Showing Big in a Small Booth

Have a good show!Sometimes, showing from a 20' x 10' booth or smaller can seem discouraging or overwhelming. The big guys seem to get all the attention while smaller booths blend into the background. But the fact that you're not the biggest on the block doesn't mean you can't be effective. As Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop describes it, "If you think you're too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito."

The mosquito creates buzz. It’s persistent. It won’t be denied in spite of its diminutive size. So it should be with a small-booth exhibitor. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in perseverance. Let’s look at some possibilities.

Before the show
During the days and weeks prior to a show, everyone is on a level playing field. No one knows whether you’re a big exhibitor or small. Here’s where your ingenuity can sparkle. Remember, your primary goal at this stage is to make qualified visitors want to visit your booth. You can accomplish this several ways: build anticipation about an exciting new product or service, create suspense by promising something they may not expect, offer something free – a giveaway item, or better yet, a chance to win something of value. Once you’ve carefully chosen your tactic, making sure it’s related in some way to the benefit of your product, and start getting the word out.

You don’t need to spend large amounts of money to get the word out. Some techniques cost a few dollars, some are virtually cost-free, and reach just as many qualified prospects as flashy ads the big guys buy. Here are a few suggestions.

Publicity: Larger shows are covered by all the major publications that serve the market. Feed information to them. Send news releases about new developments and activities that will be going on in your booth. Remember, news releases must be informational, not just blatant advertisements for your brand. Make them interesting, lively, and informative. And remember to send them plenty early. Include photos if possible. Include them in a cover letter (or email) telling the editor what’s attached, and why it’s of legitimate importance to his/her readers.

Post Cards or Mailers: Think about interesting ways to build anticipation in one or more direct mailings targeting identified prospects. Often, we recommend up to three mailings, similarly designed, over a period of 4-6 weeks. Post cards are economical and easy for the prospect to read. A folded post card can include a tear-off reply card. On the other hand, a direct mailer in an envelope can contain more information, or build on a theme. For example, we’ve used a magnifying glass enclosed with the mailer, with a message about a solution the prospect had been “searching for.”

Email: Nearly cost-free, send one or two emails to your prospect list just before show time, to reinforce the message in the direct mailings. As much as possible, personalize the emails, and be careful to avoid techniques that may get the emails tagged as spam.

Invitations: consider special invitations to a demonstration, hospitality function or other attraction of your booth. Some companies have very successfully used hand-delivered invitations to preferred prospects. What a great way to get attention.

Display Design: always remember that your goal is NOT to be like the other booths around you. Your competition at most shows isn’t your business competitors, but the other small booths surrounding yours. To be visible in the honeycomb of small exhibitors, you need to be different. Interrupt the normal flow of attention with a large, 8’ color photo, either of satisfied customers enjoying the benefits of your products, or something stunning enough to stop them in their tracks.

During the show
Consider in advance what you’ll be doing within the booth to keep traffic flowing smoothly without losing qualified prospects. Remember, you can do virtually anything in a small booth that the big guys do in their large ones -- just not all at the same time.

Traffic Management: Consider your objectives. Do you want people to pass your booth in an orderly flow, pausing long enough to view your message, pick up some reference material, and move on? Or perhaps you want a few select prospects to step in to the booth, and spend time talking with one of your staffers. If so, have a small space designated for that conversation.

Product Demonstration: If you want to do product demonstrations, do them near the front of your booth. Do it often, and make the demonstration short – no more than 5-7 minutes. Here’s where individual talent can be useful – maybe a magician or juggler interacting with the crowd, delivering your product story while performing and without taking up much space.

Narrow Focus: To give your key message most of the play, feature only one or two products, not your entire product line. Focus your entire message on that product.

Floor Space: Use your precious booth space wisely. Use corner space for displaying product, and display them on pedestals. This leaves the middle of the floor open for interaction, and raises the importance of the products. Plus, enclosed pedestals can usually be used for storage of literature, giveaway items, etc.

Staffing: Make sure you have adequate staff on-hand at all times to handle traffic flow, without tripping over each other. One rule of thumb is one person per 50 square feet (two staffers per 10 x 10-foot booth).

Location: Certain booth locations can contribute to greater visibility or greater privacy for prospect meetings. If you select a booth on the corner of a crossing aisle, you’ll enjoy greater visibility than if you were embedded in a row of identical 10 x 10’s. On the other hand, choosing a booth in a corner can offer greater privacy if you hope to hold discussions with prospects in the booth. Another technique is to extend a wall forward from the back corners toward the aisle, creating a barrier between your booth and your neighbor. Be careful here, though. Most shows have strict guidelines on how high those walls may be, or how far forward they may extend.

After the show
Here is where you have the greatest of all opportunities to make your trade show investment pay off big time. Two words describe the way you should handle leads after the show is over, the exhibits are packed and shipped away, and the weary feet are rested. “Be relentless!” Research shows, believe it or not, that 80% of all trade show leads receive no follow-up at all. Create your follow up process before the show, and take no excuses until every lead has been qualified, every contact made, and every report submitted.

Have a good show!