6 Reasons You’re Not Successful at Trade Shows

6 Reasons You’re Not Successful at Trade Shows

The irony is that almost every single exhibitor could easily improve their results by ditching one or more of the following bad habits and strategies.

By Marlys Arnold, Exhibit Marketing Strategist; Speaker, Author, Consultant; Trade Show Insights Blog/Podcast Host

It’s a hard truth: most exhibitors aren’t as successful as they could be.

Do they realize they’re setting themselves up to fail? Probably not.

The irony is that almost every single exhibitor could easily improve their results by ditching one or more of the following bad habits and strategies. Hopefully you don’t see yourself in these examples, but in case you do … now is the time to make a lasting change!

  1. Your booth looks like a flea market. Let’s face it … clutter is stressful, and the junky look is never “in.” So clean up and declutter your look, whether that involves losing half of the things you’re cramming into your space or abandoning your graphic collage for one dynamic image. Make it super-simple for attendees to grasp who you are and what you do.
  2. You’re sending the wrong people to work your booth. Sometimes that means not having your entire sales team on the floor (yes, they can actually become a negative influence) and sending your customer service ambassadors instead. But no matter who you send, the goal is to have a well-trained team that can answer questions and combat objections, yet still remain calm and polite.
  3. You’re oblivious to your audience. Believe it or not, this is a common mistake that comes in several forms. Sometimes exhibitors are so out-of-touch that they have no good reason to be at XYZ Show, but they exhibit anyway because “we’ve always been there.” Or they may completely miss the mark in their messaging because they’re not in tune with their audience’s wants and needs. And of course this comes in another form as well — booth staff that ignores or is rude to attendees. (Can you say “cell phones”?)
  4. You rely on the “Field of Dreams” strategy. Let’s face it: trade shows are not the place for an “if you build it, they will come” form of marketing. It’s not rocket science, but it does take a plan, and requires you to take specific action before, during and after each show. Exhibit marketing is a carefully-orchestrated strategy that involves design, promotions, staffing and lead management, among other things. Dropping the ball (pun intended!) in any of these areas means your overall results will suffer.
  5. You forget about the leads. This one is perhaps the most baffling of all. Why do so many companies spend all that time, energy and money to exhibit, yet do nothing with the leads they gather? It’s a little like building a beautiful house and then neglecting to ever move in and reap the rewards. What’s the point?
  6. You go the Lone Ranger route. Sure, you may be the only person in your organization responsible for the actual implementation of trade show marketing. But that never means you have to go it alone. You can always rely on industry experts to help with designing your display, creating and executing a great marketing campaign, or implementing a lead management system. Or you can have the advice of someone who’s been involved with trade shows of all sizes and types for more than two decades and knows how to keep you from making the mistakes listed here. (Hint, hint!)

So how will you take action to eliminate these bad habits?

With experiences as both an exhibitor and a show organizer, Marlys Arnold has a unique perspective on trade show exhibiting. As an exhibit marketing strategist, she travels the country consulting and training on how to create experiential exhibits that produce significantly higher numbers of qualified leads. She’s led workshops for events ranging from local consumer expos to some of the largest trade shows in the U.S. She hosts the Trade Show Insights blog/podcast, and is the author of Build a Better Trade Show Image, the Exhibitor Education Manifesto, and the ExhibitorEd Success SystemExhibit Design That Works (the first book in the YES: Your Exhibit Success series) debuted in July 2017. She’s also the founder of the Exhibit Marketers Café, an online education community. Opinions are her own.


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