I’ll show you mine if you show me yours – 10 top tips for maximizing ROI on your exhibition stand

By 13/01/20142014

Bright, Agenda, Bread and Butter, ISPO… for the sports hardware and apparel industry, ‘tis most certainly the season of the trade show! With this in mind, Brandwave MD, Daniel Macaulay takes a look at the best upcoming sports industry shows and offers up a few nuggets of advice on how to get the biggest bang for your exhibition bucks…

2014 is a new year with new trends, new products and lots of potential new customers. This year there is also an unprecedented number of places to show off your latest creations to the industry and if you play your cards right, smash those sales targets.  Everyone knows that exhibitions are expensive so what can you do to fully maximize the return on your investment? Here are a few quick and easy tips to help raise your game:

1. Location, location, location – Booking a stand space at an exhibition is a lot like selecting a suitable venue for a new retail outlet; you gotta be visible and you gotta have passing trade. If you’re tucked away somewhere at the back of hall 175Z, you’re not gonna get much by way of passing trade or new business. Don’t leave it until the last minute… GET YOU BOOKING IN EARLY for the best spots. Corner stands work great because you get passing trade from more than one angle. Be warned – if the exhibition organisers are offering you a killer deal and it all sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

2. Prior preparation prevents piss poor performance – We see it time and again, brands show up at trade shows and expect the new business to just come a knocking… If they don’t get the sales and footfall they want, they blame the show location, the timing, the weather, the promotion, the price of cabbages, anything but themselves. The fact is, by the time most buyers and media arrive at the show, they already have a full schedule. Use all of your brand communication channels that you have at your disposal, be proactive and get the word out BEFORE the show. The vast majority of your meetings should be pre-booked and your stand should be jam packed from the minute the doors open.

3. Utilize, use and abuse – Social networking, press offices, show guide and onsite advertising, HTML emails, web banners… these days, exhibition organisers offer a plethora of ways to help promote your brand and your stand before, during and after the show. It’s one of the things that always gets overlooked and stuck at the bottom of the priority list. If you make use of the exhibition organizer’s communication resources, you will vastly increase the reach of your message with very little additional effort.

4. Do less more – Buyers don’t come to tradeshows to buy products that they’ve already bought, they come to find out about what’s different and what’s new. Go narrow and deep. There’s nothing wrong with bringing your complete product range to the show but make sure that you keep your communication tight and very focused on your hottest new product stories and ones that help to differentiate you from the competition.

5. Get interactive – Augmented reality, games, touch screens, treadmills, pressure plates, wind tunnels, water tanks, snow, ice… there is an infinite number of ways to bring your products to life. Give customers a reason to come onto your stand and give them a reason to stay on it. If your product has a USP, try to demonstrate it in the most engaging way that you can think of. As far as it is possible, try to recreate the environment the product will be used in so that customers can feel the end user benefits for themselves.

6. Go all big brother – We’re talking George Orwell 1984 here not the unwatchable TV series that pollutes our screens with narcissistic morons i.e. try to get as much data about the people that visit your stand as possible. If the exhibition organisers provide badge scanners, use them. You will instantly know who the person is that you are letting on your stand and as such, can point them in the correct direction. They could be existing customers, potential new customers, media or even sneaky direct competitors come to check out your new season’s offerings. Always get as much data as you can about who visits your stand and use it to your advantage.

7. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail – Train your team! Nothing is less appealing than walking onto a stand where all the team is nonchalantly staring into their stale cappuccinos. Train your show staff to be friendly, helpful, and most importantly, proactive. Do role-play scenarios if necessary and put together a list of frequently asked questions with the appropriate answers. Make sure that everyone is fully trained up on the product range, the key features and what the pertaining benefits are to the user. Make sure that everyone knows where everybody else is and that they all have a full list of contact details for all retailers, distributors, sales reps and agents.

8. Tellin ain’t sellin – After a few days on your feet and a few late nights on the sauce, the temptation is to reel off the features and benefits of your products parrot style with a slightly dead behind the eyes look on your face… don’t fall victim to this trap! If a potential customer feels that they are being read a script by a bad actor, they will tune out and turn off. Ask them what type of activities they’re into and find out about their level of proficiency. Ask them if they have used any of your other products in the past and how they found them. Turn negatives into positives and become the ultimate enabler – the solution to their problems.

9. Follow up – It sounds so basic but it’s amazing how many brands fail to do it properly… Collect business cards. If you have a meeting, ensure that you follow it up after the show. Make sure that you take detailed notes on where the customer is from, what they were interested in, and any questions that they needed answers for. Get them onto the appropriate database for future communication and most importantly do it all in a timely manner. The sooner you follow up with a professional and personalized call or email, the better the chances are that you will close the sale.

10. Enjoy it – Trade shows are the culmination of all of your hard work and diligent efforts; the nights spent working late, the blood, the sweat, and the tears before bedtime. They are the movie premiers, the grand unveiling of your latest harebrained inventions, and the time to stand shoulder to shoulder with your industry peers and be proud of what you have produced and achieved. Create a buzz. Show people that you care about your brand and your products and be enthusiastic about it! A bit of passion is a natural sales aphrodisiac.

Below: keepin them rolling in the aisles – Snowboarding multiple World Champion, Xavier De Le Rue uses our ‘shake test’ to demonstrate how the new ABS avalanche pack works to the press on the stand that we designed for The North Face at ISPO trade show in Munich.

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Read more about The North Face ISPO exhibition stand.

Daniel Macaulay

Author Daniel Macaulay

More posts by Daniel Macaulay
  • TheBridgeLtd

    Hi Daniel, these are great tips. I would love to write a follow up on our post about “design principle tips” and include your thoughts on ROI – they would sit nicely as a series. Feel free to have a read and leave your thoughts here goo.gl/FWQlyz. Our post covers design principles when taking on an exhibition/trade show stand – and focus more on the communications and space of the design to maximise a brand/company message.

    Good work!

    The Bridge