By Michael McMahon
For those in the apparel industry, participation in trade shows is a key component of marketing efforts – after all, the apparel industry is all about look and feel and what better place to show off your wares than in a stylized exhibit.
There are many steps on the road to bringing your branded environment to that final floor presentation; the journey is well worth the time and expense when the exhibit ultimately brings your story to life and trade show attendees are engaged and motivated to learn more.
Decide why participation in this specific trade show is important to you: Reasons might include brand awareness, building pipeline opportunities to new prospects and supporting your industry and/or other partnering companies.
Determine how to measure success: The number of visitors to your exhibit, educational or interactive participation by prospects and actual sales tied to exhibit participation are all elements to quantify success.
Consider the size and location for your exhibit: Take into account the size of your competitors’ exhibit space and determine its importance in respect to success with your prospects; then evaluate your location and judge its advantages and disadvantages.
Consult with all participants to gain early support: Determine key trade show players, identify those elements that translate into success for them on the show floor and begin to create tactical objectives to support your strategic goals for the event.
Determine or evaluate your budget against the strategic requirements of the show: Budget assessment may lead to a rollback of some expectations; however you can maximize your chances to succeed by utilizing a few well-executed tactics versus under funding a broad effort.
Develop a strong relationship with your exhibit partner: - once preliminary considerations have been taken into account, design elements can begin. Creating a strong partnership with your exhibit provider is the foundation of exhibit triumph, so it’s imperative to find a like-minded exhibit design partner – one who is not only loyal to your vision, but who provides a level of service and attention that best matches the way you like to work.
Your exhibit design partner should provide you with a primary contact – one person through whom every single piece of information passes. Planning for a successful trade show can seem a bit like controlled chaos. There are hundreds of moving parts and they all need to come together smoothly. From design to production, shipping, set up, tear down and storage, nothing can be left to chance.
Building your exhibit: - a number of choices exist when creating an exhibit solution on-brand. Whether selecting a new custom exhibit property or a custom turnkey rental solution, this is the shining opportunity to bring it all together. And remember; leverage your exhibit partner’s experience to help bring your vision to the show floor.
For example, Hill & Partners brought client company SIGG to a recent show with a streamlined custom rental property featuring a diverse use of materials, including an aluminum backdrop, textured panels and illuminated shelving that held rows of SIGG’s signature spun aluminum reusable bottles.
Another “stand-out” method is one that Hill & Partners created for client company Bullhorn. The company’s desire to be prominent among competitors at the show and convey a sense of “living in Bullhorn” gave us a unique opportunity to design an exhibit distinctive to the Bullhorn brand – so we created an internally lit bullhorn made out of fabric as the focal point. The booth not only portrayed the client’s desired concept but was also visible from all areas of the tradeshow floor, glowing high above the other exhibits.
Beyond the exhibit, it’s wise to develop a relationship with the show organizer and evaluate all opportunities they provide to enhance your presence at the show, such as: new apparel line showcase; sponsorship opportunities; potential speaking engagements at conference programs; press room activities.
And don’t lose sight of post show communications: – anything worth doing is worth talking about. Inform your network about the success of the event and follow up with partners and prospects met at the show. And always solicit feedback and record that information for future trade show efforts.
Clear and honest communication of objectives, making best use of available resources and maintaining a strong partnership with your exhibit provider will lead to best results on the show floor.
Michael McMahon is CEO of Hill & Partners, a firm that specializes in branded environments and trade show exhibits. 617-471-7990.