Tradeshow Marketing

Getting Most Bang for Your Bucks: 5 Trade Show Mistakes You Should Avoid At All Costs

Is your trade show booth not attracting enough traffic? Watch out for these 5 common mistakes.

The greatest mistake a man can ever make is to be afraid of making one- Elbert Hubbard.

You make mistakes. I make mistakes. As humans, we are bound to make mistakes. That is what makes us all humans. But what also makes us human is learning from our mistakes and getting better next time. No matter the amount of effort and time you put into your upcoming exhibition appearance, you might stumble now and then.

And that’s completely alright.

But what you should try to steer clear of are avoidable, expensive mistakes that could lead to significant loss of time and money- and might also damage your brand. Based on my experience attending several trade show exhibits and closely working with leading brands, I’ve created a list of 5 common exhibition mistakes and how exhibitors can avoid them. Take a look-

Mistake #1- No Clear Objectives

Almost every company participates in trade shows for these reasons-

  • Build brand awareness
  • Launch new product/service
  • Generate leads
  • Increase sales

But if you don’t know what you want to achieve, how will you achieve it? This often leads to exhibition efforts that are ineffective, disjointed, and even confusing for the attendees.

The Fix

Create SMART goals for your trade show appearance. What are SMART goals? They are-

  • Specific- Finalize and clearly define the trade show goals
  • Measurable- Ensure that the goal can be tracked and measured
  • Achievable- Goals should always be realistic and attainable
  • Relevant- Applicable to your company/industry
  • Timely- Linked to a fixed time frame

A SMART goal will help your marketing team, and booth staff know where they should focus their efforts and time. It also offers a framework for measuring results and analyzing success rates.

Mistake #2- Choosing the Wrong Trade Show

On average, US businesses attended 10.2 regional and 6.4 national trade shows in 2021. But it is always about the events you select and not just the number of exhibitions you participate in.

Trade shows that “seem” like an excellent choice for your company might not always turn out as expected.

When you’re spending an elaborate amount of money, time, and effort on an event, it is essential to ensure that you’re at the right place.

The Fix

Here are some aspects you should focus upon before you start looking for a trade show booth at any event-

  • Trade show type- Is it a B2B or B2C event?
  • Attendees- How many people attended the event last year? Who were those attendees? Will your target audience attend the event?
  • Booth Space and Budget- Remember that apart from booth rental, there will be other significant costs like exhibition stand, staff costs, marketing collaterals, etc.
  • Trade Show Reputation- Check whether the event is well publicized and if the organizers have an excellent reputation.

Mistake #3- Not Having an Appropriate Budget

An average company allocates 30%-40% of its total marketing budget to events and exhibitions.

But let’s face it, budgeting a trade show is tricky. The long and sundry to-do list makes the entire process confusing.

Go too big, especially if you’re new to exhibitions, and the marketing budget could take a massive hit if the results are sub-par. And if you decide to go too small, you might fail to make the most of the opportunity.

You should find the sweet spot between the two extremes to plan your trade show budget.

The Fix

Follow these steps to budget your booth for trade show-

Divide the budget into five categories-

  1. Booth Rentals
  2. Promotional and Marketing Cost (including booth design, attendee engagement activities, etc.)
  3. Logistics and Service Cost
  4. Staffing costs (including travel and accommodation of the staff)
  5. Miscellaneous Costs

After categorizing, create an approximate trade show budget. The general rule of thumb is to multiply the exhibit cost by three to estimate your overall trade show budget. For instance, If you’ll be spending $15,000 on the booth space, the approximate overall budget will be around $45,000.

Below, I’m also outlining the major exhibition costs and their average budget consumption- 

Table of Trade show cost heads including booth rental, marketing, logistics, staffing and miscellaneous costs viz a viz budget allocation.
Disclaimer: This is just an estimated budget allocation. The real figures might change depending on various factors.

Mistake #4- Graphic Clutter

Are you planning to use graphics on your trade show booth to attract attendees? Do so very creatively and carefully. It is already challenging for strategic and well-designed graphics to grab the eyeballs amid the sea of colors, lights, banners, and noise at busy trade shows. If the graphics are poorly made and cluttered too, the chances of making an impact fall further. A poorly-designed graphic generally has informational, messaging, or photo clutter. 

The Fix

If you’re looking for small trade show booth ideas or participating in one of the bigger events, here are a few tips that can help-

  • Keep the copy concise and save the finer details for one-on-one discussions and product brochures
  • Don’t use more than 2-3 colors and fonts
  • Use high-quality graphics
  • Collect feedback on the design before printing

Mistake #5- Not Having an Audience Engagement Plan

Studies suggest that exhibitors and show organizers benefit when visitors become engaged with the trade show in a fully comprehensive manner. Let us assume that everything goes as planned and you’ve collected plenty of leads during the trade show. After the event ends, your sales team starts reaching out to the leads, but their response is, well...not very encouraging. 

What happened?

It is possible that you were not able to provide a unique, engaging experience to the attendees when they were at your booth. Like you, they might have shared their contact details at several other booths at the trade show. There might be no distinctive factor separating you from the rest. 

The Fix

To offer an experience that people would remember after the event and recognize your brand when your sales rep contacts them, you should think out of the box. For instance, trade show games are effective in boosting audience engagement. Almost everyone loves to play games, especially when it offers some respite from the monotonous vibe of hundreds of booths at exhibitions.

Games like custom trivia also help educate the attendees about your brand, products, or service and provides your staff with an opportunity to initiate a conversation.

When used correctly, games can-

  • Attract people to your booth
  • Enable active participation
  • Encourage them to spend more time
  • Make the experience memorable
  • Strengthen brand identity
  • Boost brand retention

You can read more about how trade show booth games boost audience engagement here.

Bid Goodbye to Trade Show Mistakes and Say Hello to Success

If your trade show outings are not delivering the expected results, the chances are that you might be committing some of the mistakes discussed in this post. Take advantage of the solutions listed above when planning your next trade show to attract, engage, and delight the attendees. If you are looking for unique trade show booth ideas, contact us to know how our custom games can infuse a new life into your booth and take you closer to your objectives.

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