This article will cover:
- How to develop successful messaging for your exhibition stand.
- What makes a good trade show stand? How to stand out from the crowd and attract prospects.
- The latest trade show stand examples, and technology trends for gathering prospects' information.
- Points to consider when designing your stand so it's geared towards progressing prospects further towards a sale.
- Bonus tips for trade show survival and increasing prospect engagement.
I once nearly died at a trade show.
As any trade marketing professional who's ever exhibited will know, leaving the stand is like escaping Alcatraz.
In fact it's harder, because at least in Alcatraz the bathroom is located in your cell — not a 200m uphill slalom through eager exhibition attendees.
I didn't leave the stand to get a drink for over six hours. It got ridiculously hot and BOOM! I passed out and hit my head, nearly causing a concussion.
But it was worth it.
The reason we were so busy was — we had absolutely nailed our exhibition stand.
Wholesalers and retailers were crowding around us like we were giving money away.
Want to know how we did it?
Read on as I reveal five crucial elements of exhibition stand design to create a buzz around your products, skyrocket lead generation and give you the best chance to make sales.
1. Stand Out
Yeah, yeah, yeah. We've heard it all before.
You've got to be original. Way to state the obvious.
But when it comes to trade show stands the devil really is in the detail.
You must drive engagement.
Firstly, we are more likely to pay attention to things out of the ordinary.
Secondly, moving items are more likely to catch our eye.
I bet you looked at the moving image below before reading this sentence, didn't you?
If you need to catch someone's attention from across the road, you don't just stand there, static (looking slightly creepy).
No — you wave your arms and shout.
An exhibition stand design needs to wave its arms and shout at your wholesalers and retailers.
"Look, here I am. This is why I'm different. Come join the party. We have cheese!"
So what makes a good exhibition stand?
Here are some ideas that are great for attracting attention:
- large screens
- unusually shaped screens
- LED columns
- use your corporate video
- create a new video specially for the event
- how about bringing your latest ad to life on your stand?
Take for example Key Technology and their trade show VR experience.
A designer and manufacturer of food processing systems, Key Technology created a virtual reality demo that enabled food manufacturers to completely immerse themselves into its VERYX digital food sorting platform.
Armed with a VR headset, it takes you on a 360-degree immersive journey through the machine to showcase the end-to-end process, highlighting its features and benefits.
Click play and grab the screen to scan around the 3D experience.
This is perhaps the most futuristic peacocking we've seen, and their technological prowess saw the company shatter annual sales leads in just four months.
Trade shows can be a somewhat a dry affair at the best of times — it's important to have fun.
Top tip: If you're lighting up the arena with your innovative trade exhibition stand game ideas, you're already ahead of the competition. Competitions to win goodies are always a safe bet at securing smiles. What's more, you can collect prospects' emails in order to enter.
You could host a branded game like this 'kill the germs' challenge by Domestos.
Or utilise new exhibition stand technology using augmented reality like this from Xofigo, a company that produces radium medicine for fighting cancer.
The system scans your body and projects your skeleton onto a screen — jaw dropping.
Taking technology one step further, check out this 3mm high-res LED virtual exhibition stand that allows you to touch and scroll in a 3D simulation.
Projection mapping is making a huge impact on experiential advertising and it's a great way to draw prospects to your stand.
However, if you want to keep it cheap and simple, why not set up a branded 'Plinko' game?
This engages prospects with a chance of winning various prizes.
Another great option that's very fitting for trade exhibitions is the use of QR codes.
You could engage prospects by inviting them to scan a wall of QR codes set up for a lucky dip or scavenger hunt.
And if all else fails, rent out out a Scalextric for fastest laps, one-on-one races, event leaderboards...because who doesn't love a Scalextric?
Download our comprehensive 'Trade Show Planner Spreadsheet' to create the ultimate trade show exhibition
2. KNOW YOUR KEY MESSAGES
Sorry about that. I just thought it was an appropriate segue into this very important point about messaging…
…KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid).
Before you even think about hitting the trade show, you need to develop your messaging.
Context is everything. It's important to consider your prospect's journey, arriving at, and moving around your stand.
Does your stand make it crystal clear what you do?
I'm not talking about overloading your stand with details — you need to explain what you do simply, in eight words or less.
If you get this right, you'll attract more qualified prospects to your stand and leave the time-wasters to walk on by.
Well-known brands can get away without being explicit about what they do — they assume you already know — allowing them to use emotional strap-lines such as Nike's 'Just do it'.
Let's suspend reality for a moment and imagine you were at a trade show and you had never heard of Nike before.
What you'd want to see is something that clearly states what they do, such as, 'The world's leading sports apparel brand'.
Top tip: Keep your exhibition stand's main messaging simple. Can you explain what you do in eight words or less?
Now that your qualified prospects have arrived at your stand, you need to engage them with more detailed information.
Does the event have a specific focus? This should be taken into account. Think about the event you're exhibiting at — why are they attending, and what will they be most interested in?
Then there are the actual words you use — that beautiful paradigm of linguistic dexterity to hook people in.
Take this fabulously simple example of successful messaging we created for Pyrex.
Not only did it position its product as a premium brand, a cut above anything else, it also cleverly dissed the competition without even mentioning them.
Top tip: Your product messaging also needs to engender an emotional connection with your audience, be it happiness, sadness, anger, excitement or even annoyance.
Which one of these examples grabs you more?
The second pulls at existential emotions — the thought of a fresh start as soon as you hit the power button, making life simpler and more entertaining.
Your messaging needs to be consistent across your stand, your company website, your marketing literature and your newsletter.
It proved to be Pyrex's "most successful marketing campaign ever".
3. Capture Their Imagination (And Then Their Email)
Competitions and prize draws are a great way to pull attendees onto your stand, but the real value is in capturing their all-important details for your inbound marketing efforts.
Top tip: These days, you need to be wary of GDPR rules at trade shows. So, if you're exhibiting and planning on using competitions or prize draws to help build your lead funnel, make sure you get the relevant consent boxes ticked.
Otherwise, all your hard work in collecting that data will be for nothing, as you won't be able to use it.
If you wow your prospects they may just want to shake your hand…
…and give you a virtual handshake too.
"What's a virtual handshake?" I hear you ask.
This is great:
It's a clever way to collect prospects' data and add it to your email marketing list.
Using 'touch-to-collect' microchips, loaded with your marketing documents, they can be placed anywhere on your stand.
Every time a customer collects this information by choosing to touch their smart badge or card on the sensor, they opt into receiving your marketing material.
You can even track how visitors later interact with your content, through social media and email.
Every trade show stand should have a method of sharing details, be it a touch-point, a simple microchip card worn around your neck, or at the very least, business cards. Ensure yours has one.
4. Utilise The Strength Of Your Brand
There's a reason you've already invested your company's hard-earned cash into branding.
Your trade show stand is the perfect opportunity to showcase it.
Make it simple. Make it visual. Make it fun.
When the ethical nutritional supplements company, Viridian Nutrition, approached us to design their stand for the Natural & Organic Products exhibition at Olympia, we were tasked to carefully incorporate their branding and messaging.
The company produced a line of nutritional supplements that caters for all family members: men, women and children.
We set out to show that Viridian was not only ethical and family-friendly, but also that its products boasted healthy, natural ingredients.
So we created a stand surrounded by giant family members linking arms, with the Viridian 'heart' logo at the centre of the stand.
Each family member represented a different product specifically designed for them, and each one was carefully adorned with beautiful illustrations of the product's ingredients.
The hard work paid off. Viridian's was voted 'Best Stand' in the 'Natural & Organic Products Europe Exhibition' category at Olympia.
Remember, it's also the finer details that bring your stand to life and attract attention...
Top tip: When designing your exhibition stand, think about the strongest elements of your brand and visual ways to communicate them.
Keep it consistent and why not try to incorporate your products into the design?
5. Get A Room
Hopefully you've already got your sales team to set up a bunch of meetings even before the show takes place.
However, there will always be hot prospects who turn up 'on spec', so you'll want to make sure you have an appropriate place to talk.
Perhaps they don't want to publicly disclose certain details, or simply want a quieter space.
Try to incorporate a private area on your stand where you can conduct meetings, away from the crowd. These conversations, with qualified prospects who are eager to talk, are the reason you're here.
As the old adage goes, fail to prepare and prepare to fail.
Top tip: Incorporate a separate area within your exhibition stand where you can sit down with your hottest prospects and give them the tender loving care they deserve.
And it could even be over a nice cuppa, like this experiential stand design we designed for PG Tips.
Speaking of tips, guess what…
Why not use your exhibition stand design as an area to train your partners about your latest products?
That way you're killing two birds with one stone by training your current partners while attempting to bring in new ones.
Just make sure you're well-staffed. Nobody likes watching tumbleweed roll by as they're waiting to get attention at a trade show stand.
Don't forget secure storage on your stand for personal belongings. [Click to Tweet]
Make sure you have enough storage for any literature you're giving out. [Click to Tweet]
Have enough people on your stand so you can alternate your lunch breaks, ensuring there's always someone at the stand to speak to prospects. [Click to Tweet]
Try not to sit down. It makes you look like you can't be bothered to engage. If you must sit, take a high stool that raises you to eye level with your prospects. [Click to Tweet]
Finally, look after your staff by having plenty of water to hand — exhibition halls can be notoriously dehydrating, as I learned to my cost! [Click to Tweet]
Generating awareness of your product isn't solely consigned to trade show exhibitions.
There are numerous marketing strategies to drum up interest, from effective PR, to blogging and email marketing.
If you want to stay on top of the latest trends, tools and technology, download The Ultimate Guide To Trade Marketing.
It features exclusive advice and best-practice from our trade marketing experts on every aspect of the trade marketing role, including:
- Cutting-edge techniques to generate product awareness
- How to create the perfect product proposition to secure sell-in
- Clever tactics to get your product ranged
- Elite marketing strategies to get your product sold