Tactics can help you stand out at a trade show. Kayleigh from Microstarups.org explains how to get significant results from marketing your brand at a trade show
All the trade shows worth attending have that buzz of excitement that stems from so many vibrant businesses and eager professionals sharing a space. Demonstrators get to set up eye-catching booths and display their wares to lure people in, and general attendees can collect freebies while seeking opportunities to network and benefit their businesses. That atmosphere perfectly welcomes creativity by encouraging people to hold back their reservations.
Even if it didn’t, of course, there’d still be a good reason to try interesting things: it’s easy for stalls to blend together. Many people who go to trade shows have little intention of buying anything or even identifying opportunities to buy things. They mainly want to enjoy them, collect some free pens and comestibles, and — if all goes well — make some powerful connections.
If you want to get significant results from marketing your brand at a trade show, then, you need to find ways to stand out. To give you some inspiration, I’m going to run through 5 examples of ideas you can use to do just that. Let’s get to it:
Focus on telling success stories
Social proof is incredibly important, and one simple question posed to a fellow attendee — “Have you heard of them?” — can make a huge difference in how someone perceives a brand. Since it’s hard to gauge the accuracy of the claims made at trade shows (it’s hardly unknown for presentations to be exaggerated), how can they know which business cards are worth taking?
This is why success stories are such interesting tools. Instead of concentrating on your brand, concentrate on the happiness of your customers. Run through their stories. Showcase their enthusiastic UGC. If possible, have one of your customers present to give their honest opinions about your business: provided they come across as natural, their testimonials will be potent.
Make a direct competitor comparison
Standard practice for avoiding controversy would have you never mention your competitors directly, which is exactly why you should do it. If you address the brands you believe you can outperform, you’ll come across as bold and confident — two things that will work to your advantage when it comes to getting attention.
If you’re incredibly certain that you’ll come out on top, then why not have competitor products there with you? This is exactly why Pepsi recently brought back the Pepsi MAX Taste Challenge: instead of skirting around its big rival, it would attack it head-on. If you can’t offer a similar product comparison, then you can use a stat-based comparison or feature comments from people who favor your brand over your rivals.
Sell some products then and there
You don’t need to stop at marketing at a trade show. Why not get people actually using your products? And I’m not talking about the freebie model mentioned earlier. I’m talking about having your products available for purchase from your booth. Let people test them out, then offer them at a reduced price on the condition that they talk about you on social media: that way, you’ll get even more attention as a result.
Take enough stock to cover reasonable demand, then choose how you’d prefer to approach the selling. You can use a cash bartering system and add the transactions to your system afterward, but it would be easier to use a hybrid POS system (like Shopify POS) that’s capable of processing transactions directly from mobile devices and syncing them with your online store. Either way, if you manage to make some sales at the event, it’ll be a major boon for your brand.
Offer an interactive experience
Experiential marketing has come a long way through the development of VR technology and large low-cost touchscreens. Elements of gamification consistently prove powerful through getting people engaged: when an attendee is walking around a trade show looking at numerous similar booths, the ones that really capture their attention will prove the most memorable.
So how can you offer an interactive experience? Well, if you can turn to the aforementioned technology, do so. You could develop a VR game based on your business in some sense, for example. If you can’t (because it’s a bad fit, or because you can’t justify the expenditure), then turn to more conventional methods: create a quiz, provide a custom board game, or even interview people on video (with their consent, of course).
Partner with compatible brands
Trade shows feature companies from similar fields, but that doesn’t mean they’re competitors. In fact, while there are likely to be some companies comparable to yours at any given trade show, there are going to be far more businesses that do totally different things. This is useful because it opens up the possibility of partnering with compatible brands.
What’s a compatible brand? Simply any brand with customers that might have need of your services — and if you think your customers might have need of that brand’s services, then there’s clearly an opportunity for both brands to benefit. Keep track of which other companies will be appearing at the trade show before you attend it, and reach out to any you think you could work with. If you agree to cross-promote, it can very effectively broaden your horizons.
Each of these tactics can help you stand out at a trade show, so why not think about how you might implement one or more of them? Appearing at a trade show is a big investment of time, money and effort, so you should try to make the most of it.
About the Author
Kayleigh Alexandra is a writer and campaign designer for MicroStartups, a website focused on helping charities and microbusinesses. After years working in the sustainability, marketing and creative industries, Kayleigh now loves to devote her time to supporting other businesses to grow and thrive. Visit her blog or follow her on Twitter @getmicrostarted for the latest news, tips and advice for startups and solopreneurs.