I’m always amazed by the amount of money companies are willing to spend on their trade show booth without any prior planning or strategizing to maximize their ROI. Many company representatives attend trade shows without determining how they are going to reach their business's target market amongst the thousands of attendees wandering the trade show floor. That's just as ridiculous as betting thousands of dollars that you'll ace a test without even studying! Based on my experience, about 90% of companies make this fatal trade show error, whether they are a small business or a company that amasses $50 million in sales.
I’ve previously written about trade show planning and helpful tips on how to maximize your trade show ROI, but today I'm focusing on the basics of designing a booth that attracts your ideal customer, because without the brawn of design, how are you going to engage the brains that really matter to your business?
1. Trade show booth designs begin with your buyer persona.
In order to plan a trade show booth that attracts your ideal customers, you must first walk a mile in their shoes. The inbound marketing methodology focuses on your developing buyer personas – creating your ideal customer. Think of it this way: your ideal customer is looking for help and you have the ability to help them overcome their challenges.
Think about the messaging and design of your trade show booth much like you would your website. In fact, your booth is your homepage of the trade show, and if the visitor doesn't understand what they can gain from your products or services, they are most likely going to crawl past your booth with a blank stare.
Let's call it the trade show bounce rate.
Your goal in designing an effective booth should be to create messaging and imagery that your ideal customers identify with. Your booth design should resonate with your buyer personas by being a solution to their pain points or a means of achieving & their goals.
A few tips for creating buyer personas:
- Identify your ideal customers' challenges, pain points, and goals. How can your company help?
- Consider their demographic and biographic traits. Are your ideal buyers male or female? What is their typical age?
- Think about the language your customers would use to describe what your company does.
- Pinpoint which stage of the buyer's journey these trade show attendees will be in. Will they be finding out about your company for the first time, or is it likely that they already know your brand?
Want to get serious about developing buyer personas? Download our free eBook Buyer Personas 101: Creating Your Ideal Customer Profile.
2. Design for your buyer persona.
Let me show you a real life example. Our client, FireProTec, decided to refresh their trade show booth design before a recent event. They first established a buyer persona by defining HR Helen, their ideal customer. To bring HR Helen to life and better understand her pain points and goals, FireProTec pinpointed some characteristics that define HR Helen as an ideal customer. At her job, Helen is responsible for confirming that her company is safety compliant and that all employees are properly trained in case of a fire. To further situate Helen in reality, FireProTec identified some questions HR Helen may have:
FireProTec’s trade show exhibit was intentionally designed to include an image of HR Helen so ideal customers could immediately identify with the hands-on training they would be participating in. The supporting graphics demonstrate overall fire safety training within a controlled environment, which is exactly what Helen is looking for. Therefore, the imagery resonates with the ideal customer by inspiring them to envision themselves and their employees in training.
This was the client's response to the new inbound trade show & booth:
“I was thoroughly impressed at the response I had at the latest show I attended at the Sheraton this past week. I usually attend several events a year, and I have never had people identify with my booth like I did at this one. I must have had thirty ‘Human Resource Helen’s’ walk up to the booth and ask me what I was representing. All of them looked like the photo…very impressive!”
Director of Business Development
FireProTec Fire & Safety
This was great news. Sometimes we lose sight of the purpose of our marketing because we are excited to share what we do and not why we do it. Today’s booths allow for multiple graphics so you can effectively tailor your messaging and imagery to the exact audience you want to do business with.
3. Know how to use your space.
Less is more. Remember, your overarching goal is to attract visitors to your booth. Many companies are insecure when it comes to marketing and feel they need to have as much information on the display and materials in the booth as possible. In reality, displaying too much information and overcrowding your booth can negatively impact visitors by overwhelming them after a long day of trade show chaos, according to Entrepreneur.com.
Again, put yourself in your ideal customers' shoes and consider your booth design from their perspective. Your value proposition or solutions to your persona's pain point should be the first message they see, rather than having to search through a mess of information to find what they need. Remember, you can always change out the cover with new messaging and graphics for different trade shows.
What should I take away from this?
Designing an inbound trade show booth show for your next event is essential because it will attract your ideal customers. Your buyer personas will be engaged in your message once they realize your company has the solutions to their pain points. However, sporting a remarkable booth design is only the beginning of what it takes to effectively market your company at a trade show. The design will do the initial work of attracting visitors, but from there on it is up to you to convert those ideal buyers into prospects, close them into new customers, and continuously delight when they become customers.
- Begin and end with your buyer persona in every aspect of your trade show marketing.
- Design your booth with your ideal customer in mind.
- Create messaging that is remarkable and connects with your personas. Think about how you can help them solve their problems.
- Keep it simple; less is more when it comes to a trade show display.
- It's easy to change the graphics and wrap for each trade show.
- Ask for a template from the manufacturer.
Below is a link to an original ebook we have written that will help you develop your buyer personas so you can experience the same results as FireProTech. I encourage you to read this ebook and contact me with any questions.