Does Your Trade Show Booth Attract Enough Attention

The No. 1 trade show booth at a convention I attended in Dallas in 2008 featured guys with a Nintendo Wii. Back then, the Wii was the rage, and so was this company.

You had to reveal your contacts to get a crack at Wii bowling, if I recall. People were gutter-balling it badly, by the way, but undoubtedly were rewarded with some follow-up email promos.

The company stood out then. Now? Wii is sooo six years ago.

How are you making your marketing stand out at events? It was the subject of a B2B marketing LinkedIn exchange, and CMSWire talked to two of the marketers.

What Walkers Want

No, not "Walkers" in "Walking Dead." But walkers, as in those who pass by your booth.

One of those walkers, Stuart Chapman, head of telemarketing for Aetorius Marketing Ltd, a B2B telemarketing firm in Wiltshire, England, has been to plenty of trade shows. In attending, he looks to gain a "real understanding of what drives these businesses and what makes them stand out from everyone else."

He's also there to expand his network and introduce his firm's own services and where possible discuss whether his organization can use their services, vice versa — or both. "At the very least I look to gain new members of my network," he said.

Another walker, Luan Wise, an independent marketing consultant based in England, said she wants information, and not of the stale variety.

"I want to find out something new," Wise said. "I want to find solutions to problems/issues I’m currently experiencing, or I want to know about some useful tools that I never even knew existed. Anything to enhance my existing knowledge and ideas to take back to my business/my clients businesses. I also want to make new contacts and have an opportunity to say hello to existing contacts." 

What Works at Live Shows?

Members of the LinkedIn chain sharing ideas said they wanted to avoid looking ordinary. The free T-Shirt. A key chain. Booze and a free dinner (wait, that's a good one.) 

For Chapman, some recent examples from the "unique" category include the company that offered a business-card raffle for a chance to win a weekend in the company VW Camper (events company). There was also the free "pick ‘n’ mix" challenge, where conference attendees tried to get a key ring apart to have the key ring. Others have offered free social media profile pictures from a professional photographer.

Wise has seen companies hire magicians to demonstrate a card trick that pulls you in. And there was the chocolate fountain. "People still seem to love freebies," Wise said. "They collect pens and sweets. Always have something to take away."

Event's Three Stages

Wise says too many exhibitors forget that each event has three stages, beyond the actual event: pre, during and post.

Before: Publicize that your company is attending. "This would be in any existing communication pieces such as newsletters," Wise said. "I would also use the Website and social media. I may do a specific direct marketing piece, too."

Live event: Attract people to the stand and stand out. "On a few occasions I have hired a large chocolate fountain," Wise said. "Everyone loves chocolate. It gained attention, people wanted to try it out, and as they did we could start a conversation with them."

Post event: Refer to your distinct event presence. "Reminding them about the chocolate fountain also helped with post-event follow-up," Wise said. "Always capture specific information about people and their requirements at the event to enable a detailed, tailored follow-up. And follow up as soon as you can."

What Not to Do

Of course, you want to capture data on prospective clients. But make it more than that. We've all done it: Someone walks by our stand, and we scan their badge without even striking a conversation, or perhaps without making eye contact.

"I’ve experienced people doing this, and saying they will follow up," Wise said. "But I was there. I had taken time out of the office, so why couldn’t we start the conversation immediately? Have the right people available on the stand to have a meaningful conversation."

Make it really clear what you do, Wise added.

"There’s nothing worse than looking at a stand and having no idea what they do and just being stared at by a sales rep who doesn’t even want to be there," she said. "You’ve got seconds to grab attention, so an events marketer has to work hard."

Above all, perhaps, recognize that events marketing is here to stay -- regardless if you're not producing ROI through the nose from your presence.

"Any chance to expand the network both physically and digitally should be undertaken," Chapman said. "People do business with people, and the digital age should support that not replace it."

Title image by Vira Mylyan-Monastyrska (Shutterstock).