Booths on a Budget
Your event "booth" setup is one of the most important tools in your sales and marketing arsenal. It is the onsite face of your business and needs to be multi-purpose, functional, and adaptable.
When I say "booth," I'm talking about a physical location current, and potential customers will come to for information. This can be anything from a high-top table in the corner of a room to a large setup in the middle of a trade-show floor with furniture and beverage service.
What does a booth setup need to do?
Visibly create brand recognition at a glance
Look welcoming and professional
The Starting Line
The most important thing to remember is marketing, when done right, is a marathon, not a race. Start with the basics. You need a well-informed charismatic person to engage with people, and you need take-always. Your primary takeaway needs to be available in a short glossy brochure (sales sheet, brochure rack card) that explains who you are, what you do, is relevant to the event and has your contact information. You may not get to talk to everyone, so have something available to speak for you.
From here we can start to build you up. Your available "booth" setup needs to be a set of components that you can pick and choose from to fit the event space. Your setup can be built over a series of events and potentially over a few years. It doesn't have to be a big expense all at once.
Here are some branded options to consider. I suggest starting at number 1 and as your business grows, adding down to number 7.
Branded Clothing – It is important to have your representative(s) branded with your logo. It shows that you are professional, and it builds on your company's brand awareness. This can range from simple t-shirts to high-end winter attire.
Swag - It is expected and anticipated. Think outside the box and purchase items that people find useful. When possible brand it to the event and turn it into memorabilia. Consider branding with your website instead of your logo depending on available imprint space. Swag is a marketing tool and your recipients need to be able to find you easily after the event.
Tent – The tent is the most functional branding tool you can purchase. It works for inside and outside events. It gives you a metal frame that you can work with to create your enticing space, and it visually defines ownership of a physical area creating impact. Invest in the indoor weights and outdoor stabilization equipment. For indoor spaces you will need a source of light, like white fairy lights, to combat any cave like feelings.
Flags – Flags create visual impact and can be used for indoor and outdoor events. These are for distance brand recognition and establishing a slick look. Start with two flags that are printed double-sided. For smaller events you may only want to use one, but flanking a set of double doors or your event space makes it look visually balanced. Invest in indoor weights and outdoor ground spike equipment.
Banner Stands – Banners are a great way to draw attention to locations, display information, and provide wayfinding directions. Once you own the hardware, updating the printed part of your banner becomes more cost-effective.
Backdrops –Backdrops can come in many forms. If you are using a tent, you can purchase walls that are imprinted with your logo or information. You can also choose to do collapsible fabric or modular displays depending on your event space and storage facilities. Invest in available stabilization equipment.
Flooring – Bringing in special cushioned flooring is better for your back and creates a defined space with the illusion of entering a physical store. Many companies of modular display units can provide options that will work for your needs.
Pro Tip: Invest in proper travel cases. It will keep your investment in good condition and save your back.
Renting vs Purchasing
There are several options to make your "booth" look professional, and several of them can be rented until you are ready to invest.
Tablecloths – People standing in front of your table is more inviting than people being able to see what is printed on the tablecloth below waist level. Having branded tablecloths is a fantastic bonus, but it is something you can hold off on getting. Renting linens from an event rental company can make you look just as put together, professional and save you some money. Where possible, get the tablecloths that hook under the table legs. This way, you don't have to worry about random items under the table falling out the other side or having it blow off at an outdoor event.
Tables & Chairs – Depending on where the event is and if you need to travel to your event, renting locally may be more cost-effective. Owning a folding table or two, along with a couple of chairs, is handy and in the long run may save you a few dollars, but it might be worth your time to look at the costs for renting at individual events. Depending on the event and your goals, you may want to look at renting leather chairs and a coffee table. If you need to sit down with customers to sign them up for more expensive products or services, you could consider renting a desk and comfortable office chairs. Connect with your event venue or event rental company to talk about options, delivery, and pickup.
Curtain Backdrops – These are the black curtains many venues and trade-shows use to divide spaces. If you need some division or a backdrop and you don't own a collapsible fabric or modular booth backdrop, you can rent these. If the venue is not able to provide them, contact a local rental company as early as you can. These go fast.
Power Sources – These are excellent for outdoor events. Having electrical power to run computers, play music, charge phones, have lights for evening events, or even have a mini-fridge to provide cold bottles of water, can really set you apart. If you do a lot of outdoor events it might be worth investing. If you don't, connect with a local event rental company.
The Small Stuff to Invest In.
Displays – use tabletop 8.5" x 11" sign holders, business card holders, and sales material holders. These can be ordered on Amazon or through Staples. As they are plastic, they will break. Make sure you have extras on hand. Never use a cracked or broken displays and don't spread things out on the table. It only takes one person or a bag, and your table looks messy. If you want to take things up a notch look at picture frames (remove the glass) for holding tabletop signs and the metal mesh options for business cards and sales material holders.
Travel/Storage Bins – These will keep your sales materials and event tools safe and together. They also double as weatherproof storage at events. The bins can easily slide under tables for safekeeping, or you can put a piece of wood on top, cover them up with a tablecloth and use them as a side table.
Repair and Tool Kit – Things go wrong. Always be prepared. Make sure you have a multi-head screwdriver, box cutters, scissors, duct tape, masking tape, electrical tape, extension cord, power bar, hammer, a sturdy collapsible dolly, mallet, nails and screws, extra light bulbs… anything you might need to fix your booth setup. You will also want extra securing lines and weights like sandbags for outdoor events in case of random wind gusts or windy days.
First Aid Kit – Ask any veteran event person and they will tell you to have a good first aid kit on hand, but to also have extra band-aids (the good cloth super sticky ones, latex-free if you can), moleskin for blisters and a couple of those chemical cold packs. Setup and take-down can be dangerous.
Pro Tip – Put Chapstick on your paper and cardboard cuts. It immediately stops the sting.
Event marketing is all about the popup and merchandising. There are infinite ways to stand out and entice your potential customers to do business with you.