Most often, the purchase or rental of your trade show exhibit represents a significant investment. The selection as to who you will buy or rent from is nearly as important as the actual display itself. These days there is a plethora of trade show vendors to choose from for your display.
Frankly, not all of these exhibit providers are worthwhile; some are interested in making the sale only, and for the most money they can get from you, while there are a select few others who are interested in earning long-term clients and serving their clients well. It is critical that you are prepared, have done your research, and ask the right questions to pick the best trade show display company. In most cases the manufacturer sells only to the retailer, and the retailer to the end-user, buyer.
It absolutely pays to take your time and exercise great care in selecting an exhibit retailer. Here are some general guidelines to assist in this search:
Step One: Be prepared – It is critical that you are prepared. Think about it: For example, who will get a better – more satisfying – deal on the purchase of their next automobile, the one that goes to just any dealer and then buys on impulse, or the one who has done research (on the car and the dealership) and is prepared? The same goes for the purchase or rental of a trade show exhibit.
- Pick your trade show event as far in advance as possible, a minimum of 6 months if possible. See if you can obtain an exhibitor’s kit or handbook from the sponsor before paying to enter the show, and then read this material carefully before securing your booth space and location.
- Build a formal master trade show plan. Involve both the decision-makers and the marketing team. There are several aspects to building a great master plan, but here are some highlights that directly influence your exhibit:
- Develop the central marketing message or ultimate intent of display. This is the theme and message that your display should convey to all visitors: brand reinforcement, new product(s), services, new market, etc.
- Create your goals and objectives that you will target for the show.
- Build a comprehensive budget. Here again there are many facets to a complete budget; the purchase/rental allocation amount for your exhibit is one piece of this budget.
- Plan your pre- and post-show marketing for the event. Keep this consistent with your display and overall message.
- Imagine what your display will look like, including your desires, and graphic visuals.
- Make a list of “must-haves” for the exhibit.
- Generate a list of “would-likes”, or things you might want for the display.
- Think Green whenever possible about your exhibit rental or purchase. Due to the availability of eco-friendly materials, green displays are just as competent as the common standard exhibit types.
- Keep an open mind about your display. Be willing to listen to input and suggestions.
- Do your research because it definitely pays off over time.
- Do an online search for trade show display vendors.
- i. The biggest vendor is not necessarily the best. Sometimes the bigger vendors look for volume of sales and tend to sacrifice top-notch service.
- ii. Don’t limit your search to just the first page of search engine results.
- iii. Look for an emphasis on customer/client service; there are those providers who are interested in long term relationships and therefore better service.
- iv. Look for websites that offer resources – useful information, supplemental materials, articles, and even a blog
- Do an online search for trade show display vendors.
- Cross-reference the vendor websites you find against the top social media sites. Do they have a strong social media presence?
- Check out client/customer testimonials– are they focused on only big clients, or is there a variety of larger and smaller businesses?
- What do these vendors have to say about graphics? Do they do this in-house? What are the costs?
- Are they pushing the big-ticket displays, or are they open to your specific exhibit needs and goals?
Step Two: Narrow the field:
- Are there a variety of products on their website?
- Do they appear to be in-and-out for a buck?
- Again, look for a service emphasis.
- Select the top 5 from your research.
- Prepare a list of questions (for potential display retailers) related to your display desires (and future needs).
Step Three: Make calls to top 5 from your research
- Make it clear that you are shopping, not necessarily buying as yet.
- How are you treated? Do you get personalized service? Do you have a good feeling?
- Keep notes – or record the call – for future review/comparison
- Do they ask about your trade show goals and plans?
- Do they want to push you to a sale right away?
- Do they make recommendations or offer special insight?
- Will they be there for you throughout the process? Do they pledge long-term service?
- What do they say about display effectiveness and “fullness”/accessories?
- What do they say about green displays? Do they offer green alternatives?
- What do they say about shipping? Will they assist in the shipping logistics?
- Do they offer any assurances or guarantees on products and services?
- Is the sales representative knowledgeable? Are they professional?
To sum up, it only makes good sense to get the most on your trade show exhibit investment. As you can see from the above guidelines, client service stands out in these steps. There are hundreds of display retailers, but they are not all created equal. Taking these steps will help protect you from mistakes and make the best investment.