Start-ups should take advantage of any resource that can potentially create market awareness.
Social media, digital marketing, and SEO campaigns are absolutely necessary, but face-to-face marketing will always remain one of the top priorities.
The importance of in-person communication is the reason trade shows continue to be the “oldest trick in the book” when it comes to lead generation.
However, the cost can leave a start-up team wondering if a trade show would be worth the investment. Below is some advice for a startup to consider when preparing for a show, in order to attain the most benefit.
Location is Key
Just as location is important with a brick-and-mortar store or with a website’s Google search placement, the location of your booth at the trade show is crucial. As early as possible, acquire floor plans, pricing, and exhibitor count from the show’s management department.
If you are able to choose your own location, maximize your budget by selecting a space within the most crowded area and along the main walkway. A corner spot, for example, will have traffic passing on each side and a spot next to a well-known brand’s booth will benefit from the large crowds.
Standing out at a trade show is difficult when your display is the same 8’x10’ pop-up wall in every booth within a 200-foot radius, regardless of graphic design. Big or small budget, think outside of the box when it comes to your design concept. Back-lit trade show displays are the fastest growing trend in the industry because the LED lighting creates a brilliant aesthetic that demands attention in a sea of un-lit displays.
However, taking it to the next level with a truly custom, unique setup will make your display the most memorable. Use common products in unusual ways and approach your booth in a similar way UX designers approach creating a dynamic, user-friendly site. Your target consumer base should always be the focus when developing your concept.
Seek Out Industry Experts
One of the most important partnerships during the planning process is the trade show display company you decide to work with. Many companies make the mistake of choosing based solely on lowest estimate price, but the age old statement, “you get what you pay for”, could not ring truer. Saving a few hundred dollars may be tempting, but the knowledge, time and advice you’ll receive from a quality company will be extremely valuable.
There are many “Wal-Marts” of the industry that offers little assistance besides getting the bare essentials ordered and shipped. However, there are select “Saks Fifth Avenues” that dedicate time and resources to collaborate with you on custom solutions, maximizing your budget, and graphic design, while also offering indispensable advice based on their extensive experience. Setting aside a little time to research trade show display companies through reviews, images, and websites can make a world of difference in how far your budget can stretch.
Renting vs. Buying
There are many factors to take into account when considering renting a booth instead of buying. The two most important are the benefits provided and the resources available. Rentals are most beneficial if you don’t expect to attend more than one or two shows per year, and custom design is not a priority.
Sufficient storage space is a resource many startups lack, especially in the early stages, and rental trade show displays eliminate storage requirements. However, if a dynamic, custom booth is a top priority, buying a booth would be the best option, regardless of the number of shows you plan to attend. If price is a concern, seek out a reputable trade show display company with an online-based business model, like Indy Displays.
Because they don't require the overhead of large showrooms, they are able to keep their prices budget-friendly, yet still offer high-end display models. Most displays can later be reconfigured to fit into different layouts and graphics can be switched out easily, extending the life of your investment by years. If buying, consider a 10’ or 8’ modular display that has the potential to be configured to a 20’, allowing your display to grow with your company.
Trade Show Staff
When forming your team, make sure to choose individuals that are outgoing and strong communicators. A knowledgeable staff is important but is useless if uncomfortable approaching booth visitors. Always make sure your team is starting and driving conversations, as attendees do not enter your booth with the desire to initiate contact.
A staff dedicated to quality customer service can make a huge impact on the success of a trade show event. Another key trade show factor for startups is the presence of a founder or CEO. Although persons in leadership positions at a startup tend to be stretched thin, sacrificing that time is worth it.
Those that are most invested can truly represent a company, and will convey to attendees that their business is considered valuable. Face time with dedicated company employees will engage potential clients, provide them a sense of importance, and strengthen your conversations.
Incorporate a StartUp Mindset
It requires a certain mentality to establish and grow a startup concept into a thriving business. The best way to approach your trade show marketing strategy is to incorporate the startup mindset. Whatever differentiates your company in its respective industry will be the foundation to making your trade show booth a different, unique experience.
Strive to engage your customers in unexpected ways to fit your brand and brainstorm creative ideas to avoid blending in, such as an interesting staff outfit or unusual giveaway items. Many startups struggle to make their product or service tangible to a consumer base in the beginning.
There are various ways to substantiate budding concepts, such as displaying prototypes in showcase kiosks, using a monitor to broadcast social media activity, and interactive case study presentations on iPads. Trade shows can be an invaluable component of a startup’s marketing strategy, providing opportunities for a company to build awareness within targeted audiences.
A startup should not hesitate to make the decision to attend a trade show, as long the company intends to tactically take advantage of the opportunity. When done well, a trade show can catapult sales efforts and set a strong foundation for a valuable industry network.