At a recent networking event, I wandered past maybe a half dozen exhibit tables. (Emphasis on “wandered past.”) There were nice table covers with the companies’ names. Pens, notepads and marketing brochures were neatly arranged on the tops. The settings were not distasteful, but not effective either. Why?
Sponsors and exhibitors at this event were companies that provide high level consulting for manufacturing, international marketing and production, finance and risk management. Companies like these are really challenged when it comes to marketing, especially at in-person events. Their fallback materials are usually proudly emblazoned with their firm’s name (such as “Smith, Jones & Wilson”) or logo which says absolutely nothing about what they do. So attendees generally whisk past their booths (even if they are in dire need of the services) because it’s just too awkward to ask, “What does Smith, Jones & Wilson do?” Then the event organizer usually hears comments from exhibitors that it was a waste of money and time.
If these exhibitors had followed what I refer to as the Billboard Principle, this scenario could be reduced or eliminated. The Billboard Principle follows guidelines for exhibits that are used for standard outdoor billboards:
- Few words
- Clearly identifiable images
- Obvious company name and website
- Message can be discerned within a few seconds
- Big and bold
- High contrast graphics and text
- Important messages and images at eye level (which may not be the firm’s name)
So let’s say our example firm of Smith, Jones & Wilson is an international risk management consultancy. It is often difficult to “image” the services they provide. But it can be done, possibly showing a sign featuring happy business people meeting or doing business in international settings. Words can bring it all home with something such as “We keep your investments safe when doing business abroad” or “Let Smith, Jones & Wilson help protect your international investments.” This is maybe not ideal, but better than a table cover that only says Smith, Jones & Wilson. And it invites attendee questions such as “What kind of investment protection do you offer?”
For difficult to image and expensive services or products, I would not spend money on small promotional products such as pens and notepads. Rather, I would suggest spending more money on larger, bolder signage that immediately conveys to event attendees what the firm does. If someone is going to spend tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of dollars on a major international consulting relationship, these branded items will not be the dealmaker. In fact, it even can cheapen or confuse the firm’s image.
So go bold!