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How to Create the Perfect Trade Show Branding Experience

Whether you're headed to a regional trade show or rubbing elbows with big names at national (or even international) trade shows, every business wants the same thing—to stand out in the crowd, build their brand, and make the most of the time and investment required to participate. 

Trade shows are the ideal place to show experts and consumers in your industry what your business is all about. The trick to successful trade show branding is capturing your audience's attention in the few seconds it takes them to walk by your display. Having a consistent brand strategy and brand identity that is felt through every aspect of your booth design will make the biggest impact on anybody passing by or engaging with your business.

Here's a basic trade show branding marketing timeline and some expert tips from the brand strategists at Quill Creative Studio to help you get the most out of every trade show with good planning, a great marketing campaign, and savvy brand strategy.

Months before the trade show

The most important part of any trade show branding is PLANNING AHEAD. We mean way ahead. Set yourself up for success by giving yourself ample time to prepare every aspect of your trade show marketing and booth design so you're not scrambling to piece things together at the eleventh hour. Most large trade shows take a year or more of planning to come together, so if you're planning on bringing your A-game, your planning stages should occur months in advance.

If you've worked with a branding agency like Quill Creative to create your brand identity and put your brand strategy in place, you're already starting ahead of the game. Having clear and consistent branding already in place is half the battle when preparing for a trade show.

If you're struggling to come up with the right trade show branding, design, messaging, or materials to bring, reach out to your branding agency for help honing in on the exact messaging and vibe to bring to your trade show booth design in an effort to connect best with the audience in attendance.

At Quill, we frequently work with our clients to help them prepare for trade shows throughout the year as part of our regular brand management services. Our brand strategists and designers offer feedback on and help design collateral and promotional items, environmental display pieces, and messaging. Because of our large network of support partners, we can also connect you with the right people for specialized needs outside our studio in an effort to get the most out of your expo floor time.

How can a brand agency help you get ready for a trade show?

Preparing for a trade show can feel daunting. Working with your brand agency to help strategize and break down what materials you need to bring can take the pressure off and give you a clear plan of attack.

Remember not to overcomplicate things—your brand message should be simple and clear across every physical piece of collateral and visitor touch point. Anyone walking by your booth or picking up your materials should be able to enter your brand story in seven words or less and get a sense of your brand just by looking at the visuals on display.

The needs of a business will vary depending on the industry and the size of the trade show, but Quill can help by pointing you to the products and materials that make the most sense for your specific needs and budget.

If budget is a concern, even the simplest setups can pack a punch. Backdrop, table throw, banner, advertising flag—all these items can be executed for maximum impact on a minimum budget using consistent brand visuals and messaging. 

If you have a bigger budget, we'll always recommend going all out so you can be competitive with other businesses. Making your booth experience memorable for attendees can be the catalyst for creating lasting and lucrative business relationships.

What kind of collateral should you bring to a trade show?

Some of the most useful and impactful items that Quill can help you create and collect include:

  • table throws, banners, flags, pop-up displays, posters, and other signage & trade show displays
  • brochures, flyers, postcards, business cards
  • premium branded items like t-shirts, tote bags, and industry-relevant items

Remember that all items displayed or given away at your trade show booth should be an extension of your brand. Quill can help you pick out the promotional premiums that make sense for your business, so you're not just one more business handing out cheap pens and lanyards.

Days before the trade show

In the days leading up to the trade show, we recommend running targeted digital advertising campaigns centered around the people who will be at the trade show. It's worth it to set up geofenced ads around the expo area and nearby hotels to get your target audiences thinking about your booth ahead of the event. This also offers a great lead-capture opportunity before the trade show even begins.

By serving ads that direct trade show attendees to sign up for a time to speak to a consultant at your booth or enter some type of giveaway, you can collect information for future marketing and outreach campaigns. Your pre-show marketing should also include a social media campaign, email blasts, and personalized outreach to prospects you know you’ll see at the event.

During the trade show

This is your time to shine! Besides having readily available materials for interested attendees, there are three main areas you should focus on during a trade show—demonstrations, dedicated staff, and data capture.

1. Demonstrations during the trade show

Brochures and flyers can relay helpful information about your brand, but what will people really remember? Actual experiences are the most powerful when it comes to attracting people to your booth and brand building. What do you think people at Wondercon 2018 remembered most about visiting the board game maker Exploding Kitten's booth—the flyer they got or the interactive vending machine puppet show?

Your brand agency can offer ongoing strategy suggestions for demonstrating what you do most effectively. This could be interactive booth games, new product launches, product demonstrations—anything that offers visitors to your exhibition booth an immersive and memorable experience.

2. Dedicated staff

Even the best collateral and demonstrations won't add up to much without a dedicated group running your booth. Establish a reliable team of staff who are passionate about your brand early on, and make sure everyone fully understands their role during the day.

There should be no confusion about who is setting up materials, who is greeting guests, who is posting to social media, who is running demos, and who is fielding customer questions. Booth staff should also have a cohesive look with branded attire so there's no doubt about who's running the booth when people approach.

3. Data capture of leads generated

Don't leave the trade show without valuable customer information from your leads generated! A trade show is a fantastic place to pick up new leads for future outreach, but you have to give people a reason to give you their information.

Giveaways are always popular, but capturing customer data can be as simple as signing up for a newsletter, discount, or free PDF guide. However, if you decide to capture customer data, make sure to frame the experience in a way that is valuable for the customer and aligns with your brand-building experience.

After the trade show

The show might be over, but you're not done yet! The days and weeks after a trade show are a great opportunity to go the extra mile with outreach to the people who gave you their information. Even something as simple as sending a personalized email thanking them for stopping by and referencing one of the talking points you covered can convey that your brand is professional, courteous, and interested in continuing to nurture the relationship.

Many businesses like to go the extra mile with "desk drops" for top-tier prospects or partners to get their attention and keep your business top of mind. Desk drops are physical items directly sent to a person. They can include things like a curated box of brand-appropriate premium items or a folder of materials that reinforce the brand message and build on the relationship with that person. Afterward, someone from your business should do a follow-up to confirm the desk drop has been received and work to foster a deeper connection.

Work with Quill Creative Studio for the best trade show branding experience

Quill has been lucky to work on many creative elements for trade shows across a variety of industries. We love helping our clients with creative desk drops, unique trade show displays, fun demonstrations, and more!

If you want to knock your next trade show out of the park, let's chat.