Trade Show Display Mistakes to Avoid

Creating a successful trade show display requires many actions: choosing the right exhibit company, selecting your target audience, selecting design features, simplifying text, and more. However, avoiding certain activities can also contribute to more profitable custom exhibits. Avoiding these mistakes is an important part of creating the highest quality, most affordable display possible for your business. Here are a few of the most common mistakes exhibitors make that can impact the success.

Failing to Read the Exhibitor’s Manual

You should receive an exhibitor’s manual for every trade show at which you register. This manual is an exhaustive list of the rules and regulations that govern your time at the trade fair. For example, it should include the deadlines for renting equipment, the types of lighting that are (or are not) allowed at the show, the kind of technology that the event can support, and so forth. If you read it carefully, you should know everything you need to successfully exhibit at that show.

Unfortunately, many exhibitors fail to read this manual, out of boredom or a misplaced confidence that they already know all of the rules. The truth, however, is that each trade show has its own unique rules that can impact the design of your display booth. For example, rules about the height of your custom exhibit, the types of lighting allowed, and delivery deadlines can all impact when and how you design your display. Reading the exhibitor’s manual before you begin the design process with your exhibit company can equip you to make decisions that comply with your trade show’s rules.

Choosing the Wrong Sized Display

Another common error also occurs before the design process even begins. This error involves choosing the wrong sized display. For example, if you reserve one booth size and build another, you might end up with custom exhibits that simply do not fit. Alternatively, your booth space and display might match, but the size might not fit your needs. For instance, exhibits that are bigger than necessary can eat up so much of your budget that you have nothing left with which to design your large display. Plus, if you go too big, you risk having a display that looks empty because you simply do not draw enough visitors to make the space worth it.

Alternatively, small displays can leave your booth feeling overcrowded. And an overcrowded booth can discourage visitors who otherwise would have stopped by. Or, it can make you look insignificant if your competitors bring larger exhibits. Plus, while you are likely to save money with a smaller booth, you may find that a small booth does not fit your business’ needs if you happen to grow quickly over the course of a few years. The key is to select a booth size that meets your needs, gets your audience’s attention, and leaves you enough money to build a unique trade show display.

Failing to Plan Ahead

One of the most common mistakes made by exhibitors is failing to plan ahead. Just building a unique trade show display requires 6-8 weeks of construction. Fleshing out your vision and creating and refining a design take even longer. A good rule of thumb is to give yourself and your exhibit company 4 to 6 months to complete the process of creating custom trade show displays. Any less than this, and you might not get your display on time. In addition, a failure to plan ahead can mean missing deadlines at the trade show (such as for trade show equipment rental or delivery windows). Or, it might mean losing out on the lower rates for reservations, materials, and services that are available to people who request them ahead of time.

Failing to plan ahead can also result in a less effective custom trade show exhibit. For example, if you do not develop a marketing strategy and set goals for your display, it will be difficult to create a display that meets your trade show needs. Without set goals, an understanding of your target audience, and a focused message, you are unlikely to attract the leads you need to make your time at the trade show worthwhile. Planning both your marketing strategy and your display needs ahead of time can lead to a less expensive but more effective custom trade show exhibit.

Focusing on Cost Instead of Quality

Creating a unique trade show display on a budget can be a challenge, especially if your budget is small. That is why many exhibitors try to build their displays with the least expensive materials and the cheapest design services out there. They hope to achieve a successful trade show display without overspending.

Unfortunately, this strategy rarely works out. By using cheap materials and cheap design services, you risk getting what you pay for: sub-standard designs that wear out quickly or do not work the way they should.

Instead of making cost the most important element in your design decisions, consider making quality most important. This might mean that you have to build a smaller display or add fewer features. However, choosing quality materials and an experienced exhibit company does not mean having to give up on your budget. Instead, your exhibit company’s design services should be able to work with you to innovate less expensive solutions that do not compromise on quality.

Trade show display mistakes may be common, but they are not inevitable. If you can avoid them, you can save yourself time, money, and stress, both during the design process and during the trade show itself. If you read the exhibitor’s manual, choose the right sized display, plan ahead, and focus on quality instead of cost, you should end up with a beautiful, unique trade show display. By avoiding the pitfalls many other exhibitors fall into, you can enjoy a more profitable and less stressful time at your trade shows.

Steve Bailey as Vice-President of Marketing Communications at Harcourt Achieve, guided the development and execution of catalogs, print collateral, direct marketing, the Web site, and public relations. Steve is an expertise employed with the best custom trade show company Texas Longhorn fan.

Tips and Tricks for Building an Effective Direct Mail Marketing Campaign

To begin your direct mail campaign, break down the process into manageable steps and take these factors into consideration. Here are some questions to ask yourself.

Who is your target audience?

The first step is to identify your company’s target audience, or target audiences, and understand these demographics as well as possible. The more knowledge you have of their purchasing habits, needs, and wants, the more effective your direct mail campaign will be in helping them understand how your business can benefit them. Are your clients male or female? Old or young? Where do they live? The more detailed, the better. Look at the demographics of your existing customer base, but also imagine what other customers you might want to reach out to. Who uses your services, and who could use your services?

Who is on your mailing list?

Once you have a good understanding of your current and prospective clients, create a mailing list. Better yet, create different lists for different campaigns; the material you send to existing customers might look different and contain different information than that which you send to potential customers. The more tailored your pamphlet, postcard, flyer, etc. is to the specific recipient, the better the chance he or she will respond positively, if at all. Keep detailed and organized records of your lists for reference when creating future campaigns.

What do you want to say? How are you going to say it?

Now it’s time to design the actual promotional material that you will send out. There are many types, including postcards, flyers, and pamphlets explaining your services and detailing special offers. Thank you cards and greeting cards for previous clients are just as important; they’re instrumental in fostering a sense of community and letting customers know how much you value them and their business. After all, one of the principal reasons people respond so well to direct mail marketing is that it’s more personal than electronic communication. Identify which types of mail you will be sending to which people and the text to include. Make sure to double-check spelling and grammar.

Next, focus on the visuals. Pictures are crucial. If you are a company that sells home products for elderly customers, include photos of people making it clear just how easy-to-use your products are. Other businesses, like law firms and real estate companies, traditionally utilize photographs of lawyers, agents, etc. because they are businesses that rely on personal, one-on-one trust. Make sure whatever pictures you choose are high-quality and professional.

Graphic design plays a crucial role in representing your business as well. If your material appears outdated or aesthetically displeasing, you jeopardize the perceived reliability and quality of your company, which can greatly affect business. If you have no experience in graphic design, it is best to leave it to professionals. Some direct mail services offer in-house graphic designers.

Do Customers Still Want Things For Free?

There’s no such thing as a free lunch- it’s a sentiment as old as time itself, however it still holds as true as gravity. In a business model, if someone is getting something free, then another party is footing the bill. Over the last five or so years, organisations have found the ‘free’, multi-sided platform very innovative and effective, turning traditional ways of conducting transactions on its head.

In a free business model, a substantial customer segment continually benefits from a free offer, which is financed by another part of the model or customer segment. For example, RealEstate.com.au is a platform which lists properties for sale and rent for people to browse and apply for free of charge, instead charging the Real Estate Agencies to place their properties on display.

The most popular and captivating of these models, however, is the ‘Freemium’, which is where you get the basics for free and pay for the full version. Often, the free offer is offset by featuring paid advertising which is displayed to users as they use. It’s quite effective when marketing Smartphone apps and software to the masses because there’s no risk to the customer to give the product a try, therefore maximising uptake, and then once they enjoy the features, they will continue to use it. This leads to either revenue from advertising or users paying for the full version. Now, whilst customers were quite content enjoying the free versions for years, they are starting to change their behaviour.

Take Spotify, the popular music streaming service, as an example. It offers users free access to almost all music tracks, artists and podcasts on demand, right at their fingertips. It’s free to use if you don’t mind the occasional advert here and there between your playlists. Or even YouTube, which provides free access to endless amounts of video content for you to watch and get lost amongst, but be prepared to sit through adverts at the start and pop-up banners during.

That’s all well and good, however with the saturation of adverts across all of these platforms moving in and really pushing the limits of customer experience and usability, the market trends are starting to shift again. People are beginning to see the value in ad-free subscriptions so they can gain all the benefits of the product without the interruptions and distractions of ads. So instead of just putting up with loud, jarring advertising in-between a customer’s music streaming at the gym, they’re now electing to pay the monthly subscription to gain the premium benefits.

This is an interesting shift for Marketing, as only years before, the customer was being pleasantly surprised by receiving effectively a service for nothing. It caught marketers and organisations off guard as it was revolutionary to not charge customers for a product. Most digital products and some innovative physical ones allowed for this paradigm shift, and it was highly profitable, however after years of this, the average person is becoming fed up with the extrinsic, non-monetary costs associated with their free use, and organisations are now seeing a demand for ad-free versions. This means that the typical modern customer who is quite accustomed to not paying, is now learning to pay again because the ‘cost of free’ is lowering their utility.

What a crazy, confusing and logically defying statement! Never-the-less, it’s happening.
Truth be told, it’s not like the cycle has exactly reversed to how things were before the free trend; all industries are seeing an advancement in the way customers interact and use these products. For example, with music, it’s not like people are going back to paying $30 for a physical CD again. The overall market and the way a customer consumes music went from being free to now subscription-based, ad-free streaming. This seems to be the new and highly accepted trend now, which is being embraced all over the world.

There has also been a rise in ad-blocker software which is another threat to the Freemium model, especially on social media platforms such as Facebook or YouTube, as these ‘cheating’ customers are receiving all of the benefits for free without having to ‘pay’ the trade-off of adverts.

It’s an interesting trend, and it will be even more interesting to see where innovative thinkers will take organisational models to next.