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Strategically Small: The Bruce Lee School of Trade Show Booths
Trade show marketers can learn a lot from Bruce Lee. Small, nimble, and packing a serious punch, he relied on his legendary speed and a winning strategy to topple far larger opponents.
The same is true on the show floor, where a small footprint needn't be a limitation. In fact, when built into your overall strategy, a small trade show booth can be a serious advantage.
You too you can leverage the power of small and smart to earn big trade show wins. And unlike kung fu, our way won't get you escorted out by security.
It's Not One-Size-Fits All
Don't get us wrong: Big is beautiful. An expansive, multi-faceted trade show booth is a proven way to grab a lot of attention, show off a lot of product lines, accommodate a lot of customers, and earn big ROI.
But when it comes to trade shows, success is not one-size-fits-all. Contrary to popular belief, "the biggest booth you can afford" isn't the default best approach for every audience, every market, or every brand. In fact, a small space is an ideal asset for marketers in a variety of situations you might not expect — many of which have nothing to do with budget.
Tech companies in a rapidly evolving market. Big, established brands seeking to escape a rut. Road-weary, seasoned trade show marketers looking to explore new venues. No matter your size or situation, small trade show booths may be just the strategy to bring your marketing to the next level.
Find yourself in the list of profiles below to see how a small space strategy can benefit you.
You Are: A Tech Startup
Shows in emerging markets (especially niche tech spaces) tend to pop up quickly — too quickly for massive exhibits with ship dates set many months in advance. Having a smaller exhibit at the ready ensures that no matter where your industry goes, you'll be primed to follow the trends — and fast.
You Are: A Seasoned Show Warrior
Escape the Rut
If you've been attending the same set of shows for years, it's time to reevaluate and check out new options. But it's risky to invest in a large, complex property for what might end up being the wrong audience. How to try out a new show without blowing the budget?
A smaller space is a cost-effective way to evaluate the market at a new show, see what other exhibitors are doing, and make a great first impression. You may even discover that a small booth will be just right for conveying your message at that show in the future — or that you're better off exhibiting somewhere else.
You Are: Ready for a Different Approach
Explore New Spaces
Trade shows: They're not just for convention centers anymore! Thousands of shows take place in smaller hotels or non-traditional venues like gardens and museums, where a 50-by-50-foot exhibit simply won't fit. A smaller presence gives you access to any opportunity that may present itself, no matter the location.
You Are: Selling Big-Ticket Items
Get with the Program
It's not rocket science: More shows mean more interactions. A high-volume/ high-frequency program builds familiarity with attendees who see your brand at multiple shows. This is especially useful for companies whose products aren't cheap; larger, more expensive sales take education and trust built over numerous touches.
You Are: Stretching a Limited Budget
Do More with Less
Let's not forget the obvious: a small space that's a third of the price means you can wow audiences at three shows instead of one! Utilize the reduced spend of a single small trade show booth to build a program of shows, strategically chosen to maximize interactions with your target audience.
Small of the Wild
As you can see, small is smart for a variety of reasons. But don't take our word for it. Check out a few of the ways Group Delphi has partnered with clients to pull off big results in small spaces.
So Fresh and So Clean: Slack at Dreamforce
Slack's intuitive chat software makes team collaboration at work feel as natural as ... well, nature. So when Slack chose Group Delphi to showcase their product in a small space at Dreamforce, we brought nature indoors.
Slack hoped to set itself apart in a vast expanse of exhibitors and demonstrate the friendly, natural vibe of their product. So we built something we knew no other brand would have: a living wall, lined with plants bursting from a wood backdrop. The warm, comfortable space drew visitors in and put them at ease, setting the stage for meaningful connections with the Slack team.
In addition to being named one of Radius' "Top 10 Booths at Dreamforce 2016," our work with Slack took home a Silver for Best Trade Show Experience at Event Marketer's Ex Awards.
No small feat.
Activate the Shrink Ray: Automation Anywhere
Automation Anywhere gained global attention for "The Big Book," a massive replica of a book — complete with embedded screens — that towered over the heads of trade show visitors.
But Automation Anywhere's bread and butter, Robotic Process Automation, is a quickly emerging industry with new, smaller shows popping up all the time — many of which can't accommodate such a massive tome. How to bring large-scale buzz to a 10x10 space?
Enter "The Little Book." The reduced-size (but still totally oversized) hardcover allowed Automation Anywhere to maintain their overall experiential theme in a much smaller footprint.
Who says print is dead?
Now that you have a taste of the possibilities a small space presents, it's time to start putting the plan into action. Bake the tips below into your strategy to ensure your small space packs maximum punch.
If possible, register early to nail down a booth space on the main aisle or on a central corner. Prime real estate puts your brand in front of more attendees. It also sends the message that you're an important, central player in your industry.
You may not be spread out, but you can always spread up! Capitalize on the height of the room with a tall, logoed sign visitors can see from the entrance or other aisles. (Extra points if the sign is backlit like a shining, glorious beacon of hope.)
Make it Glow!
In a crowded hall, you can excite and delight with inviting lighting. Small LED lights give you the versatility to create different moods or highlight different elements in the same space — not to mention draw the eyes of the crowd.
Send a Message with Moxie
Cluttered space, confused customers. Whether it's a banner, a screen or a hologram, create one large, central focal point that visitors can't miss. Be sure it tells your message loud and clear so people understand your brand at a glance.
Step Out of the Booth
Trade shows are about connection, so focus your experience on friendly interaction. Employees lurking together in the booth create a closed-off vibe, but a friendly, roving team invites engaging conversations. Train your staff to edge into the aisle and extend warm greetings to passerby.
No matter your company size or situation, with a smart strategy, careful planning, and the willingness to try something new, a small space can become just the approach you need to earn huge returns.
Want to learn more? Group Delphi regularly releases fresh, free content to make your experiential marketing sizzle. Check out our full library of insights on a variety of topics, including blending social and experiential marketing, achieving work/life balance, and the full Small Spaces, Big Wins guide.
About the Author
Peter Celauro, Brand Journalist, Group Delphi
Peter Celauro writes about trade show and event marketing as Brand Journalist at Group Delphi, the experience creation shop.
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