Small Business Trade Show Marketing – Mistakes to Avoid

For small businesses, attending trade shows can be an excellent way of generating leads, meeting current customers, networking within their industry and promoting their products or services. It can be expensive, but the benefits are well worth the cost. If done properly, that is. There are plenty of pitfalls along the way that small business owners must avoid if they are going to make a success of trade show marketing. Here are our top 7:

1. Not defining your goals and objectives beforehand

This is probably THE biggest mistake you can make. There’s no point in just exhibiting for the sake of it; you really need to know what you want to achieve, otherwise how will you know if you’ve succeeded?

Avoid by: thinking hard about what you want to achieve. What is going to be most beneficial to your business at this stage? And what will help you achieve that?

2. Choosing the wrong events

This ties in with #1. Once you’ve defined your goals, you need to look at which events are going to help you reach them. But if you choose the wrong events, you could be throwing money down the drain.

Avoid by: doing your research. There are plenty of avenues to explore when it comes to choosing events: industry publications, event search engines (such as TSNN (Trade Show News Network), venue websites and mining your contacts. So shop around, make a shortlist and see which of these events will help you achieve your goals.

3. Not promoting your attendance beforehand

With all the opportunities available to you – Social Media, email, websites, direct marketing, and so on – there is really no excuse for not shouting about your attendance at an exhibition to anyone who’s out there!

Avoid by: using all of the promotional weapons in your arsenal to make sure that as many people as possible know you’re going to be there. If there’s an event-specific Twitter hashtag, use it. Mention the event on Facebook, your blog, LinkedIn. Send out an email to all your subscribers with a special offer they can redeem on the day. You’ll reach different people with each, so make the most of them all!

4. Staffing your exhibition stand with the wrong people

Sometimes, you can be at an event, and the stands are staffed by people who look as though they’d rather be anywhere else. They don’t know the products, don’t know what you’re trying to achieve and aren’t particularly interested either.

Avoid by: making sure your exhibition stand’s staff know your objectives and have been well-briefed on your products or services so that they can answer tricky questions. If possible, make sure that the people who are most likely to be experts in your product/service (e.g. the designer, or marketer) are on hand.

5. Eating, drinking, sitting or talking

Again, this links with the previous mistake. If your staff are sitting down and chatting amongst themselves, or eating, drinking, talking on their phones or texting, it creates a very bad impression for the visitors to your exhibition stand.

Avoid by: Making sure all staff put phones and food away, and not providing chairs for them to sit on (unless they’re talking to a potential customer). If you have enough people, let them do shifts, so that some staff can be going round and networking/spying on the competition, whilst others are on the stand.

6. Not following up on leads

It’s all very well, talking to lots of potential customers, but if you don’t strike while the iron is hot and you’re fresh in their minds, you’re likely to miss out.

Avoid by: qualifying your leads. Which ones are most likely to convert, soon? Which ones may convert further down the line? Which ones won’t convert at all? Establish a process for following up, remembering that the longer you leave it, the colder the leads become.

7. Clutter

Having a cluttered exhibition stand is a bad idea for two reasons. One, too much going on in terms of displays and graphics can be intimidating and confusing for visitors. And two, having too much stuff on or around your display can be a health and safety hazard; someone could trip and fall, or knock something over.

Avoid by: making your display as simple and uncluttered as you possibly can. It should convey who you are and what you do within a few seconds, without forcing visitors to think too much about it. Keep boxes, bags, wires and storage crates out of the way, and make sure that walkways are clear.

Tips from Astro Exhibitions, who know a thing or two about trade show marketing, having been designing and building exhibition stands for over ten years. Astro have designed stands for companies from all over the world, and from all areas of industry. Their portfolio includes companies such as Siemens, Michelin and BASF.

Filed in: Business Success, Trade Shows
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