Some basic Dos and Don’ts for increasing the Footfall at your Trade Fair Booth

Last week I spent two days at electronica, the world’s leading trade fair and conference for electronics; electronica has been one of my favourite industry shows ever since I first attended the event in November 2004. According to Messe München, 2018 saw the “biggest electronica ever” with “80,000 visitors—an increase of ten percent” (as compared to 2016, I would assume). “More than 3,100 exhibitors from over 50 countries provided an insight into the electronics of the future with their solutions and products at the Munich trade fair site from November 13 to 16, 2018,” the organiser writes. “The focal topics of this year’s electronica included blockchain, artificial intelligence and medical electronics.”

Trade show success Germany
Feeling like a lone wolf at a trade show?

Although at least to me the fair seemed quite crowded even on the last day, some of my contacts were not entirely happy with the footfall they experienced at their stands throughout the runtime. They asked me to offer my opinion, admitting that “it may be a complex situation,” as one exhibitor wrote, contacting me two days after the show.

I am indeed hesitant to comment on the (perceived) decrease of footfall some exhibitors might have experienced, but I am happy to share some general thoughts from my e-book The What, Why and How of Attending Trade Shows in Germany, that especially newcomers might find helpful for improving the situation.

Do your Homework

Once you have decided to attend a certain show, get in touch with the organiser; they can advise you on the procedures and deadlines. The best moment to start thinking about visitor marketing is now; do not postpone the task to the very last moment. Work on your strategy and chalk out an action plan to achieve your trade fair goals. Ask the organiser what tools they offer; this can be entry vouchers, a .jpg file of the trade fair logo with your booth number which can be embedded into your e-mail signature or website, catalogue entries, ads in the official newsletters, etc.

Choose your Location According to your Offer

Trade show success Germany
Choose the best possible location to hunt for business

“Good location” in this context means the best place to achieve your trade fair objectives. If your aim is to increase the sales of active components, do not join a trade association’s booth placed in the hall dedicated to electromechanical components. If your aim is to promote your latest software release targeting C-level executives, do not hide in a hall where people would expect c-class components.

“Good location” also means trying to grab an attractive position within a suitable hall. The more isolated the booth, the more expensive. Meaning if you are in a row and in between other stands (one neighbour to your right and left), space will be less costly than a booth that can be entered from three or even four sides.

Some organisers offer “early bird” prices and special packages; make sure you get in touch with the trade fair representative well in advance and ask what is in it for you if you book your booth early.

Stand out from the Crowd

Trade show success in Germany
What would you rather pay attention to? … A grey pigeon or a proud, colourful peacock?

From my experience, especially Asian exhibitors generally tend to take smaller booth spaces, often as a shell scheme. Also, some exhibitors do not put very much effort into their stand design or decoration. When they complain about low footfall, I often tell them: “Imagine you are taking a walk in the park; what would you rather pay attention to? … A grey pigeon or a proud, colourful peacock? Would you rather look at a chirping bird or a mute animal of the same species?”

Obviously, participation with a bigger booth and individual stand design is more expensive; however, I advise you think about what is worth more and how your company can get the best ROI.

Focus on Showcasing your Products

If your goal is to present new products, the attention needs to be directed to the products. You need to display the items in an attractive and prominent way and highlight the product’s advantages. Shipping the goods back and forth might be expensive, but only displaying a poster of what you intend to sell won’t do the job.

Trade show success Germany
Showcase your product!

What you can showcase on a poster are product specifications and advantages. Don’t forget that if you are not yet renowned in the market, you very often first need to convince people that the items on display are more than just cheap copies. A friend of mine purchases electromechanical components. He says that for him, it is crucial that he can weigh the parts he is considering in his hands; to be able to touch and feel the goods. The staff should be prepared to answer his detailed questions to his full satisfaction. Like most Germans, he would expect to communicate with international exhibitors in English.

My advice is that you try to speak slowly, show product samples, and illustrate / demonstrate complex concepts. If you get the chance to talk to journalists, they will be eager to learn about the latest developments in the market, so tell them what’s new and don’t bore them with your wide range of standard products.

The bottom line is to be clear on how visitors will benefit from using your products and services, or working with you. Imagine what he or she should remember; do not shower them with too much information—convey a brief and clear message.

Publicise your Offer in the Official (!) Trade Fair Media

Take care that your company name is listed correctly in the official trade fair media (online catalogues, apps, show guides and / or print catalogues). If the feature is not included in the standard (obligatory) advertising, hopefully you have allocated some budget to, at the very least, add your logo. Make sure your company URL is linked to your website. And don’t forget to update your online presence (professional and social media accounts) with the special occasion.

Try to understand how much is included in the mandatory media packages. In many cases, you can tick a certain number of boxes under “products” or “applications” during the registration process. This is how the organiser will gain a better understanding of the portfolio of exhibitors ‘on stage’. Very often, the fair will also use this information to compile an exhaustive exhibitor list. Visitors can then conduct their search according to this nomenclature. So, better be accurate! Make sure not to waste the opportunity to be found by not completely filling in your respective form. But, even if you can tick all the “free-of-charge” boxes, concentrate on what you are really good at.

Prepare your Sales Pitch and Brief the Team

Trade fair success Germany
You never get a second chance to make a first impression

Don’t leave your team in doubt about the company’s trade fair objectives. Make yourself understood regarding what you expect from each of them, including when to show up in the morning and what to wear.

If language is an issue, make sure there is at least one person who can help out by interpreting. You and your team should always be able to communicate with visitors, either in English or German (if you exhibit in Germany). If you cannot respond to questions in one of these languages, Germans will not trust that “discussing” business with you will make any sense—unless maybe they are fluent in your mother tongue. Basic French and Spanish skills are quite common; however, you would rarely meet a German who has taken the effort to learn Mandarin or any Chinese dialect.

German Sales Trainer Dirk Kreuter, in one of his bestselling books, recommends (mentally) dividing the team into “hunters” and “farmers”. Hunters enjoy cold calling and approaching people; farmers are the guys who like to take care of customers over a long period and know all the details and stuff. Depending on your trade fair goals, you should bring along enough people with the “hunting” spirit to approach the visitors passing by. If you have prepared lead registration forms, demonstrate how to fill them out and give instructions on where to put them. Explain “Scan2Lead-Apps” or whatever tools or tracking software the organiser offers that you want to use.

Concentrate on your Core Competencies and try to outsource other Tasks

You might need an extra person to coordinate the staff, serve drinks and food, and run errands. Ask the trade show organiser in case you would like to hire a host or hostess; they’ll be happy to recommend someone if you ask them well in advance.

If you need help with identifying potential buyers in the German market, you can always get in touch with me (andra[at]

What else?

German Trade Fairs
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1. Read more: The What, Why and How of Attending Trade Shows in Germany

2. Join my LinkedIn Group Doing Business in Germany: Trade Fairs, Events, FAQ and Best Practices

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