. Social media to the rescue. Your company might not be one of the legacy exhibitors, but you can alter the perception with a targeted social media campaign. Moreover, a very simple truth about exhibiting is that before the show opens, every exhibitor is on a level playing field, a field that is wide open when you want to make sure attendees visit your exhibit.

There are several analog as well as digital solutions you might adopt. For instance, you might want to enlist brand ambassadors whose messages tie into the experience in your exhibit. The experience at your exhibit does not need to be limited by your budget—only by your imagination.

It’s critical to look at the whole picture—and to view it in a 360-degree sweep. A holistic approach will go a long way to help you realize a positive ROI on your exhibit marketing dollars. As you’re doing your sweep, focus on customer-facing initiatives, and ask your exhibit partner how to eliminate much of the hidden cost of exhibiting such as freight, rigging, and drayage.

Finally, remember this simple truth: face-to-face marketing is a rare commodity in the contemporary business environment where most of our communication is digital. You can harness your existing brand assets and bring them to life on the show floor. Attendees will respond to the stimulus your other channel initiatives have already created.

So, let’s set a measurable objective: to be among the 20 companies on your targets’ pre-show agenda. A few things can make this happen:

  1. Begin the engagement well in advance of the attendee’s leaving for the trade show.
  2. Today’s trade show attendees expect an experience, not just a built environment. The attendee experience includes websites, email communications, and interactions with social media posts. Take advantage of every touchpoint and connection opportunity.
  3. Develop effective tactics that will build awareness and affinity for your company at the show, culminating in a memorable, engaging experience in your exhibit.
  4. Continue the conversation after the show. At a minimum, follow up with a thank you, and communicate with sales to keep the momentum going.

Ready to start talking strategy and establishing your goals? We’d love to help. Schedule your free strategy session now.