“Nothing will ever replace the face to face opportunity that trade shows offer”
-Apogee client quote
Trade shows resumed in 2021 and we witnessed a changed landscape with regard to budgeting, planning, and execution of events.
One key to ensuring your investment in attending these dynamic events still pays off: properly planning your overall trade show approach to ensure it is still aligned with your overall Marketing strategy. By asking crucial questions, creating a strategy, managing a budget and planning your message, your company will be better positioned to connect attendees, make connections, and convert prospects into customers.
What to expect…
Before you get into the thick of developing your Marketing Strategy for upcoming events, it’s a good idea to analyze what happened in the past. What worked, and what didn’t? What exhibit components did visitors respond to enthusiastically—and what left them cold? How effective was your booth staff in engaging prospects on the show floor? Do you need a short booth staff training session to re-enforce best practices? Based on that look back, you might decide your booth needs some freshening up as well. Are all of your branding elements in your booth consistent with your brand guide? Are all graphics up to date? If so, then it’s now time to plan on what to that look forward to:
Here are three questions for your planning team to ask, to determine how to plan effectively for your return to the show floor as we continue to deal with the ramifications of the pandemic, as well as its effects on the supply-chain.
Will attendance be down?
There’s little doubt that when shows gradually ramp back up attendance may be down at first. There may be hesitancy to travel, or lingering travel restrictions placed upon your attendees. Advance marketing prior to an event will help drive traffic back to the event. An important thing to remember that while audience participation may be lower at shows that are re-emerging, the quality and buying power of those that do attend will be higher. Hosting a “virtual event” or webinar prior to your show will also create a lasting memory for those about to travel and perhaps put you on their agenda. The audience will be less diluted with non-qualified prospects as shows resume. Your online hosted event may allow those who aren’t traveling to interact with you. See more about our outlook in the next topic about attendance.
How will the show organizer help in promoting a newly rescheduled show?
In an April 3 survey of 1,000 Americans forced to stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic, 83 percent of respondents said they miss attending meetings, conventions, and trade shows. Further, the study, conducted by APCO Insight on behalf of the Meetings Mean Business coalition, reports that 78 percent of respondents plan to attend as many or more business events once the pandemic ends and it is deemed safe to do so. This means business, and your show organizer should be helping boost attendance for you. There may also be added sponsor incentives that you can cash in on to create a larger brand presence. Reach out to your organizer and see what they have to offer!
Can we host a “safe” environment?
Of course you can. There will no doubt be an increased sensitivity to hand-shakes, and close social distance challenges in a busy trade show booth. Brainstorm with your booth staff team to offer reassurances of a clean, healthy booth space. Many show organizers are going to great lengths to host a safe meeting. With vaccine and testing requirements at these events, many organizations are willing to participate knowing that these safety protocols are in effect. Attendees are eager to get back to face to face as well.
Getting What You Need out of your event
Your exhibit environment is more than just a collection of walls, tables and graphics. It’s a powerful tool that, executed correctly, can help your company build its brand and increase business. In order to accomplish that, however, your booth needs to hit some key targets.
At the onset of event planning, your team should know what your goals are in exhibiting. For example, if you wish to promote your products, make those the star of your trade show exhibit. Are you trying to increase brand awareness? Then put your brand front and center. Consider advanced marketing tactics prior to the event, such as a webinar, virtual exhibits/environment, and other pre-event marketing initiatives.
Who is your company trying to reach at the event? There might be more than one answer to that question—for example, you might be looking to connect at a healthcare event with corporate leadership as well as medical staff. Make sure your booth speaks to the most important stakeholders and prospects. One thing that has happened with reduced audiences in 2021 was the increased number of key decision makers attending these shows. Many organizations eliminated the scores of people they used to send out to shows as a cost-savings measure. Recently only the most qualified decision makers attended, which created a “target rich environment”.
From the initial greeting of a prospect, to sitting down to talk about a possible deal, your booth should facilitate conversations. Think about what types of interactions you want, and work to ensure your booth can handle them. Our focus in designing exhibit spaces post-covid is to be aware of social distancing guidelines and creating safe spaces where meetings can still take place.
For more advice and questions to ask your team when planning and evaluating your booth, read here.
Tracking your budget
Figuring out the financial outlay you will need for your 2022 tradeshows calls for balancing a number of factors—what features you must have, the people you need to effectively run it, how much you can afford, etc. Walking through a few steps will help budget planning for your upcoming trade show exhibits run smoothly. Budgets may have been cut due to the pandemic, so it’s important to focus your remaining dollars wisely. Consider re-using existing components, or renting instead of purchasing in the short term. While budget planning likely happened months ago it’s a good idea to be prepared for some unexpected budget changes.
We talked about business goals above—these will help inform the remainder of your planning efforts. Keep them in mind, and your team will be better equipped to determine what resources you need—type of booth, amount of space required, number of staff, and more.
Estimate a budget
Breaking down the costs is necessary. Expenses essentially will fall into four columns: exhibit-related costs, service costs, promotional costs and staff costs. A good rule of thumb: take the amount you plant to spend on the exhibit space itself, then multiply by 3.
Break it down
Roughly, your allocation for the various trade show expenses you will need should break down like this:
- Exhibit space: 30%
- Show services: 20%
- Booth design: 15%
- Shipping and drayage: 10%
- Promotions: 5%
- Staffing and travel: 15%
That does not add up to 100%, giving your budget planner some wiggle room to add some funds in one area or another if needed. If one area gets too big, though, consider dialing back. In fact there may be some “left over” budget money due to previously cancelled events. You can use this to increase sponsorship’s, update your booth, or other marketing incentives to drive business. Supply chain and labor issues have arisen as a result of the pandemic (and other factors). Careful planning ahead may allow you to dodge a few unforseen costs, but be prepared for increases through the year in a few areas:
Material costs: Material costs have sky-rocketed in the past 18 months. While some raw materials have stabilized there is still an increased cost in lumber and construction materials. New exhibit construction may cost a bit more this year. We’ve already mentioned renting an exhibit in lieu of building new.
Transportation: Transportation costs and fuel surcharges have impacted both the supply chain and the exhibitions industry. Shipping costs will likely remain higher in 2022. Meet with your exhibit partner to explore ways to save on these costs. For example, if your shows primarily happen on the West Coast, ask your exhibit house if they have a partner who can manage storing your assets while your West Coast shows are executed.
Show site costs: Material handling and labor costs are likely to be slightly higher in some markets. Some shows (like NAB) have gone to a flat rate for material handling (also referred to as “drayage”). This has helped offset operating costs, and we’re confident many other shows will follow suit eventually. An easy way to avoid increased costs for this is to avoid shipping loose materials or boxed (non-skidded) materials that require special handling to your shows. Show contractors love to charge a premium fee for boxes that arrive via fedex for example. Consider sending them to your hotel and hand-carrying them if you must.
Want to learn more about building a trade show budget? Take a look at a simple guide here.
Defining a Marketing Strategy to get the most ROI
Once you have set your marketing strategy and objectives, your trade show booth planning team is better poised to craft the content. The graphics, technology, marketing pieces, branding strategy—each piece helps tell attendees and prospects who you are, and what your company can help them accomplish. Your trade show booth is an important component of communicating that content. How do you bring your content across? If your event has been outright cancelled you can pivot to a Virtual booth or online hosted event.
There are several things you can incorporate into your booth to communicate your story with attendees, both online or in-person. Each component should fit into your company’s overall goals in attending the event. A good example of promoting your company via a virtual event is to create a “tradeshow” around it. And you’re the only exhibitor! A hosted webinar using a virtual booth as the “tour guide” to your company’s products and services. Here you can highlight:
- Company Videos
- Video testimonials
- Live interviews
- Online Chat
- Social media channels
- Group Q&A.
- 3-D rendered models of your product or equipment
This tool can also be used as a pre-show marketing tool that you can share via mass email, webinar, or special online event combined with a livestream “from the booth” or from your offices. You can create a landing page dedicated to the audience from the event you may not be able to attend, and let them do a “self-guided” tour of your “booth” to learn more.
Develop a timeline
Putting together a solid content plan takes time and effort. Make sure to allow time not just for creating messaging, but also for reviewing, sharing with stakeholders, and refining as needed. Here’s how such a timeline might look:
- 6 months out: create and finalize your overall content strategy
- 5 months out: outline your whitepaper and landing page, develop a video script and storyboard
- 4 months out: create the whitepaper, film/edit our video, plan/research blog topics, outline infographic
- 3 months out: publish gated whitepaper, publish/promote video on social media, create social posts to promote the whitepaper, create/send an email to promote the whitepaper, create the infographic
- 2 months out: write/post blogs about your trade show offerings, post 1 or 2 blogs weekly until the show, post and share the infographic
- 1 month out: increase social engagement (following attendees, posting about your booth offerings, include event hashtags), print the infographic and plan its position in the booth
- Day before: post your final blog, post on social media about booth, email attendees
Ready to get started?
Apogee’s exhibit and event experts would be happy to assist your company in putting together a booth that perfectly matches your company’s goals, messaging and budget. Whether you’re looking for a modular design, a custom exhibit, high-tech features or other components, we will partner with you to create the ideal display. Our specialists have crafted eye-catching booths for clients in all industries, and we would love to create one for you.
Call us at (315) 986-4600 or request a consult online, and we can help your organization start 2022 strong.