When you’re setting up to impress industry contacts or potential new leads at a trade show, it’s only natural to think about appearances. When you exhibit at a trade show, it feels like the eyes of the world are on you. Trade shows can help you impress colleagues, gain clients, and help get your foot in the door. But if your trade show booth design is poor, you could risk going totally unnoticed. Many companies fear coming off as visually uninteresting or unremarkable at a trade show. That’s why so many of them hire specific design companies to help rebrand their image and give them that extra visual pop. You’d be surprised what even the smallest design makeover can do for a struggling or fresh-out-of-the-gate business. However, before selecting a company to help you with your branding, there are a few factors you should think about in order to make the most educated choice possible. If you’re shopping around for design companies, here are some things to think about.

Different Companies Offer Different Services

When shopping for the right design company, don’t assume that every business you find is full service. On the contrary: Many design companies are better known for the services they don’t offer over what they do offer. For instance, you might be interested in a company that specializes in rebranding, marketing, and advertising. You wouldn’t expect this company to build you an exhibit model or produce a display. Instead, you’d be paying the firm for their ideas about how to make your business work better and appeal to a larger group of people. From there, it would be up to you to take those ideas into your own hands. On the other hand, if you hire a production company or a display builder, you’re basically paying for a one-off job. These producers won’t, and shouldn’t be expected to, have a lot of insights about how you can make your brand better overall. They’re here to specifically help you with your trade show appearance. While this can be hugely helpful, it’s always best to know what you’re looking for beforehand. If you feel that your business has branding issues that go beyond the context of an important trade show, you’ll want to look at a marketing agency. However, if you just need a bit of extra help with trade show ideas, consulting a producer or exhibit builder is best.

Reputation Counts

While you’re searching for agencies to consult or hire, don’t assume that one bad review is just sour grapes. Before you give a company your money, you want to know they’re actually going to give you results. Don’t just rely on an internet search or word of mouth to supply you with your options. Check out a verified organization like the chamber of commerce, or ask for referrals from colleagues whose opinion you trust. If you’re already making your rounds on the trade show circuit, try making a note of displays that catch your eye and try to find out who’s responsible for them. Just don’t ask direct competitors and keep the conversation casual.

Always Ask the Right Questions

Besides looking at a portfolio of past work, the best way you can learn about a business is to ask questions. When meeting with agencies, be thorough. Don’t just ask them what they’d do with your business. Ask them about what you can expect from working with them. What’s their turnaround on certain projects? How long have they been working trade shows? How many clients do they have, and what kind of clients do they work best with? Don’t be shy about asking questions. You’re entitled to know as much about the ins and outs of business with a specific brand if you’re going to align yourself with them and pay them to help create a new image for you.

Encourage Competition

Don’t just settle for the first proposal that looks good to you. Before deciding on a company to do business with, ask each company to bid for your business by sending you a detailed proposal or plan of action. Don’t give them too much instruction before asking for this. It helps to know what kinds of ideas they’ll come up with on their own first without any prompting from you. This will help you see whether or not you see eye to eye when it comes to your vision for the company. It will also help you make a much more clear and balanced decision about who to give your business to. Remember, this is ideally going to be a long-lasting relationship, so choose wisely and don’t sell yourself short.