12 ways to stand out at trade shows with business cards and more.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Trade shows are full of opportunities for small businesses. They can bring in new customers, increase brand awareness and, if done right, have everyone turning their heads as they walk by your stand… including the competition.

It’s like that feeling when you’re about to pitch to a new client, the excitement, the buzz. Whenever you begin a trade show, you need the right tools and confidence to seize that moment every time.

Are you ready? You can do it.

The event experts at Vistaprint have put their heads together and designed 12 hacks and tricks to help you prepare and make an impact on the big day.

1. Make it comfy

Create an atmosphere where customers and clients feel at home, a place to relax, kick off their shoes, have a coffee or tea, put some music on, read a book, take a nap…well maybe not all of the above (and make sure they keep their shoes on). Creating a relaxing environment however is crucial for getting customers to stay at your stand, regardless of how big or small it is.

Throw a rug on the floor, scatter a few chairs around or set up a couple of bean bags or cushioned pallets to create somewhere to chat with visitors in an informal way. They’ll also appreciate the chance to sit down after a walking around for ages at the trade show.

Are you selling winter products? If so, why not show a cosy burning fireplace on a television? Go the extra mile and have coffee, tea and biscuits ready and at hand. Small gestures like these boost your image.

2. Pack a punch

When you package your product, you’re not just putting it in a box or decorating it with wrapping paper. You’re branding it. Creating a unique proposition so customers can easily recognise you. Getting the packaging right is an essential element of that customer relationship and business cards are the right product to help you.

If you sell jewellery or something similar, a business card is the perfect size to package your product. Not only does this make good financial sense but shows an attention to detail that will more than impress your potential customers.

Cut out two slots in a business card and place your earrings, necklaces and rings through those slots. Design a business card that highlights the jewellery by not having text where your slot would go. Not only will your customer have a wonderful piece of packaging, but they’ll also be able to retain all your business details, so you stay top of mind.

3. Recharge your batteries

“I forgot to charge my phone.” Everyone’s worst nightmare when spending the whole day or weekend away from home at an event. Draw attendees to your stand by providing them with an area for them to charge their phones. Give them free wi-fi as well so they can use their laptop and do some last-minute business.

This tip, coupled with providing a space for people to relax in, is great for drawing people in and keeping them there.

4. Roll up, roll up

Everyone loves a raffle. They’re fun and engaging, especially if you win. It’s also a great way to attract lots of people to your stand during a trade show. Draw them in to see if they’re lucky enough to win something and get them interested in your business. Turning a fun idea into an opportunity is easily done with business cards.

Design a business card that leaves space on the back where you can write a raffle ticket number. Have a competition to give away one of your products. You’ll be the winner at the end of the day because you will have managed to hand out your business card to all those attending your stand, generating future business.

5. Sweeten the deal

It’s all about the freebies. People love freebies, especially at a trade show. Giving away a little bit of sweetness grabs their attention and taste buds and draws them to your stand.

Attach a lollipop to your business card and watch the people line up to take them. This sweet touch will get everyone grabbing your cards and keeping you top of mind beyond the sugar rush. It doesn’t have to be a lollipop either.

Attach any sweet confectionery such as chocolates or caramels (but always make sure they’re wrapped up). Nobody wants sticky hands when making new introductions at an event.

6. Reward loyalty

What could be better than having a system that rewards customers for buying your products? It’s an amazing opportunity for you to create customer loyalty and stand out. Customers will then feel good about interacting with your brand. Start that conversation at the trade show by handing out loyalty cards so they’re interested enough to return.

Business cards are the perfect size for a punch- or stamp-card that rewards repeat customers. No matter what you sell, people love the challenge of filling up a loyalty card and will work hard for a free product, which is to your benefit in the long run.

7. Make an appointment

Getting customers to your shop for consultations is just as important as creating new contacts. So rather than just handing out your business cards at the stand, take it one step further and pencil in an actual appointment? Use your business card by designing a template that allows you to write down the time and place on the back of the card with the company details on the front.

Make an appointment directly at your stand and have customers make that commitment.

8. Give away exclusive discounts

Attending a trade show should always have its advantages, a meaningful advantage (not just a free plastic bag with tons of flyers in it). Give customers a product discount for attending the event.

On the back of your business card, print a special voucher code for the event that only those attending the trade show can have access to. It might be a voucher code of a sale you’ll have online, or in your shop, or it could be access to exclusive products or discounts. Make sure the voucher code refers to the event e.g. if the event is called Fish Expo 2019, give your voucher a similar name – Voucher code: FISHEXPO.

9. Tag along

It’s the day before the event and you forgot to order the product labels. How on earth are people going to see how much the products cost? Well, business cards can come to the rescue.

Punch a hole in them, attach some string, and voila you have the perfect tag for your products. If you have time in advance, create a card with three strips so you can cut them out, punch a hole in them, attach a string and wrap them around your products. This way you’ll get 3 product labels for the price of one business card.

10. Make it tasty

This little trick is great if you have a catering company, restaurant or a wedding/event planning business.

It’s important to let customers know what culinary skills you have to offer. You can always give them an example of your menu, but most won’t carry this around with them. If you put your daily menu on your business card however, it’s small enough for them to always carry around, which means you’re on to a winner.

Print a standard 3-course meal on the back of your business card with recommended beverages to give potential customers a taste of what they might expect from your restaurant or catering company.

11. What’s in a name?

As you move around the event checking out the competition, you never know when you’ll be talking with new potential customers. But wait, you’ve left your bag at the stand and can’t exchange business cards! So, here’s a good technique to make sure you’re always ready and prepared.

Keep a small stack of business cards tucked neatly behind your name tag. That way you’ll always have a healthy supply of business cards at hand. On top of that, you could also use your business card as your name tag in situations where specific name tags haven’t been given out by the event organisers.

12. Small and personal.

Before you start designing your exhibition stand, visit a competitor’s Facebook page or website and see what their last exhibit looked like. Was it large and impressive? Was it small and approachable? Was it flashy and eye-catching or elegant and reserved?

A great way to attract people to your trade show booth is by focusing on what your competitors aren’t doing. If your competitors are big and impressive, focus on being smaller and easier for attendees to approach.

Take these tips and hacks and use them to your best advantage. Not all of them will be applicable to your business but you should be able to tick off the ‘dos and don’ts’ of how to make your next event an opportunity to stand out without spending through the roof.