trade showMany exhibitors all make the same big mistake.

They stand at their exhibition booth, waiting for customers to come to them.

But there is certainly a better way.

In this article, I’ll explain how to get the most out of going beyond your exhibition booth.

And I’ll share how to use your booth to capture more leads and justify the investment.

Now picture this. The first day of your exhibition is here!

You’re there at your exhibition booth. It’s covered in your bold colors and branding.

Your marketing materials are ready, the big-screen TV has your presentation on loop, and your team is wearing matching polo shirts.

The convention center doors open, the crowd rushes in… and walks straight past your booth and your smiling staff.

Of course, there are occasional visitors to your booth who are curious about your services.

But they seem to be few and far between, no matter how many people you greet or give your flyers to.

Remaining stationary is one of the big mistakes many exhibitors make.

To make connections, you need to walk away from your exhibit and go talk to other people at their booths.

Your Plan of Attack

Before the exhibition even begins, do your research.

Which exhibitors interest you? Where are they positioned? What would they like to hear or get from you?

There is no way you’ll have sufficient staff or marketing materials to cover the entire exhibition floor.

So it’s crucial for you to know your audience and be selective about whom you approach.

And do not “carpet bomb” the exhibition by paying the event organizer to distribute your marketing materials.

Unless you have face-to-face conversations and build relationships with prospects, they are unlikely to care about what you’re offering.

Now, once you have identified your audience, think about how you can reach out to them.

Plan the time (e.g., after a product demo), the tactics you’ll use to delight them (this is very important), and how to follow up with them after the show.

Going Beyond the Booth: Our Example

Recently, the company I work for, Mixam, set up an exhibition booth at the PRINT 18 trade show in Chicago.

Our purpose was to launch the platform in the U.S.

We had an excellent exhibit. But, we never left our booth for more than a few moments.

This was due to a shortage of manpower, and the logistical challenge of shipping our props and materials across the pond (we’re in the U.K.).

However, the well-connected industry consultant we hired made contact with numerous prospects before the show.

He was successful in bringing these people to our booth and making important introductions for us.

They were delighted by the vibrant design of our stand, our visual marketing materials, and most importantly, the live demonstration of our online platform.

Following discussions, there was an exchange of business cards, and we gave prospects our beautifully designed information booklet.

After the show, our consultant would follow-up with these leads (and other leads the booth passively acquired), continuing discussions and building relationships.

Promotion is Key

To promote our new comic printing services, we went to MCM Comic Con in London.

And this time we were trying to capture two very different audiences—the independent comic creators in the nearby Comic Village area, and the large volume of Comic Con attendees.

First, we asked event organizers to place our booth next to the Comic Village.

Then we collaborated with our biggest comic book customers, the Etherington Brothers, to help us design our exhibition booth.

In turn, they gave us copies of their bestselling book, How To Think When You Draw, to give as prizes for our event competitions.

We used our email newsletter to promote the details of our participation at the event and our free giveaway.

Meanwhile, the Etherington Brothers were also promoting the event to their substantial following and sharing our link.

On the show’s quietest day, we gave gift boxes to all 200 Comic Village exhibitors so as not to disturb anyone while they were trying to sell their work.

Each exhibitor was delighted as they opened the box to find sweets, sketching pencils, a swatch book of our printing papers, a Mixam discount card, and a special key.

We told them the key would open a locked box in our booth containing copies of the Etherington Brothers’ best-selling book. They could try their key in the lock, and if it unlocked the box, they would win a book.

A pop-up banner was strategically placed behind the locked box. It displayed details of a social media competition for Comic Con attendees.

They could photograph, tweet, and post their photos, using the tag @mixamprint to enter the online drawing.

By extending awareness, we opened the competition to anyone unable to attend the event by allowing them to retweet or repost someone else’s photo.

Successful Outreach

It took nearly 10 hours to speak to everyone and give them a gift box. Meanwhile, we took a business card from every stand to follow-up after the show.

This outreach activity sent Comic Village exhibitors over to our booth all weekend.

They tried their key in the box (many winning a book!), saw the wonderful comics we print, and took the opportunity to discuss their printing needs with us.

Our exhibit enjoyed a steady stream of visitors, many sent by the exhibitors from Comic Village.

And a bit of good-will commerce can help boost your reputation.

We paid a visit to the Comic Village early Saturday morning, purchasing comics and posters from a number of exhibitors.

We also approached exhibitors in other areas during quieter times. Handing out business cards and company flyers, we took time to speak to every single table and took their business card.

After the show, we went to Twitter and followed everyone on the Comic Village exhibitor list, plus those whose business cards we collected.

Many of those vendors were kind enough to follow our company in return, and orders began to come in shortly afterward.

To further cement these relationships, we sent a private message to the exhibitors we had the strongest connections with.

Trade Show Success: Go the Extra Mile

It’s no secret; exhibition booths require a lot of planning.

To get the most value from exhibiting, go that extra mile.

Spend time planning how you’ll leverage outreach from your exhibition booth.

Think of it as your base of operations in a landscape of opportunity.

By having a presence at an exhibition, you can open many more doors. But you must be willing to go forward and open them.

Photo by eddie howell on Unsplash

Adam Smith

Adam Smith lives a life of swashbuckling adventure in marketing at Mixam – a little print company with big ambitions.

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