8 Trade Show Mistakes That Cost Exhibitors

By Mark Combs, Cre8iveDept.com

What do you invest in your trade show? There are booth cost, training, shipping to the show, giveaways, promotions, and then there’s time lost in all the prep work. So why do we keep getting in our own way?
Check out these 8 mistakes we see exhibitors make at every show:
1) Poor, inconsistent graphics – We have all seen them, the booth with a pitiful patchwork of graphics and improvised “display” to represent their company. Their corporate image is less than professional and I would lay money on the fact that these “money saving” efforts are actually costing the company more than they are saving. A poor corporate image doesn’t give your prospects any confidence in your professionalism, your product or your offer. The only thing it will give your prospects is a reason to find your competitors. My advise, find a professional to manage your trade show display graphics.
2) Weak promotions before the show – Your booth is looking great. Awesome graphics, corresponding marketing materials, and great products. So where is everyone? Where is all the traffic the trade show promoter promised? Well, who did you tell about the show? Who did you invite to the booth? What special promotions did you advertise for show attendees? Start telling both customers and prospects about the show and your booth with your social media and your e-newsletter. Build anticipation by launching a new product at the show. Send invitations to lost contacts and prospects for special show events. Most of the show successes we have seen are made before the show floor opens.
3) Poor staff training – What do your booth visitors see when they walk up? Are your staffers sitting down? Are they blocking the entrances to your booth? Are they engaged in their own little conversations, while ignoring prospects? Set your expectations before the show with some good trade show training. Don’t assume that just because they are professional sales people that they are great show staff. Set some rules, make sure your staff knows them, and enforce them. I will post a article on some good general show staff rules soon.
4) Poor listening skills – Avoid “salesperson overtalk”. You know the guy. So intent (or desperate) to make the sale, he dives into his pitch without ever listening to the prospect. DON’T BE THAT GUY! Listen to the prospects needs, ask about their job or business, find some common ground, be aware of body language. But most of all, LISTEN! Most people like to talk about themselves. Let them. It’s amazing what you can learn if your mouth isn’t moving.
5) Poor Lead Generation – I’m sorry a fish bowl isn’t gonna cut it. Do you think a give away that anyone can enter gives you qualified leads? Think again. Know your Perfect Customer, know their needs, then speak to those needs. Your prospects will qualify themselves. You also might offer a free phone consultation or training that requires some hurdle to jump over. You will weed out the customers that aren’t your Perfect Customer and take home a pocket full of qualified leads.

P.S. Keep your display simple. You only have seconds to stop your prospects in the isle, too much text and information on your display will let them keep walking.

6) Having too much information – Too Much Information? Is there such a thing? Yes. When you consider that about 80% of all marketing materials handed out at any given trade show ends up in the hotel room garbage can, you can have too much information. Instead take a laminated “Show Sample” of your brochure or sales sheet. Gladly show your prospect, go over the bullet points, ask questions, and don’t forget to listen. When the prospect asks for a copy of your brochure, tell them it’s the only one you have but you can mail them one or send them an email with all the information after the show (or during the show). This gives you 3 great advantages: No extra printing/shipping charges for the materials, Names and addresses of warm prospects, and a great excuse to call or write them after the show. The benefit for your prospects are: less to carry around the show, great information delivered to them, great personal service from you. WIN! WIN!
7) Poor Trade Show Tracking – Trade shows are a marketing function, correct? If you don’t track marketing it becomes expensive sales training. Create ways to track every trade show sale. Use your databases, advertising, promotions, giveaways, fliers, business cards to track show sales. This gives you vital information to justify the trade show or make changes to make it more profitable. There are tons of ways to track your promotions, get creative and see your ROI come to life.
8 ) Post show glow – The show is over you made some great sales and good leads. Those customers should be rolling in any moment now. Not so fast. Your work isn’t done because the show is. It seems like common sense, but common sense isn’t all that common. Did you know only 20% of exhibitors make contact after the show and only 10% of those make contact in a personal way. Send hand written thank you notes within the first week after the show. I used this one technique while marketing manager at a local company and tripled their after show sales. The owner came to me asking what my secret was, and didn’t believe me when I told him. The next show I only sent half of our attendees the notes, and guess which half had more sales. Yep. the ones who got the notes. It’s not hard to do and it makes a huge difference on post show conversions.
Learning from common mistakes is the best way to insulate yourself from trade show failures. I realize there is no such thing as a perfect show, but these 8 tips will get you much closer to a profitable show.
What mistakes have you made or seen at the trade shows you’ve been to? Share them wit us in the comments below. I will respond with cre8ive ways to remedy those mistakes as the comments come in.

If you need help with your tradeshow let us know at MarkCombs@Cre8iveDept.com, we would be glad to help.