The Trade Show Playbook: 9 Mistakes You Need to Avoid at Your Next Trade Show

December 6, 2016

You’ve got a big day ahead of you. Your next trade show is on the horizon, and you need to play your “A” game – both to stand out amongst the other exhibits and to prove to your boss that investing in expo marketing was worth it.

No pressure, right?

Things get easier when you know what not to do in your trade show marketing. It’s game time: Avoid getting caught flatfooted by resisting these all-too-common trade show mistakes. 

#1. Not doing your research

A successful trade show marketing venture follows the iceberg principle. Your audience may only see a small sliver of the efforts, but in reality it required loads of research and backend work that influenced its success.

Before you step foot on the show floor, uncover the answer to these 6 questions…

  • Who is going to be at the show?
  • What is your specific goal for exhibiting at this show?
  • Where will the show take place?
  • When will the show take place?
  • Why are you exhibiting at this show in particular?
  • How will you accomplish your specific trade show goal?

#2. Picking the wrong team

Out on the field, you’re going to want some solid teammates to hold down your booth. Choose employees that are subject matter experts, enthusiastic, and motivated to hit your goals for the show.

Then, once you’ve built your roster, make sure that your sales and marketing teams are aligned. Too often, your sales team is not privy to marketing the team’s objectives, and vice versa. It creates a gap in communication that could derail your trade show efforts. One team, one winning trade show!

#3. Incorrectly filling out the show forms  

The day of your trade show is probably going to be hectic. Naturally, the more attention to detail you pay before the big day, the more you can focus on what matters most: generating leads for your brand.

A common but unfortunate mistake made by trade show marketers is providing incorrect information on their show forms. These can be as simple as requesting an insufficient amount of electricity, or as big as requesting the incorrect floor size. In both cases, there can be pretty serious consequences. Moral of the story: triple-check your work!

#4. Following a trend (just to follow a trend)

There’s no doubt – virtual reality is cool and could be an excellent engagement tool. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it makes sense to integrate it into your trade show exhibit design. It’s important to know about the top trade show trends, but it’s even more important to maintain authenticity on the show floor. Leave the gimmicks at home (trust us on this one).

#5. Going big for the sake of going big

Think you always need an enormous 30×30 exhibit to stand out among the competition? Think again. Typically, what matters more to your audience is their experience at your exhibit. Bigger exhibits mean bigger shipping costs and a bigger staff. A large exhibit may draw attendees in, but your staff’s attention and genuine engagement tools will keep them there.

#6. Giving out dated and inaccurate marketing collateral

Seems obvious, doesn’t it? But having up-to-date product, service, and contact information on all of your marketing collateral must not be overlooked at any costs. There’s nothing as potentially frustrating as a prospect who tries to contact you, only to find out that the information provided was incorrect. 

#7. Giving away lackluster promotional items

Gone are the days where a branded pen will make your brand memorable for prospects. When you are designing promotional giveaways, consider the real value of what you’re handing out. Is it something that will make it back to prospects’ desks? Is it authentic for your brand? Will your audience actually like it?

#8. Forgetting the follow-up

More than 50% of trade show attendees are there for the first time. You’re doing an injustice to your brand by not following up with any of these newly acquired contacts. Each one is a potential new customer.

Send a follow-up email and connect with your new contacts on social media. The sales journey often does not follow a straight and defined path. Nurturing your leads with personalized messaging through a comprehensive touch point strategy can be the difference between a sale, and a missed opportunity.

#9. Miscalculating your exhibit’s ROI

One of the biggest challenges facing trade show marketers is accurately calculating a trade show exhibit’s return on investment. Regardless, it’s essential for proving the value of your expo marketing.

At a high level, make sure to capture leads at the show, input them into your CRM, and track their lifetime value after the event. For a more in-depth look, check out this great resource: How to Measure the ROI of Your Trade Show Exhibit in 4 Steps.

It looks overwhelming. How do you avoid all of these mistakes? Experience helps, but so does having a partner with a lot of practice and an arsenal of trade show services. Contact us today to see how we could help with your next trade show.