Have you ever watched a television commercial and then thought to yourself: “What the heck were they selling?” Or, how many commercials have you seen that had little or nothing to do with the product they were selling? Further, how many times have you watched a TV commercial (like a satellite television service, for example) and then received an ad in the mail from the same company with a completely different (or conflicting) offer or message? It’s a bit humorous sometimes, very ineffective, and definitely annoying…wait, I forgot: commercials are already annoying by nature. Well, the same can happen with your trade show marketing intent, so you must be extremely careful.
Here are some items to consider in the planning and execution of your trade show message strategy.
First, build all of your marketing concerns into your trade show (or event) master plan. Like nearly anything that’s successful, it all begins with a thoughtful, formal, and comprehensive plan. Your plan should begin months before you actually enter an event, or spend a dime.
One major piece of that event master plan is the central marketing message or intent for your display, and all supporting marketing materials. Determine and define exactly what your intent or key message is well before the show. Oh, and it is a potentially fatal error to have multiple intents and messages! Make it simple, consistent, and stick to the plan!
- Is your message to showcase a new or existing product or service?
- Are you promoting one certain aspect of your business, a product, or service?
- Is your intent to build brand recognition?
- Are you trying to enter into a new market?
- Is your intent to address some confusion regarding your business?
- Note: If your intent is to simply gain more customers or clients, then you stand little chance at gaining measurable results or a tangible return on your event investment. There must be an intent that is deeper than that, like promoting a product or service, or building brand.
It follows, then, that the main component that will convey your marketing message – during the show – is the graphics used for your exhibit. Graphics are another serious piece of the event master plan that should be carefully demarcated. Much is written on creating effective graphics, and there are a variety of opinions. My advice is to keep it simple. People buy on emotion and straightforwardness. First decide what emotions(s) you will attempt to evoke (from attendees of the show), and then combine your marketing message. Be extra-careful when selecting a principal photograph. For example, a central photo of a pretty woman smiling is never enough…so what, a woman is smiling; it doesn’t tell me a thing! The point of your graphics is to evoke an emotion and get people involved in your message. Typically you have only a few seconds to draw people in to your trade show display, so make the best use of those precious seconds. Leave people no guesswork. Be direct and impactful. It sounds cliché, but first impressions are everything. It is your graphics (along with your booth design) that make that first impression.
Build a timeline in your event plan. Prompting peoples’ attention begins pre-show, well in advance of the show opening. Veteran trade show exhibitors will all tell you that essential marketing begins before the show. In order to build recognition (of your message) and to be completely consistent, use the same colors and images that you will use for your trade show display. Some companies will use various media channels to reinforce the event campaign, including hard-copy printed tools. I recommend avoiding the expense of paper literature wherever possible. This will reduce costs, and your environmental footprint. Instead, consider using online media and social networking venues for marketing message presentation and reinforcement.
During the show be consistent with your clearly defined marketing message and exhibit intent. The training of your event staff needs to be consistent with the marketing message. Train all presenters to give flawless presentations, and assign specific tasks to each staff member. Again, it is consistency that is the key to success. Never overlook the careful and professional training of your event staff. They should always concentrate their efforts on the marketing intent.
And finally, your event marketing plan extends through post-show follow up. It is best to make this follow up by personal phone calls, face-to-face meetings, and digital media (emails, social networking, etc.). Make it as personally tailored as possible, and yet completely consistent, reinforcing once more the marketing intent.
In closing, your event master plan is the key to a successful trade show message. Be sure to build your overall event plan around your marketing message/intent. Remember that people buy on emotion, simplicity, and consistency. Select images and content that not only evoke an emotion, but also involves your prospect in the marketing message. Your effectiveness and success depends upon pre-show, during-show, and post-show marketing uniformity. Oh, and keep it simple!