Why Most Trade Show Displays Fail (and How to Succeed)

How to Make a Better Trade Show Display

Why Most Trade Show Displays Fail and How to Succeed

Trade shows are incredibly valuable opportunities to promote your brand, meet new clients, and learn what your competitors in the industry are doing. Accordingly, it’s possible for them to have an enormous return on investment (ROI).

But most businesses don’t see an impressive ROI. In fact, many businesses end up losing money, in part because of their display efforts. If your display isn’t on point, your brand visibility and foot traffic could be dramatically reduced, cutting your potential return in half. Even if you are successful at your trade show, your display could be holding you back in some key way, compromising your overall ROI.

So why is it that most trade show displays fail, and what steps can you take to succeed?

Defining “Success” With Trade Show Displays

Different companies may have different goals when it comes to trade shows, so it’s important to recognize which goals are most important to you. Generally, that boils down to a handful of “big picture” targets, including:

  • Getting more leads/prospects/clients. The biggest goal for many trade show attendees is getting leads, prospects, or new customers from the experience. You may do this by striking up conversations with passersby, or by collecting information through some secondary means.
  • Earning more brand recognition. Brand awareness is huge. In some ways, you can think of your trade show attendance as a giant advertisement, showing your brand to new people and hoping they remember you when they have a need you can fill.
  • Retaining and improving customer relationships. This is also an opportunity to improve your relationship with your current customers, showing appreciation and giving them a first look at your latest products and services.

Accordingly, your display should accomplish some combination of the following goals:

  • Capture attention. If you aren’t getting seen or noticed by attendees, you won’t be able to achieve any high-level goal. There are a few dimensions to this, including having a display that’s hard to ignore and creating one that’s unique from your competitors.
  • Attract foot traffic. You want people to visit your booth, which means you’ll need to work hard to make your booth seem worth visiting. If people don’t have a reason to walk by or stick around, you’ll find it hard to succeed.
  • Maintain interest. Once people are at your booth, how are you going to keep them there? Most trade show displays should work actively to keep your visitors’ attention.
  • Make the brand visible. Modular trade show displays do a great job of making your brand visible, which is essential if you want to build brand awareness or appeal to your current customer base. It should be obvious which company is hosting this booth.
  • Make the brand memorable. Will people remember your brand or your display after they continue walking to other booths? You need to have something both compelling and memorable if you want to stick in their minds for longer than a few minutes.
  • Drive action. Ideally, your trade show display will also have some way to drive action from your visitors and participants. Sometimes, that means filling out a card with their personal information. Other times, that means talking to one of your representatives. Either way, a “good” trade show display will facilitate that action.

Failure Points for Trade Show Displays

Let’s look at some of the biggest ways that trade show displays fail:

  • Brands don’t know what goals they’re trying to achieve. If you don’t know what you’re after, it’s going to be exceedingly hard to achieve it. Too many brands go into trade shows with the general goal of “marketing,” without a formal action plan or a specific goal of what they’re hoping to get out of it. Without this formal plan in place, you won’t be able to design or place your display in a way that leads you to your objectives, nor will you have a basis to determine whether or not you were truly effective.
  • Brands invest too little. As a general rule, in the trade show display world, you get what you pay for. If you have a razor-thin budget, you can generally expect inferior products, which may look cheap or functionally fail when you get to your trade show. Keep in mind you’ll need to invest in your display, both with money and with time, if you want to succeed.
  • Brands do the same thing as everyone else. Too many brands try to follow a basic recipe for success, which means they don’t take risks, they don’t spend much time brainstorming, and they end up following a formula. That formula can net you a decent return, but it won’t help you stand out from your competition, and it won’t help you excel. You need to be unique in at least one key way to be memorable.
  • Brands have no analysis or testing phase. It’s hard to tell exactly how successful your strategy is going to be. That’s why it’s important to have a testing phase. For some brands, that might mean running some AB tests with different display ideas before the trade show itself, gathering information on customer preferences. For others, that might mean making detailed measurements at the trade show itself, enabling them to analyze their performance and improve it in future iterations.

How to Succeed

There is no surefire recipe for trade show success, but there are a handful of high-level approaches that can greatly increase your chances of a positive ROI. First, you need to be as proactive as possible, researching your target demographics and how this particular trade show is going to work. You also need to spend time defining your goals and coming up with a formal plan for how to achieve them, specifically. Second, you need to be willing to invest and think outside the box; the more you put into this, the more you’re going to get out of it. Finally, spend some time measuring and evaluating your performance, so you can constantly improve.

When you’re ready to get serious about your next trade show display, contact the experts at Poster Garden. We’ll help you figure out which products are best for your brand, and help you brainstorm a display that can practically guara

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