The digital revolution is here to stay, but does digital marketing mean the end to events like in-person trade shows? Absolutely not.
Online sales and digital trade shows have been a game changer, but they haven’t diminished the importance of building face-to-face relationships and allowing buyers to view your products in person.
Admittedly, trade shows are notorious for being expensive. With registration fees, space rental, promotional items and giveaways, and booth design and development, the only way to ensure you see a return on your investment is to do it the right way from the start.
To help, we’ve listed our tips and tricks for everything from pre-show preparation to booth layouts and after-show essentials.
To get an overview of how these shows help brands like yours, watch this video of MAGIC Las Vegas, the world’s largest fashion marketplace trade show.
Setting Goals & Budget
Just like any other business decision, diving into trade show marketing starts with an objective. What do you want to achieve by the end of it all? To start you thinking, here are eight of the most common goals for trade show exhibits:
- Raise awareness of your brand
- Showcase new products
- Generate leads
- Acquire direct sales
- Meet potential partners
- Reinforce your industry position
- Observe and analyze competitors
- Stay updated on industry trends and market opportunities
- Meet current buyers in person to further your relationship
Defining your objectives makes strategizing much easier and prevents wasting your resources.
Speaking of resources, the next step is to develop a budget estimate. Start with your most important or largest costs, and work from there. Research the upcoming trade show’s registration fees, available packages, and booth size and design limitations.
Prepare the Right Collateral
Marketing and promotional materials are as important as your booth. You want to position your brand as an industry authority, so it is crucial to have high-quality materials that people can view and take home.
Let’s start with the basics:
We can’t overstate the importance of business cards for trade shows. This little piece of collateral is essential in building your brand’s first impression, not just during trade shows but in any physical location where you’re introducing yourself and the company you represent.
Business cards should follow brand design (logo, colors, and feel). With today’s competitive landscape, we suggest researching innovative business card designs that make an impression and encourage further inquiry.
Your business card should include the following:
- Company name
- Cardholder’s name and title
- Contact number
- Email address
- Website URL
- Social media icons
- Address (if you have a brick-and-mortar location)
Want to take it one step further and go digital? Create a digital business card that’s accessible via QR code!
If the business card is the first impression, the company profile is the first date.
Whether it’s in the form of a brochure or a booklet, a company profile should give your market or potential partner a concise overview of your fashion retail business. it should tell your brand’s story, what it stands for, and what types of products it offers. Design it with branding in mind.
If you don’t want to hand out your profile directly, consider putting it inside a branded tote bag with other trade show giveaways!
Your products are always the highlight of your booth. In-person shows are a great opportunity to showcase your brand’s unique offering.
Display your products to catch the attention of buyers walking past, including hanging some from the top of your booth’s walls. You also can get creative with racks and shelving to make sure that your products are easy to see and reach. If you sell clothing, ensure every piece is clean and pressed.
Whether digital or on paper, make sure you have sign-up sheets at the ready. Don’t miss out on leads because you didn’t get a buyer’s contact information. We recommend using an online form and getting a name, company, email, and phone number.
Laptops or Tablets
Laptops or tablets are a must-have. Not only are they useful for inputting new contacts, but they also allow your buyers to view more of your brand than just the product samples.
We recommend having your website and a digital line sheet or lookbook ready for any buyer who wants to learn more. More about line sheets, next.
Line Sheets or Lookbooks
Digital line sheets, or lookbooks as they’re often called, kill two birds with one stone. They display all your collection’s products in one place, so buyers can browse your entire collection and place orders with just their fingertips.
Brandboom’s digital line sheets have quickly become the industry standard. Trade show buyers often ask brands for their Brandboom link, so creating your line sheet ahead of the show allows buyers to purchase in a familiar way. It’s a great way to turn leads into customers right there at the show.
You can also email buyers your line sheet link, giving them an easy way to browse your products and place orders once the show has ended.
Everyone loves free stuff! You can do pens, water bottles, keychains, or, if you have the budget, something fancier. When planning your giveaway items, brand them! We’d personally recommend tote bags. Buyers will use it to hold your company’s business cards or profile, while the bags show off your brand as they walk around the show.
Creative Ways to Connect with Buyers
The planning phase is the time to get creative! Think about what fun elements you can use to expand your reach at the show and beyond. Here are a few of our favorite ideas:
- Raffle/Contest: Hold a raffle where the entry is their business card! You’ll gather contacts in no time.
- Hashtag: Create a hashtag for your brand at the show! Have people tag your brand on social media to expand your brand visibility.
- Treats: If you’re allowed to bring food for others, set up snacks for those visiting your booth. People flock to free food.
Inform Your Buyers about the Trade Show
Once you have the trade show dates locked in, give your buyers and potential buyers a heads up. Post the information on your website, send out an email blast, post it on social media, and maybe run a short paid ad campaign. Make sure to include the trade show name, location, date, and your booth number so they can find you!
How to Design a Trade Show Booth
Now that your initial planning is well on its way, it’s time to move on to booth preparation!
Standard Booth Dimensions and Layout
There are four standard booth dimensions regardless of industry: linear, perimeter, peninsula, and island. Before you start preparing your booth design, it’s important to consider the booth dimensions and limitations you’ll be working with, described below.
Also known as “in-line” booths, the linear booth is the most common.
These booths are in a straight line, meaning neighboring exhibitors are side by side, and only one side of the booth is open to an aisle. The exception is linear booths located on corners, which have sides open to two aisles.
Linear booths are usually 10’ wide, 10’ deep, and 8’ high. Since this type of booth requires sharing a wall with neighboring exhibitors, signs above the wall and canopies are usually not allowed.
A perimeter booth is similar to a linear booth, with two exceptions. First, instead of another exhibitor behind you, these booths are backed against the “perimeter” wall of the exhibit floor. Secondly, the maximum height can go up to 12’.
Just like linear booths, using hanging signs and canopies is prohibited.
Commonly composed of about four booths, the peninsula booth features much larger dimensions, and three sides are exposed to aisles. They are required to have back walls that are free of logos or advertisements.
Peninsula Booths are usually 20’ wide and 20’ deep. If they back up to linear booths, their height is restricted to up to 5’ from either side aisle. The center of the back wall can go as high as 20’.
Last but not least is the island booth. This layout features all four sides of the booth open to aisles.
This type of booth is normally 20’ by 20’ and is a favorite among exhibitors because the entirety of the space can be used to the maximum allowable height (from 16’ to 20’). Canopies and hanging signs are permitted.
Each booth type has pros and cons in terms of its overall size (which determines how much product you can show), placement on the show floor (which affects the amount of exposure to buyers walking the floor), signage limitations, and of course, cost.
Maximizing and Designing Your Booth Space
Your booth display acts as your storefront for the duration of the trade show, so it’s important you maximize all available space. The goal is to showcase your brand and products without making the space too crowded for attendees.
Signage helps solve the biggest problem of participating in a trade show: catching the attention of the buyers. Depending on your budget, signage could include a big banner, a neon sign, or something more elaborate, as pictured below.
Regardless of the type of signs you choose, ensure they are placed in visible areas where they can be read from a distance.
Ideal product presentation largely depends on the booth type and the products you sell.
If you have a standard linear/perimeter booth and sell apparel, then hanging racks would be the best approach. This layout allows attendees to browse through your products without feeling too congested in the space. If you sell accessories or footwear, include shelving to display them.
Have a small, tall table ready to serve as the place for buyers to purchase, exchange contact information, or view your line sheets. If you want a mannequin, use only one.
Larger booths offer more design freedom. Some fashion retail exhibitors use glass walls to make their booth resemble their storefront, while others use the open space to display 5-10 mannequins.
We can’t say it enough: Take branding seriously. This doesn’t mean just placing your logos everywhere. You want buyers to get a good feel for your brand when they’re at your booth. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
For example, if your clothing line is boho womenswear, design your booth to represent boho culture. Use feathers, colorful rugs, fake grass for flooring, and other earthy elements. Even from afar, trade show attendees should immediately get an idea of your brand’s look and feel.
Lighting and Wall Decor
Lighting and walls are the two most commonly neglected booth parts, despite having such a big impact on the space. Let’s look at lighting and wall decor that can take your booth to the next level.
Booth Display Lighting Ideas
There are two main ways to use lighting at a trade show:
- As an attraction to entice attendees to visit. Examples: Neon/LED signs, moving lights, and uplights.
- As accents to highlight the most important elements of your booth. For example, spotlights can direct eyes toward the products you want to highlight.
Booth Display Walls Ideas
If you aren’t permitted to hang signs or canopies, and you have enough money in the budget, consider going digital. Portable projectors or large flat-screen televisions can display your logo, graphics, or videos (such as a runway show). Digital provides more flexibility, and the movement will always draw eyes.
If digital’s not in the cards, you still don’t have to limit yourself to just banners and signs. Get creative by using an Instagram Wall! Designate a section of your booth for taking photos in front of a cool background, and people will stop by all day! People love to take photos in front of fun backgrounds and post them on Instagram.
We’d recommend a wall with fake greenery, a fun play on words, or a solid color or ombre background (no pattern). And, of course, your brand name should be visible – make sure it’s not hidden behind the buyers’ heads. This way, your brand visibility continues on their social media feeds once the show is over.
Pro tip: Make sure the lighting is sufficiently even and bright so that people are happy with their photos!
Fun & Games
Research the culture of the trade show. If it’s on the casual side, use games or something unexpected to attract buyers and keep them at your booth! Games could include Jumbo Connect 4, a pong table, etc. We’ve even seen live animals that are related to a brand displayed at their booth. Not surprisingly, it was a very popular booth!
As always, check on the rules and regulations for the trade show you’re attending beforehand.
One last note: The benefits of trade shows don’t end on the closing day! It may sound obvious, but make sure to follow through with your leads! Send your line sheet to new contacts so they can place orders. You can even send them an extra discount to thank them for visiting your booth.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed about creating a line sheet or managing orders from the show, we’ve got you covered. Brandboom lets you quickly create beautiful digital line sheets to share with buyers and offers easy, end-to-end inventory and order management.
We hope these tips help you have fun and succeed at your next trade show!