Tips on trade show booth design to attract potential customers.

I was with a customer at a very important trade show he wanted me to attend with him this year.

It’s a monster show and we went together to see what new technology was out there that we should adopt, to press the flesh with key vendors to strengthen our relationship and to build new contacts for future growth.

I don’t know about you, but I love trade shows!

When I was a contractor, I loved them because it was a great chance to see what was on the cutting edge and to learn more about it. Our company made it a point to take along staff members, so it also was a good time to attend classes and fill in the missing pieces in their knowledge, as well as my own.

Our folks felt incredibly lucky and proud to attend these mega-events so they could seek out manufacturers and share what they liked about their products and what they hated. And my staff wasn’t shy about sharing both the good and the bad.

What is interesting about attending industry trade shows is you quickly see the difference between what makes a winning booth and what’s a dud. And the same is true for the home shows that contractors participate in to try and attract more of the prospective customers they seek.

Here are some things you should do if you and your company are participating in key trade shows and home shows that your ideal customers attend.

1. Have a clear goal in mind.The goal needs to be to find a show that you can take a dominant position in. You will need to confirm the trade show being considered has the demographics that most closely match the target audience you seek to reach.

It’s not just important to know the volume of people attending the show; it’s important to know that the show is  attracting your target audience.

2. Have a budget.It’s better to pick one or two key shows with your demographic mix that you can focus your efforts on and make an impact rather than do multiple shows ineffectively.

All the “what ifs” need to be addressed so you can determine the actual return on investment for this event. Typically, you need to appear at least twice to make a true judgment about the success of a show.

3. Great lighting.This is like a beacon that will attract people to your booth. It showcases your professionalism and adds excitement. Some contractors use a lighting designer because they know just how important this is.

4. Hands-on demonstrations.You need to engage people with more than your words or a stagnant set of photos. A closed-loop video is good. But it’s not as good as live hands-on demonstrations that clearly demonstrate the points you’re trying to make about why attendees should choose you and/or the products and services you’re selling.

5. Great-looking brochures.Colorful brochures used the right way will augment what you’re saying as you are speaking to prospective customers. Brochures also are a great way to remember you and what separates you from the sea of competitors they’re bound to meet at the event. And brochures filled with testimonials and photos of customers just like them will have the biggest impact and most likely generate new business for you.

6. The right people manning the booth.This is probably the lowest cost and highest impact thing you can do. You can have a glitzy trade show booth, be in the most prominent spot and still flop. What you must have are the right people manning the booth: charismatic, people-friendly and sales-oriented people. They also have a vested interest in getting and following-up on bona-fide leads.

What you don’t want are your people sitting on chairs in the booth when they should be on their feet looking to engage the people passing by in conversation. Don’t you just hate it when people in the booth are on their cell phones or chatting amongst themselves because you feel like you have to interrupt them to get their attention?

7. Music to attract their attention.We have to get people to stop shuffling past or we can’t talk to them. So you need to do things that set you apart from the overload of people and booths they’re wandering past. One of the new innovative ways trade-show participants are doing this is with music. Yes, it works.

8. Food to get their attention.The type of food that has a pleasant aroma works best. And one of the best is popcorn from an old fashioned popcorn maker because it also has sound. Candy works, too. Try not to get something that’s too messy.

9. Raffles and contests.This is another great way to get people to stop at your booth and interact with you. People like to play games, especially if they involve a little skill and there is a potential reward at the end. And they even like to participate in a game of chance.

10. Takeaways.The biggest bag wins. Watch people at a trade show and you’ll see they’re toting a bag to hold all the stuff they’ve collected. Most times it’s colorful and logoed. If you have the biggest bag (a bonus if it’s green-oriented), all the other bags will fit inside yours and these people will be toting your bag all around the trade show floor. Also, people have found that private-labeling reusable water bottles is a nice way to have attendees quench their thirst and have something to remember you by.

A trade-show booth can be expensive, so it’s easy to try to scrimp. But everything has to look really good or attendees will associate you with the second-rate booth, displays and takeaways.

I can tell you that a lot of companies sell so well from doing these key trade shows the right way that they are able to generate almost all the sales they want and need for the whole year!