7 things I learned about trade show engagement at G.I.R.L. 2017

Trade shows are called “shows” for a reason. They can be quite a production, with a lot going on in front of you and behind the scenes. There’s lighting, entertainment and lively action.

G.I.R.L. 2017 is this year’s name for the Girl Scouts of the USA Convention and National Council Session that takes place every three years. The event draws thousands of girls, volunteers and leaders from the Girl Scout organization. There are also accomplished public figures on hand to speak to girls about how to push past obstacles and make an impact in their lives.

My time at G.I.R.L. 2017 was spent in the Hall of Experiences, which is set up much like a trade show. I had collaborated with my WordsFresh team on a brand and marketing strategy on behalf of a client that was an event sponsor and exhibitor.

As I walked around the venue, my eyes were opened to the many creative ways exhibitors enticed visitors to enter their booth spaces. My other senses were awakened, as well. I was immediately reminded of the importance of appealing to trade show audiences with an experience that they can enjoy on more than one level. This was just one lesson in engagement that I picked up at the show, along with lots of awesome tchotchkes*:

1. Design an experience, not just a banner.

Marketers often begin their trade show planning with ideas about graphics. They focus on creating large banners with strong brand images and headlines. This isn’t a bad strategy. However, if you’re looking to really stand out, it can be worthwhile to think about how you might design the overall booth experience.

Start by mapping out how visitors will move through your booth space and include details on what exactly they will experience at each station. Consider different scenarios, like the possibility of a visitor saying no to an invitation to view a particular product, and think about how that visitor might be led to a defined point of conversion, such as email capture via a scan of an event badge.

2. Think like a kid when planning booth elements.

Exhibitors at G.I.R.L. 2017** understood that their younger audiences wouldn’t want to be bombarded with marketing messages. So the exhibitors smartly figured out how to compel show attendees to explore their brand story and even take an active role in shaping it.

Some exhibitors invited booth visitors to leave messages for others to see. Others gave visitors the opportunity to playfully interact with their products.

Your prospects may not be 12 years old, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to be surprised or have fun. You can stand out from other exhibitors by telling your story in a unique way and piquing the curiosity of audiences.

If you have the budget, you could invest in wall displays and other interfaces that use touch or gesture technology. Stories can take shape in video and text formats. Or, if your resources are limited, you might have visitors take photos with unusual props or play a classic carnival game, so long as the idea is in alignment with your brand strategy.

3. Give your booth a point of view.

Maybe you decide to run with a campaign theme or build on your brand positioning. Whatever it is you want to communicate, make sure it amounts to more than bullet points on signs and table placards. If it makes sense, figure out ways to link your brand story to the event theme.

4. Have a social strategy.

Use the designated event hashtag along with your own unique branded hashtag to engage prospects before, during and after the show. Make prospects want to connect with your brand.

5. Choose the right people to represent your brand.

Representatives in your booth should know your product or service inside and out, and they should have the ability and desire to enthusiastically engage with prospects. Have them wear company polo shirts or outfits that complement your brand colors.

6. Leave your visitors with something (beyond a tchotchke).

Ideally, with the right strategy in place, the experience of visiting your booth on its own will make a big impression on visitors. You can solidify this impression by having small handouts available to anyone who might be interested.

7. Follow up with visitors and nurture them with great content.

You’ve done well if you’ve successfully captivated prospects and captured their email addresses. Your next step is to nurture those leads by creating and deploying content that answers how your brand can meet your prospects’ needs.

*A not-so-little side note: If you’re a marketer who’s ever participated in the planning of a trade booth, you’re familiar with the word “tchotchke.” Getting the spelling right can take a moment, but figuring out the best and most cost-effective tchotchke, or gift, for your audiences is the real challenge.

One consideration when deciding on tchotchkes is that most trade show attendees do not want the inconvenience of having to lug around something large or otherwise unwieldly.

Another thing to keep in mind is branding. If you don’t brand items with your logo, you may want to attach a card with your company’s information.

**One more note: G.I.R.L. 2017 was led by Girl Scouts®, which is really impressive. A special “G-Team” of 21 Girl Scouts from all over the U.S. was involved in all aspects of planning.

You won’t have the benefit of having of the G-Team handle your trade show engagement strategy. You can, however, leverage the expertise and marketing muscle of Girl Scout alumnae. Many members of the WordsFresh team were once active Girl Scouts who know what it means to be a G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™.

As testament to the strong G.I.R.L. leadership at our writing agency, WordsFresh is a certified Women’s Business Enterprise.

Need a fresh perspective on your trade booth strategy? Contact the WordsFresh writing team for ideas on how to engage prospects and convert them into customers. Tell us about your project.

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