Exhibit Edge has provided trade show exhibit design and consulting for over twenty years and we still learn and grow as new ideas evolve and trends develop. After much discussion and reflection, they’ve worked with the Build My Cleaning Business team to come up with these six tips to help you on your journey to trade show success for your residential cleaning business

Bev Gray is the founder and CEO of Exhibit Edge Inc., a trade show exhibit design and consulting company in the Washington, DC metro area. For more information about their trade show services, visit ExhibitEdge.com or email info@exhibitedge.com. Bev is a co-author of this post.

Deciding to exhibit at a trade show for the first time can bring about a number of overwhelming emotions, from excitement and exhilaration to nervousness and confusion. It takes several times of trial and error to really master the art of exhibiting, but that shouldn’t stop you from taking a leap of faith and exhibiting your service and/or product for the hundreds or thousands of potential buyers at your industry trade show.

Book Early
Book your airfare, hotel, and conference tickets as early as possible. Having your airfare booked early relieves the stress of last minute scrambling, and having your hotel booked early ensures that your accommodations are close to where you will be exhibiting. Book hotel rooms for your staff at the same time. Booking your conference tickets early ensures the best possible pricing, as most conferences enlist a tiered strategy where prices climb as the event nears.

Bonus Tip: Book next years’ booth space at this year’s show – some exhibit space on shows fill up quickly. Verify if there is any penalty if you have to cancel your booth space. Many times there are special “early bird” rates offered at this year’s show, for next year’s event.

You can save hundreds for your company and you and your booth staff will have a more enjoyable show when you book early. We have seen many clients struggling to find convenient transportation and close, affordable lodging when the direct flights and show hotels are all booked. Even as an exhibit company we will book our flights and hotel early.

Recently a client alerted us that they were going to a show. We had 9 days to book airfare and hotel. It cost the client an additional $800 in costs and 7 hours of added labor time for a supervisor. We had to book a flight to Phoenix that took an extra 3 hours to get to the destination. We had to book lodging further from the venue so we also had to rent a car.

Promote Your Participation in Advance of the Show
It’s important to do as much “advance” marketing as you possibly can to make sure your investment of time, money and effort is as productive as possible. Many trade show organizers will happily provide exhibitors with a list of where the event is advertised in advance of the show. Send your clients and prospects out an post card, email (or both) letting them know what special things you’ll have going on in your booth and be sure to give them your location (booth number) so they can easily find you.

Repetition is half the battle in successful marketing and if the attendees have some familiarity with your name, they’ll be more likely to stop at your booth instead of passing you by. And since home cleaning services is such an intimate relationship, you’ll be miles ahead of others when you’ve met prospects face-to-face. This also helps keep your name recognition high so that when your prospects are ready to buy (later) they think of you first.

This is also a perfect opportunity to stay “top of mind” with your existing customers and the prospects you’ve pitched recently or hope to in the future. It’s a very low pressure way to have additional contact with those important to the success of your residential cleaning business.

Understand the Terminology
Being comfortable with the terminology and jargon of the trade show industry is critical to avoiding costly mistakes. Many of the terms have rules and costs that are associated with them. Below are some key terms to be familiar with:

Drayage – The movement of show materials from shipping dock to booth for show set up and back to dock for return shipment at end of show. The drayage rate is typically based on the weight of the freight. Pay attention to overtime and special handling drayage costs.

Union Jurisdiction – Most trade show venues are in cities where the general contractor and the labor companies must utilize union labor. Each city jurisdiction has specific union rules indicated in the show kit.

Exclusive Contractor – A contractor appointed by show management as the sole provider of specified services. For example, the general contractor may have exclusive rights to booth cleaning.

Exhibit Structure – The physical exhibit an exhibitor brings to the trade show. A structure can be a single banner stand to an exhibit system to a custom fabricated exhibit.

Booth Space – The amount of floor space an exhibitor has purchased

Exhibitor Appointed Contractor – A contractor hired by an exhibitor to perform trade show services independently of show management appointed contractors. Also called Independent Contractor and EAC.

Read the Fine Print
Read the fine print of the Show Kit to fully understand their rules and expectations. There are often very specific steps that must be followed, and if rules are broken there can be steep penalties.

Exhibit Edge recently had a client that decided to manage the delivery of their exhibit themselves. After the show they told us that a couple of things went wrong and that they’d leave the logistics to us in the future. The freight company they used had brought their equipment samples into the show after the set freight delivery hours and fully pad wrapped. The pad wrapped incurred a special handling fee and the delivery after hours incurred an overtime rate in drayage. These issues could have been avoided had they completely read through the rules of the show kit.

Clean, Crisp, Accessible and Inviting
Remember to apply all four of these attributes when designing your exhibit. Utilize high-impact graphics and easy text. Make sure the attendee can quickly see who you are and what you do. Otherwise, attendees and future sales will just pass your booth. And don’t sit in your booth. Be excited and full of energy. They will be drawn to you.

Exhibit Edge worked with a client in the IT Industry who complained that their booth did not get a lot of traffic. They sent us a photo of their 10’x20’ booth. At a glance, you could not even tell what products and services the company provided. Their company name was in plain view. Their name did not give any indication of what they did though. The back wall had so much small print on the graphics a viewer would take 10 minutes to read it all. In reality, no one would want to take the time to stop and read it. The colors of the booth were black, gray, and medium blue. The black carpet made the booth even drabber. The booth space had 3 counters close to the aisle making it difficult for attendees to come into the space. With 3 staffers, 3 presentation areas, 2 literature holders, product samples, and promotional give-a-ways there were just too many things in the booth.

Two weeks later the booth was transformed into a very inviting medium green, brown with yellow accent colors with wood-like vinyl flooring. Exhibit Edge removed all the small text in the graphics and listed 7 bullets of their offerings. Another panel highlighted a case study and (by removing 2 of the front counters) an overhang on one side of the booth with a semi-private sitting area was created. The client created a dynamic continuous loop presentation on a 42” monitor that replaced the 3 presentation areas. They added a slim stand to place their promotional products in so they did not fill up the front reception counter. At their next show, the client was pleased with a 60% increase in traffic and attendees also commented on the beautiful design of the booth.

Also, be sure you have some “capture” method on hand to get contact information to follow up with visitors to your booth (like a free gift, drawing, etc..) and be sure to order (early) extra promotional items such as micro-fiber cleaning cloths, hand sanitizers and sticky note pads with your name and logo imprint.

Seek Out Expert Help
Be sure to seek out experts in the exhibit industry or people who have exhibited many times to help you through your first experience. Exhibiting at a trade show is admittedly difficult, so having someone guide you through the process can significantly reduce the number of issues experienced, dollars wasted and headaches incurred.

You’re an expert cleaning service provider. You are most likely not an expert in graphic design, booth floor layout, writing content, or drawing attendees into your space. If you are going to spend the dollars to exhibit, you should research how to do it effectively or contact an expert. It will be worth it. After a few times and watching other exhibitors, you will learn it quickly.

It’s a good idea as well to visit the show or similar ones before you participate as an exhibitor so can get a good “lay of the land” and see some best practices in action. If you belong to mastermind or coaching groups use those forums to ask your colleagues about what’s worked for them and what hasn’t. Learn from their experiences and avoid making the same mistakes.

Follow Up Early and Often with Trade Show Attendees and People Who Visited Your Booth
Marketing experts know that many buyers don’t make the buying decision until after the 6th or even the 9th contact with the service provider, so don’t let all of your efforts go to waste by failing to follow up. Prepare your “follow-up campaign” in advance of the show so when you get back to your office (exhausted) you don’t have to prepare or begin the process, it’s all ready to go; you just input the new contact names.

It’s a good idea to “review” the points you made at the show about the uniqueness, quality, ease of use etc. of your service. Now that your prospects have faces to go with your company name and are hearing from you regularly you’re on your way to being the cleaning service they call when they are ready to buy (or refer).

While exhibiting at a trade show can be difficult and trying, the results are incredibly rewarding and can have a dramatic impact on your bottom line! We wish you the best of luck in your trade show future!