The Top 7 Reasons Trade Show Booths Fail & How to Avoid Them
Trade shows are rich in opportunity. They give industry professionals the chance to come together from all around the world to network with other leaders, learn about the latest innovations, demo their products, and capture high-quality leads to grow their businesses.
But if you’re not experienced in planning and executing your trade show initiatives, then it’s easy to make mistakes. Your first few trade show booths are likely to have some hiccups — but it’s always worth preparing as best you can to avoid them.
Whether your last trade show was unsuccessful and you’re not sure why or you’re jumping into the trade show world for the first time and you want to get it right, here are the top seven reasons trade show booths fail and how to avoid them.
The Top 7 Reasons Trade Show Booths Fail & How to Avoid Them
1. You didn’t plan far enough ahead
Trade show exhibits should never be a last-minute endeavor. From marketing the event to crafting a compelling display, the process of getting your team trade-show-ready is complex, costly, and complicated.
So when exhibitors don’t take the time to execute a well-thought out trade show strategy, it shows.
Ideally, you should start planning for a trade show at least a year prior to the event. That might sound excessive, but you need to leave yourself time to figure out where trade shows fit into your overall marketing strategy, decide how you’ll track and measure ROI for the event, forecast your trade show budget, and obtain all the resources you’ll need to make the show successful.
2. Your exhibit is cluttered, unclear, or uninviting
For many of the people you encounter at a trade show, your booth will be the first impression they have of your brand. If it’s messy, crowded or otherwise unengaging, attendees will be quick to overlook your booth for a competitor’s.
Be prepared to invest a significant amount of time and/or money into designing and building your exhibit. Make sure that your signage, giveaways and other marketing materials reflect your brand. If you’re launching a new product at the trade show, create an engaging display to demo it at its best to interested prospects.
If you don’t have the resources or the expertise to design and build an exhibit that stands out, you can outsource this process to a company that specializes in trade show booth design and build.
By letting an outside resource take care of everything from booth design and delivery to takedown and storage, you can free up your time to focus on the nitty-gritty of your event.
3. Your display doesn’t align with your marketing and sales goals
You should never attend trade shows on a whim. Ideally, you’ll have factored trade show expenses into your yearly marketing budget and already understand exactly how the event should track to your overall marketing and sales goals.
For example, if your marketing team is currently making a push to generate leads for product A, then your trade show booth shouldn’t be solely focused on product B. Use your current marketing campaigns to inspire your booth design for brand consistency and maximum efficacy.
4. Your booth staff is unprepared
Nothing kills prospect engagement like a staff member who can’t answer basic questions about your display, your product or your company.
Make sure your trade show staff can:
Speak to your brand’s mission, values and products.
Understand and work toward your goals for the trade show.
Answer any and all questions a prospect might have about your product.
Recognize and capitalize on lead generation opportunities.
Offer a friendly, helpful and welcoming presence to everyone who stops by your booth.
Whether you’re outsourcing trade show staff or sending in-house marketers and salespeople to man the booth, training is critical to a successful event.
5. You didn’t market your booth ahead of time
Trade shows are not just for generating new leads — they’re also an excellent opportunity to meet and build rapport with current prospects, customers and partners.
So once you’ve settled on an engaging message and goal for the event, be sure to reach out to everyone in your contact database to let them know that you’ll be at the trade show, where your booth will be located and what/who they can expect to find when they get there.
Consider sending out a target email campaign to interested prospects encouraging them to book a time to speak with you at the event. If you can offer discounted tickets to your leads, customers or partners, it’s always a good idea to do so.
6. You didn’t follow up with leads
During the show, your booth staff will be working hard to engage with attendees, capture valuable lead information and generate interest in your product and brand. If you don’t follow up with those leads after the event, that effort is wasted.
During the planning stage of the event, you should develop a follow-up campaign to nurture event leads and, hopefully, get them to close as customers. Write up email templates for your sales team to send out post-event, thanking prospects for stopping by your booth and offering more content, conversion opportunities or other information to build off of what they learned at the event.
Remember — your follow-up campaigns don’t have to be dry, marketing emails. Make sure your booth staff is taking notes and recording important, individualized details about everyone they engaged with at the event, and use that information to personalize your follow-up for greater success.
7. You didn’t ask for help
You’re only human. As the event manager for your company, you probably have a lot on your plate already, and it’s okay to ask for help if you feel like you’re in over your head.
Whether it’s your first time attending a trade show or you’re a seasoned trade show veteran, it never hurts to outsource certain preparation activities, such as booth design and development, to experienced professionals. Building a trade show booth is a big task, and the best way to ensure it gets done right is by enlisting an outside team who’s not stuck in the day-to-day weeds of your business.
Trade shows offer the unique opportunity to engage with your leads face to face — something that’s rare in today’s highly digitized world. Don’t squander your trade show budget by making these rookie mistakes. Remember to plan ahead, market to and follow up with leads and ask for help when you need it, and you’ll be well on your way to maximizing trade show ROI.