building product trade shows

4 Secrets to Success at Building-Product Trade Shows

Keep the following “trade show secrets” in mind next time you invest in a booth.

Paul Keskeys Paul Keskeys

Last fall, we made quite a stir with an article entitled “5 Reasons Why Architecture Trade Shows Don’t Work”. Healthy debate ensued: The AIA wrote to us to tell us why they disagreed with many of the points made. Meanwhile, a number of practicing architects told us that they wholeheartedly agreed with the overriding opinion that, at their worst, trade shows can be incredibly stifling for all parties involved. So, what’s the truth?!

The truth, as in most walks of life, lies somewhere between these opposing viewpoints.

Fortunately, having attended multiple trade shows in recent years, Architizer is well positioned to offer insights into what works — and what doesn’t — for manufacturers aiming to market and sell their goods at architectural trade shows.

As trade show season returns this spring, keep the following four rules in mind next time you choose to invest your hard-earned revenue in a national convention or expo booth…

1. The best booths are educational, not promotional.

We’ve said it time and again, but it bears repeating — architects are constantly in search of solutions, not products. This holds true across mediums, from online platforms like Architizer to trade show booths. Manufacturers should therefore focus on educating architects on the problem-solving attributes of their products in the context of design challenges.

How does your building-product help solve an architect’s problem and reduce their specification headache? If you can illustrate this visually within your booth, it will prove highly compelling to architects. To do this, you might choose to display material details, cutaway models or installation demonstrations — whatever makes most sense for your product.

building product trade show

Stonepeak Ceramics won the award for “Best Experiential Booth” at Coverings 2017

2. Immersive installations win the day.

Some manufacturer’s booths look rather too similar to a school science fair or a lemonade stand. Basic tryptich displays or a table with products laid out are likely to make an architect’s eyes glaze over. This may not be entirely the fault of manufacturers — certain trade show hosts are guilty of cramming too many brands into the exhibit hall, leaving each with little room to be creative with their booth. Limitations notwithstanding, aim to maximize the potential of the space available and stand out from your competitors.

Many of those on display at tile and stone exhibition Coverings 2018 gave architects an amazingly clear idea of how a product could look within the context of their project, thanks to immersive installations that you could walk right into. Complete with design-oriented props and mimicking real-world architectural spaces, these booths leave little to the imagination, providing a compelling vision of a product’s qualities. If you have the space and creativity to pull this off, you will reap the rewards.

3. Adaptability is key.

Many manufacturers are guilty of designing “one-size-fits-all” booths, with identical displays and supporting materials at every type of trade show. Instead, you should conduct thorough research into the likely audience at each event — trade shows populated by contractors or DIY developers will require a different approach than those frequented by architects. Knowing your audience is half the battle — both online and in-person.

For example, a lot of architects associate the annual AIA Convention with earning CEU credits and networking with other architects, rather than actively finding materials to specify. On the other hand, the International Builders’ Show (IBS) is more closely tied to the process of material selection in the minds of attendees. Accordingly, you might take a more educational approach to your booth at AIA, and push sales harder at IBS.

building product trade show

Saloni proudly displayed many of its newest tile products on the exterior of their booth for Coverings 2018

4. New products deserve the spotlight.

Architects are always keen to stay abreast of the latest products and learn how they might be able to integrate them into future projects. There were a number of innovative tile finishes on display at Coverings 2018, but it was often difficult to decipher which were new products and which were launched in previous years and simply re-presented.

Think of ways you can highlight the newest products in your booth — perhaps you tag them with a special marker, or group them together in a prominent display so that they get the attention they deserve. You can always explain the benefits of these fresh products to architects that visit your booth, but it’s important to entice those visitors with a compelling visual display first. Let your products do the majority of the talking.