Top 5 Tips to Create an Award Winning Trade Show Booth Without Spending a Fortune
Before founding Loanables, I founded a pet product company. (You can read all about it in this Harvard Business Review case study). I mostly sold wholesale – to pet boutiques and small pet stores as well as to retailers like Petco, Whole Foods, Pier One and Bed, Bath and Beyond. I never owned a storefront. The way I met buyers was at trade shows. I exhibited at 10-12 per year mostly in the United States but also in Europe. At several of these, we won “Best Trade Show Booth.”
Here are my Top 5 Tips to Create an Award Winning Trade Show Booth Without Spending a Fortune:
1. Be obsessively detail-oriented.
I sold bath products for dogs. I wanted people walking by my booth to immediately know what I sold. I had huge visuals of dogs in the bath. My entire booth looked like a bathroom. On the shelves with the products, I folded towels and lit candles. The small details really matter – they set the stage for buying. Watch this fascinating video on the Art of Pre-Suasion. Author “Robert Cialdini shares the psychology behind getting people to say yes.”
2. Don’t use traditional trade show booths.
Everyone will not agree on this, but I personally don’t like traditional trade show booths for two reasons: one, they are over-priced, and two, the majority of the exhibitors will use these which means you won’t stand out. The ones I’m referring to are the pop ups that come with a podium. I know they are easy to set up, but they are also boring!
I prefer to use furniture and make it less corporate and more inviting. You don’t have to spend a ton of money. In fact, you can save money compared to purchasing the pop up booth, which averages $1200 by the time you buy all the graphics for it. We bought inexpensive furniture from Ikea and dressed it up with decor that matched our products.
3. Invite customers into your booth.
You can invite customer to experience your booth with the design. Make sure you aren’t blocking customers with a table or podium. Have a reason for your customers to enter. For my pet product booth, we asked clients to come in, smell the different options, and then choose a free sample to take home. This allowed us to talk about the benefits of our product and engage with the customer on a personal level.
4. If you have a choice, find a rental company other than the one that is recommended in your exhibitor packet.
The rental companies in the exhibitor packets are typically very expensive. If you can find an outside rental company, it will will cost less, and you won’t be using the same, generic furniture that everyone else is using. Loanables can save you time on that sourcing, just email us at email@example.com when and where the show is and what you need to fill your booth!
Some trade shows venues require that you only rent from them. In that case, you can usually purchase shelves and other furniture from Ikea for less than the rental fee. Note: If you do choose to purchase instead of rent, donate to a charity afterwards so the furniture doesn’t end up at a landfill.
5. Dress the part.
Disney World refers to their employees as cast members because they are an integral part of the customer experience. I think think this is equally important at a trade show. Since we were selling bath products, one year we wore robes and another year we wore uniforms that looked like we worked at a spa. It was interesting, memorable and a conversation starter. Customers often referred to it long after the show was over. I’m pretty sure they didn’t remember what people were wearing at the other booths they visited. Again, it’s about immersing your customers into an experience. Make it enjoyable because let’s face it, trade show booths are often very boring.
I truly love talking to people about their businesses. Let me know what you’re doing, and I’d be happy to provide specific advice for your booth.