Face-to-face marketing has always been a vital aspect for companies who spend a significant portion of their marketing budget on trade shows. The obstacles exhibitors need to overcome today are more complex than they were when I joined the industry 15 years ago. In my career, I have attended countless trade shows and each year I watch trends come and go.
Originally, trade shows were used as the big reveal to showcase new products, services, and technologies. Now, our society is so overly connected that buyers are attending shows with way more knowledge than they ever had before. Exhibitors should consider the following evolving areas in trade shows to ensure they are getting the best strategic results from their face-to-face marketing spend.
The Gamification Hook
In order to leave a lasting impression, exhibitors are including game-like elements or 'gamification' into their booths. These elements aren't quickly thrown together. They are preconceived elements that provide memorable, personalized experiences for each attendee.
Product and service demos have always been incorporated into trade show booths. With the evolution of technology, demos have progressed from tablet and touch screens to 3D printing, augmented reality, and holograms. Exhibitors now need a 'hook' to get attendees into their booth and keep them engaged from the moment they enter to the moment they leave.
The Rental Big Bang
Rental wasn't always the popular option, but the smaller price point allows exhibitors to manage their budget and provides the flexibility to keep a booth continuously looking fresh from year-to-year.
More companies are considering rentals because it is a cost-effective alternative to purchasing their own booth and they won't be stuck with the same configuration. Typically, most rental booths will be in some sort of extrusion-based system often called "sticks and fabric." This configuration will often weigh less than a custom booth, saving money on material handling and I&D costs. The money an exhibitor saves from utilizing rental can go towards other aspects of their marketing budget and booth, such as gamification elements, promotions, and even afterhours hospitality events.
Post Show Floor Events
Back in the day, exhibitors would strictly use their booths to go to market and engage with buyers. Very rarely would companies host hospitality events after the show floor closed. Now, companies will exhibit at a show and then host an afterhours event. This is especially true in the more popular cities, such as Chicago, Las Vegas, and Orlando where there are many options for desired venues.
It seems the new norm for exhibitors is to set aside a portion of their budget to book an amazing venue, caterer, and entertainment to get a few additional hours of one-on-one time with key prospects and clients. In this type of setting, exhibitors have the ability to develop those relationships. Some have even downsized their show floor presence and instead focus on hosting an after-hours event. Now, some exhibit houses even manage these events for their clients in conjunction with handling their show floor presence.
Speed to Market
Demand for services in the trade show industry has significantly increased over the last 15 years, and speed to market is a critical element to exhibiting companies. Exhibit houses used to have anywhere from 12-to-20 weeks from initial discovery with a client to completion of a booth on the show floor. Now, we are lucky to get eight weeks. Clients are coming to exhibit houses with less and less time and often do not sign contracts until the last minute.
It's critical for exhibit houses to meet the quick turnaround needs in the marketplace. What's even more important is creating an internal culture that can handle those pressures and be able to react proactively to hit client timelines.
Exhibit Costs on the Rise
It's natural to experience an increase in cost over time, however, according to a case study cited by the Advocacy Committee of the Exhibit and Event Marketers Association (E2MA), between 1996 and 2013 installation and dismantle labor costs increased by 21 percent and material handling (drayage) increased by 257 percent.
These cost increases make it hard for exhibitors to think outside the box and customize their booth with experiential elements. They tend to struggle with whether adding these elements will greatly increase costs, even though it could add a great deal of engagement to their booth. While it might be impossible to fully predict drayage rates, there are ways to alleviate the struggle, such as pairing with an exhibit house that can mitigate the costs.
Unfortunately, it's commonplace for exhibitors to be billed 15-to-20 percent after the show on time and materials reconciliation. One of TradeTec's best value propositions is our promise of "No Post Show Billing." We promise one single estimate and invoice for union install and dismantle (I&D) and round trip freight. Exhibitors really appreciate peace of mind knowing there won't be surprise bills after the show that can really deal a blow to their budget.
Partnerships are Key
I've experienced a lot of trends come and go during my time in the industry. What stands the test of time is the need for true partnership between companies and their exhibit houses. In order to achieve success at a trade show, exhibitors need to work closely with an exhibit house that fully understands their unique goals and can create a custom booth and personalized attendee experience, but also handle I&D logistics and additional needs like events and pre/post-show marketing.
To learn how TradeTec can reduce stress and anxiety in your trade show program with our fixed cost model, email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Troy Trice, Director of Marketing
email@example.com | 630-376-1532
Troy Trice, President, has been in the trade event industry since 2001. He became General Manager and co-owner of TradeTec in 2010. His experience in sales has helped him understand the obstacles and areas of focus to be successful within this industry. He is passionate about sales and advancing opportunities, building new relationships, and going above and beyond for clients. Troy is dependable, organized, and a problem solver. As President, Troy oversees all operations, support, and services.
Founded in 1999, TradeTec Skyline produces innovative trade show exhibits with unmatched customer service and a promise of NO POST SHOW BILLING for clients. As a Skyline Elite Partner, TradeTec offers the highest quality modular exhibits as well as custom and hybrid solutions. Located just west of Chicago, TradeTec has served over 6,000 clients and completed over 35,000 projects worldwide. They currently manage over 3,500 events each year. Learn more at ttchicago.com.