Do you have a physical B2B product to sell? Then chances are you will do very well displaying it at a trade show.
According to Exhibitor Magazine, about 80% of their exhibiting subscribers make physical products. That’s a big reason manufacturers exhibit in the first place – to bring their products to show them to potential buyers.
And from the other side of the aisle, buyers go to trade shows because they want to get their hands on the real thing, see it in action, and compare multiple manufacturers at the same time.
The variety of products exhibitors bring into their trade show displays is as diverse as the over 10,000 trade shows in North America. To design effective spaces to display your products, ask these questions:
- How big — or small — are your products?
- Do they sit on the floor, or go on shelves, racks, tables, or podiums?
- Do they need to be secured or locked up?
- Will you be demonstrating them?
- How many do you need to bring?
- Do you have a star or new product to emphasize?
- Do your products need power? How much?
- Do you have a non-physical / service product to promote?
Your answers to those questions will help get you started. To further improve your likelihood of success, here are 8 ideas we’ve learned helping thousands of manufacturers bring their products to trade shows:
- Don’t bring too many products: An exhibit overflowing with products look like a flea market and builds a barricade that inhibits prospects from entering your booth. Think of it as a junk drawer – it gets so full you can’t open it, and when you do, you can’t find anything. To avoid creating confusing clutter, consider bringing only your biggest sellers or your key new products. This is proven advice shared by many exhibitors who increased their results after making the change.
- Demonstrate your products: A good product demo is extremely effective in stopping traffic, engaging prospects, and leaving a lasting impression. This is one of the hallmarks and advantages of trade shows over other media. Invest considerable time in creating and practicing great demos for better trade show results, and then designing spaces for those demos in your booth.
- Support large products: While large products often sit on the floor, you still need exhibit components, such as hanging signs and towers, to define your space and promote your brand. Often large products are well served with kiosks next to them to describe their features and benefits.
- Amplify small products: Bring your hard-to-see products to life with larger graphics showing them in use, or a demo that is filmed and projected onto larger monitors around the booth.
- Mount your products: Products that are heavy, valuable or that you want in a certain place with supporting graphics or to get at eye-level are often displayed better when mounted directly onto a wall. Often small-to-medium-sized products are mounted in an arrangement, but large products can even be wall-mounted, too, although they require greater structure to support them.
- Build a set: Create an environment similar to where the products will actually be used, whether it’s with the architecture of the booth, images on graphics, or additional props beyond your products that help signal to the buyer that they are “home.”
- Tell why you’re better: We’d all like to think our products sell themselves, and it’s tempting to think that once your products are on display, they will. Give yourself more visual proof by supporting your products with graphics that make your products’ benefit obvious. Do your products last longer? Do more, faster? Cost less over time? Take less energy? Tell your products’ story with graphics and/or AV tech.
- Light your products: If your products are the star of your booth, then highlight them with extra lighting. It may be spot lights that put more attention on your products, uplighting on the shelves or display cases, or just a lot of light blasting your entire booth if most of your space is filled with products.
If your product is a service, you may think that you are at a disadvantage, because you do not have a physical product to show and demonstrate. However, you can still use graphics and create experiences that vividly communicate what you do and why people should buy from you. Here’s a blog post called Exhibit Design for Service Companies.
Here are many examples of how we have applied these 8 tips in designing exhibits for our manufacturing clients:
Divine Light Some exhibitors want to merchandise the heck out of their products. With products this small and colorful, Divine Light can pull it off.
Pure & Basic You can build your brand even as you display your products. Enhance your product displays with bold, lifestyle graphics and elegant exhibit architecture.
Grillfinity Similarly on this 20 foot display, these products are displayed in multiple ways like shelving and hanging bars. Intriguing graphics amplify the visual stopping power of smaller products.
Nature’s Path Nature’s Path has great branding and packaging for their organic food products, so they loaded up hundreds of packages on their exhibit shelving. This also gave buyers a sense of how good it would look on their store shelves.
Unitron Lots of lighting and special display cases emphasize small and light products like these hearing aids…and keep these valuable products away from thieves.
Plasan While their carbon composite car parts are mounted at several places around the booth, the most compelling story-telling mount is the red panel mounted directly over a line drawing of a Chevy Corvette.
Ludowici Their heavy, yet decorative clay roof tiles are mounted to walls and a kiosk to minimize the space they take and put them where people can see them. However, the booth doesn’t overflow with product, as there is also room for branding, meeting, and an AV presentation.
Solo Cup While their small products are displayed on shelves all throughout their booth, they are brought to life with graphics showing them many times larger than lifesize, and also graphics showing how their products are used in everyday life.
SpashTacular Their water park products are very large, so rather than try to bring their physical product to the show, their exhibit, which features moving lights that simulate water, is a creative interpretation that captures the essence of what they make.
Oldenburg Group Almost the entire booth space for this this large island exhibit for the Oldenburg Group is covered with their large machinery. Above the machinery are large hanging graphic signs to define the exhibitor’s space and make an impression. No visitor can glance at those machines and not know who makes them. There are also 8-foot tall kiosks to tell their story to people as they approach, and smaller kiosks to provide details closer to the machines.
Kiian This island booth has a lot more exhibit architecture than the previous exhibit. Besides tall waving structures for branding, there are colorful, elegant enclosed spaces for important meetings. Still, a large space in the corner of the booth is set aside to display their large product. The carpet next to their large product has messaging to help promote their product story.
American Leather American Leather’s island exhibit is almost completely taken up by their elegant product. They wrap exhibit structure around the booth on three sides, yet the booth feels much more open. The exhibit structure matches the blue and white colors and even the shapes of the furniture, creating a stronger, more cohesive overall design effect.
CoCalo The exhibit for this crib bedding manufacturer looks like an oversize children’s bedroom, with all the furniture and props to put CoCalo’s products in the context of how they will be used.
Diono Medium-sized products are often displayed on shelving and pedestals. This large island exhibit looks a lot like a high-end retail store would.
L.J. Smith The centerpiece of their exhibit is a life-size example of their stair systems, although it only goes up 4 stairs to a platform which acts as a presentation area. Kiosks and graphics show the wide range of products available, rather than try to stuff another complete stair into the booth.
NSK With many, many small parts to show, NSK’s small parts are organized and labeled in well-lit showcases and mounted on counters in a clear and organized fashion.
Horn These small parts are similarly mounted and labeled in an organized fashion, but also are on kiosks shaped like people, with a small monitor to use tech to help tell each product area’s story.
Lack Diamond Their small, valuable products are showcased in a secure display case, backed up by a bill-board sized graphic that combines a message of their innovation with images of their best vertical market applications.
Pool-Trol While there are buckets of their pool chemical products on the floor and on tables, the most eye-catching elements of their exhibit are the huge graphics of happy swimmers. The graphics show people enjoying the benefits of Pool-Trol’s products, rather than the products themselves.
Avon Protection Smaller products are emphasized with uplit shelving that literally highlights the products, and further brought to life with large, dramatic photographs showing them in use .
Many manufacturing exhibitors need island exhibit spaces to have enough room to display and demo all their products. To better help island exhibitors, we’ve published a 60-page book called Trade Show Tips for Island Exhibitors that you can get for free by clicking here.