A trade show is a sea of opportunity. It’s a place where your company can meet with other businesses, interact with potential patrons, and build beneficial partnerships. However, to capitalize on these trade show opportunities, you need to do more than simply show up. You need to showcase your brand and set yourself apart from other attendees. When you stand out and invite people to join in, you have a much higher chance of converting with customers, potential sponsors, and anyone else who passes by your booth. This boosts business and gives your brand invaluable exposure.
Wondering how you can showcase your brand and stand out at your next trade show? Learn from the pros right here. In this guide, our event experts here at Extreme Canopy have compiled invaluable guidance from seasoned trade show attendees across a myriad of industries. Get tips from company founders, business analysts, public relations managers, and more — all designed to help you optimize opportunity at your next trade show. By the end of our guide, you’ll know exactly how to stand out with your branding and be ready to take any trade show by storm.
BRAND WHEREVER POSSIBLE (AND STAY CONSISTENT)
The first step to standing out with branded materials at your next trade show is simple: brand wherever possible. “Branded materials are the first point of interest when people are walking past the many booths in the aisle,” writes Ashley Lomelin, Public Relations Manager at Allegro, LLC, an online banking platform based in Los Angeles and New York. “Sure, you may color your booth with banners and products they can use on the showroom, but if you are already going to catch their eye, put your name on it so they can associate it with the booth they may want to visit later with more time.” Lomelin’s wisdom can be translated into a simple statement: your big visuals will help catch eyes, but your more detailed branding will build meaningful connections later on.
To be on the safe side, put your brand’s logo and colors on every major object at your booth. This includes your tent, your signs, your table covers, and your swag. Keandra Ward, a Strategic Business Analyst and Personal Development Strategist at Keystone Business Institute, advocates for staying consistent with your branding: “brand recognition is powered by brand consistency all of your marketing banners; signs, fliers, packaging and even your team’s attire should all represent the brand’s colors and design.” Make sure your branding is always visible, but don’t overdo it, as this can come across as sales-y to your patrons.
THE NEW GOLDEN RULE: KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
We all know the original golden rule: “treat others as you would like to be treated.” While this rule is all well and good, it can be upgraded to better apply to trade shows and other marketing scenarios. When trying to reach an audience, you need to put yourself inside of their heads, which may be different than your own personal head. Instead of treating your audience like you would like to be treated, treat your audience as they would like to be treated. In short: know your audience.
If you’re selling a product or service, chances are you already know a bit about your top consumers. “Create your marketing around them,” writes Keandra Ward. Once you know your target demographic, let them set the tone for your marketing. The same can be said for the trade show itself. Always try to keep your tone in line with the trade show you’re attending. Do research to learn which types of businesses and patrons will also be attending. Is the trade show historically more formal, or does it lean on the fun side? You always want to stand out, but you don’t want to strike the wrong tone, so assessing the atmosphere of your next trade show before attending can help you know your audience and hit a home run with your branding.
GET SMART WITH SIGNAGE: BE COLORFUL, LOUD, AND ENERGETIC
We started this guide by saying that a trade show is a sea of opportunity. It’s also a sea of competition. To stand out in this sea, you need to catch eyes and turn heads. Do this by being colorful, loud and energetic with your branding. Ashley Lomelin suggests standing out with “bright, branded banners and posters. They can announce your mission, certain benefits of your product, how you would like to connect with the specific audience from the conference,” and more. Not only do you want your signs to be noticeable — you want them to convey the right information. Help your potential patrons learn essential information about your brand in just a few short words or symbols without being boring. To keep things lively, you may even want to host activities to supplement the energy around your signage. “Be bold, fun and bring the energy back!” writes Keandra Ward. “When [event attendees] see your brand again their previous experience should elicit an emotional response.”
Also, consider investing in signage that booth visitors can take with them. Andrew Brown, Co-Owner of The Paper Bar Co., a luxury stationery company, writes that “smaller branded materials, such as pricing sheets and flyers, allow attendees to leave with information, even if they do not convert into a purchase.” This can help increase brand exposure and may lead to sales later on. (Learn more about the effectiveness of brochures in our final section below.)
WIN OVER FANS WITH SWAG
Everybody loves free swag. When you give away products and put your brand on them, everybody wins. Your patrons get free stuff, you gain a following, and your brand gets exposure. Ashley Lomelin suggests getting strategic with swag and satisfying the basic principles of supply and demand: “[If you are] showcasing at a sporting event or music fest, bring branded waters. [If you are] tabling at a conference, branded totes and chargers are your best friend.” Strategic items such as these help patrons satisfy short-term needs at the events themselves, increasing the likelihood of usage and brand recognition.
UTILIZE EMAIL AND SOCIAL MEDIA TO FIND MEANINGFUL LEADS AND BUILD TRUST
It’s no secret that online mediums such as email and social media are powerful tools for businesses. To get people to join your email list, follow you on social media, or simply visit your website, start by making your web presence known in person at your next trade show. Include hashtags, Instagram handles, email address and website URLs on your signs and swag. If possible, try to collect contact information to follow up on online leads. “Including branded email sign-up sheets is also a great way to increase brand trust, recognition, and engagement,” writes The Paper Bar Co. Co-Owner Andrew Brown. Just don’t forget to follow up on your leads once you have them!
DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF THE PRINTED BROCHURE (AND THE PERSONAL CONNECTION)
In today’s digital age, it can be easy to get caught up in the allure and versatility of tech-driven advertising mediums such as natural webpages, mobile apps, and omnipresent social media platforms. Though we’ve touched on the usefulness of these mediums in sections above, they aren’t the only powerful players in the advertising game. Long after your trade show has concluded — after you have packed up your tents, rolled up your banners, and put away any surplus swag — your visitors should still have something they can refer back to, something they can hold onto. The solution? A time-honored favorite: the branded brochure. See what Steve Vickers, Co-Founder of jigsaw puzzle manufacture Cloudberries, has to say about the effectiveness of the printed brochure:
“We’ve had potential customers contact us weeks (or even months!) after trade shows, based on the strength of our printed brochures. Even in 2019, this is a really important way to connect with those people who aren’t keen on stopping by to chat, or simply don’t have the time. But the brochure must embody your entire brand — it’s the one thing they’ll be looking at when they decide to get in touch.”
While a well-branded brochure can go a long way, it’s not the physical object that can prompt potential patrons to act well after the trade show . Other small branded items, such as sunglasses, bottle openers, water bottles and even pens can all prompt action — especially when paired with effective outreach. Listen to the story told by Sari Baez VP of Sales and Marketing:
“We made branded bottle openers and gave them out to every person that walked by our booth, with a specific focus on the dozen speakers we wanted to target. It sparked a conversation, and we were invited later on to a happy hour where they were all getting together later. As it turns out, with trade shows, the majority of work gets done at the bar. Years later, people still pull these bottle openers out of their pockets, with our branding still intact!”
With the right outreach (in this case, outreach at happy hour), even a branded bottle opener can lead to meaningful connections. Sari Baez’s story encapsulates the two central components of effective trade show attendance. First, there’s great branding. Second, there’s branding backed up by a personal component: by meaningful outreach conducted by people. Together, these principles make a winning combination that can lead to incredible results at any trade show.
LEARN MORE AND BUILD YOUR BRAND WITH OUR TEAM AT EXTREME CANOPY
Want to learn more about how to stand out with branded materials at your next trade show? Our team at Extreme Canopy is here to help. Contact us to receive expert advice from our event experts and have your branding questions answered. Also, be sure to check out our extensive selection of industry-leading event products — including tents, banners, and flags — custom-manufactured for authentic branding and exceptional quality. Explore our website to learn more, and build your brand with our team today!