Your Primary Message Matters: You Can’t Close a Deal Until They Stop at Your Booth

5 03 2015

For those of you attending a trade show this spring or considering it in the near future, this blog is a must read.  It was originally ran in Licensing Expo’s email newsletter, but I felt it was such an important message that I didn’t want my blog audience to miss out.  

As you know, the ultimate goal of being an exhibitor at a trade show is to create income (and potentially great income) through the generation of agreements, deals and alliances. Therefore, one of the most important elements of your trade show booth is to clearly impart your brand message to potential clients, licensees and other show prospects.

We do this through logos, images and words (graphics, photos, art, characters, headlines, bullets, testimonials, etc.), as well as by making sure that the overall style of your booth (colors, design, furniture, music, lighting, etc.) successfully represents your property or brand.

Rinekwall Won Licensing Expo's 2014 'One to Watch' Contest

Rinekwall Won Licensing Expo’s 2014 ‘One to Watch’ Contest

It is also essential that you develop a well-trained and fully prepared staff. They need to be friendly and approachable, while at the same time exhibiting consistent professionalism, knowledge and sincere interest in both your property and whomever they are speaking with. Remember, you never know who you are talking to.

However, in my 20 years of attending countless trade shows, I have found that one of the biggest mistakes properties and artists make is not being very specific and clear in who they are, what their business is and what they do. This primary message is vital to everything you are trying to accomplish at the show. It is best expressed as the first and most prominent visual communication of your booth, and it must be designed to quickly catch the eye of your target attendees. No pressure, but the reality is, you only have about 2-3 seconds to capture their attention.

I can’t tell you how many times I have walked past a lovely booth, complete with graphics, flowers and great attention to detail, but their primary message was left unclear. Who and what they were, as well as what they were offering me was not easily understandable, so I walked right on by without a second thought.

I just have to say directly that it’s not my (or anyone else’s) job to try to figure out what you do. Those passing by your booth want and need to be able to rapidly obtain your information—before committing to stopping—and it’s entirely up to you to provide it!

It’s not that complicated or difficult to create an awesome booth which gets you plenty of attention and deals. It simply takes laser focus.

A clear branding message in your booth should include the following information, woven into an understandable and exciting display:
1) Primary objective
2) Who you are
3) What you do and offer
4) Who you want to reach

Zoonicorn's Booth at Toy Fair 2015, NYC

Zoonicorn’s Booth at Toy Fair 2015, NYC

Primary objective
In the initial planning stages, I suggest you decide what your specific goals and priorities are going to be and what exactly you are attempting to accomplish through attending the trade show. Then make sure that those points are adequately expressed in your overall vision of the booth AND precisely communicated.

To make this happen, think about all the reasons you originally chose to attend the trade show and write a list of the goals you want to achieve. The primary objective for you or your company should be brief and straight-forward, such as: ‘Get a television deal.’ or ‘Secure a licensing agent.’ Whatever it is, be specific and certain of your intentions and what you are investing your time, money, and efforts in.

Secondly, make sure you are willing to modify your goals, if necessary, so that they meet your needs, as well as the needs of potential clients and the realities of the marketplace. Remember you are trying to create a win-win situation; most deals are compromises between the creator and manufacturer or producer.

Then, stay focused and follow your plan. For example, don’t spend the majority of your budget and efforts on a smaller niche markets, rather than your largest potential. But also remember; never alienate anyone because you never know when or where the next big deal is going to come from.

Rarely would it be appropriate to simply write your primary objectives on your trade show booth walls. You need to know what they are, so you articulate them concisely within your overall communication. I think that successful communication means weaving your goals into the messages of ‘who you are,’ ‘what you do and have’ and ‘who you want to reach.’

Who you are
All booths need signage that is visible, readable and unmistakably identifiable, while including your business name, property name and company logo.

As a general rule, your brand should be prominently displayed and must be large enough to be read from across the aisle, as well as from all directions approaching your booth. Central art and images need to be able to be seen, AND READ, when casually walking down the aisle from at least 10-20 feet away.

If you have more than one property, then they each need their own prominent signage. Make sure you get a large enough booth to do justice to your multiple properties and concepts. You cannot do a great job of presenting, if you are crammed for space. In the trade show booth world, bigger is often better.

Launch Pad Booths, photo by Licensing Expo 2014

Launch Pad Booths, photo by Licensing Expo 2014

What you do and offer
No matter how big it is (or isn’t), your booth walls simply will not hold every tidbit of information you want to present to passersby. However, leaving folks confused as to what you do, and have to offer, is not a strong branding play. Somehow exactly what you have available to license needs to be communicated in words and images. Put the extra information and details in your leave-behind brochure.

As you look at your booth design, ask yourself if it is clear enough for a novice, or a person who is unfamiliar with your company and concept, to describe accurately what it is you are offering. I think they will be able to identify your purpose, if you create and advertise answers to these following four questions in your booth display:
What’s the concept?
What type of property is it?
What kind of audience reach do you have?
And most importantly…
What already exists that can be licensed immediately?

Many booths don’t present an easily understandable account of what they actually have to license: cartoons, a story, individual pieces of art, art collections, book series, or television concept. Don’t be one of them.

Also, make sure there is breathing room around your logo, words, wall art and characters, so that the messages are not jumbled and confused. If your running out of space and your information is getting too cluttered, either enlarge the booth, or move part of your message to your printed materials or multimedia presentation. Again, make sure all your visuals are consistent, well-defined and readable.

Who you want to reach
Lastly, and I cannot express the importance of this enough, you need to communicate quickly and clearly your message of who you want to do business with, to all those passing by your booth. This is the primary point of this article and, in my opinion, the most-often overlooked item in trade show booths today!

Each booth at a trade show has two target audiences to identify: 1) the consumer and 2) the trade customer. If your consumer audience is girls 5-8/K-2nd grade, then say so. Then you also need to identify what trade customer you are looking for, such as agents, XYZ-type of manufacturers, producers or publishers.

For example, if you are a new exhibitor looking for a reputable licensing agent, then make sure others know it. If you are an established company looking for appropriate new artists, then post it. Maybe you are a book-based property looking for television agents, producers and networks, then display that specific need.

In conclusion

Making sure that you have established your primary objective and unmistakably communicated who you are, what you do, what you offer and who you want to reach, will set the stage for an excellent and profitable trade event. Having covered these essential communication goals, you can now focus on the finer details and design elements of your booth to catch attention and drive home the sales.

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