How to Profit from Trade Show Marketing

trade show marketing eventYou’ve got a new product or service to introduce to your industry, and you’d like to present it to customers, prospective buyers, influencers and the press. One of the best ways to reach your clientele is through trade show marketing. Trade shows allow you to connect with members of a particular industry. They are the perfect place to gather leads for your contact database and vault your company into the spotlight.

The costs involved with trade show marketing can seem a bit steep, in fact, a company can spend thousands of dollars for exhibiting, human resource allocation, travel, and marketing. However, the return on your investment can be exponential. A recent Statista Study revealed the anticipated return on investment level from an event and experiential marketing programs in the United States.

  • 14 percent of respondents stated they expected a 2-to-1 return on investment
  • 23% of respondents expected a 3-to-1 return
  • 12% anticipated a greater than 20-to-1 return

But make no mistake, trade show marketing success isn’t guaranteed. So how does your company ensure your trade show investment has a chance of paying off?

Develop Trade Show Marketing Objectives and Allocate an Affordable Budget

Just like your overall marketing plan, your trade show marketing plan should state your quantitative and qualitative objectives for the show.

Identify the Best Trade Shows for Your Needs

Whatever your industry, there is an abundance of shows, large and small that you must identify so that you can hone in on the right show. To help you evaluate the possibilities for your company, online resources can show you attendee demographics, a list of registered exhibitors, and more. View the Absolute Exhibits Top 100 USA Trade Show List to get a running start.

After you have identified the right show, call the event organizer to get answers to any further questions you may have. If you are familiar with a past exhibitor, you might call them and get their opinion about the show. Are they a regular exhibitor? Has the show paid off for them in the past? What size is their booth and how much do they typically allocate for their show budget? Would they recommend you participate?

Decide Who Will Handle the Details

You have decided to attend and booked your space. There are many aspects to manage so determine whether you have the time to do this yourself, or whether someone else inside or outside of your organization might be a better choice to spearhead this effort.

Call a meeting of your trade show team. Summarize the show, your objectives, budget, etc. Determine roles for individuals. Develop a timeline so that nothing is missed on the way to making the show date. Unless you are miracle workers, allow two months between now and the start of the show, to organize your efforts. Carve out more time if you can.

trade show checklist

Trade Show Checklist

There are many things you need to take care of before show time.

  • Trade show booth
  • Other signage
  • Collateral materials for handing out:
    • Brochure
    • Sales sheets
    • Premium giveaways
  • Internet access for demos
  • Availability of personnel
  • Need for additional booth personnel
  • Special clothing for booth personnel
  • Comfortable shoes (remember, you’ll be standing a lot!)
  • Travel
  • Hotel
  • Training for show personnel
  • Press release intro for new product/service
  • Prior contact with prospects and press to organize meetings during the show
  • Marketing activities before the show to drive attendance at your booth
  • Marketing activities during the show to connect with opportunities
  • Lead capture during the show
  • Post show marketing activities to capitalize on your new contact base

To handle all these details, you will need both time and money. Begin as soon as possible to prevent last minute issues.

Last Minute Tips for Getting the Most from Your Trade Show Marketing Efforts

The week of the show is at hand, and all your materials and people have arrived. Tomorrow you will get your exhibit ready for use, so it’s time to call a meeting of your trade show team and review the objectives once again. It’s also time to review your pitch and everyone’s responsibilities.

Are they ready? Are they pumped? After all this time, energy, and dollars, they need to be cool, calculating and enthusiastic!

The day before the show, make sure your booth and all the materials are looking good and ready to use. Take your sales team leader and scout the show to review other exhibitors. This is a good day to do it because most of the owners or managers can get away from their booths and chat. This tip is not given out casually. At some shows, I have seen more business conducted exhibitor to exhibitor than with attendees, so this is KEY!

Opening Day of the Trade Show

Pace yourself and your team!

In the US, trade shows can be 2-5 day affairs, (in Europe, they can be twice as big and can run twice as long). Depending on the duration of your show and your personal ability to be energetic for days at a time, remember to pace yourself. Your day might begin with a meeting at 7 am. The show might start at 9, and by midday, you may have had the opportunity to talk with 20-50 booth attendees.

Again, pace yourself. Drink water and eat healthy snacks because you have to remain upbeat and full of energy for the entire time you are there. You can rest after you have dinner with another prospect!

This recommendation applies to you and each member of your team, so warn them in advance that this is no picnic or sightseeing trip. Yes, there will be some fun (take them to dinner and out for a show at the end of the event), but tell them they have been specially chosen to be emissaries for your company. As such, you are expecting a HUGE effort from each of them.Whatever they have to do to remain energetic and positive, encourage them to do so. Go to the gym in the morning or go for a swim before the show. Eat light or at least healthy. Minimize alcohol and tobacco consumption. Get a good night’s sleep and remember, “leaders lead,” so don’t just tell them, instead, you have to show them the way and lead by example.

How to Capitalize on Your Trade Show Marketing Efforts

At the end of the first day, conduct a debriefing with your team. What did you individually learn? What could be improved tomorrow? Despite the heavy pre-planning, now that you are here and experiencing reality, are there changes you want to make regarding your approach, different things you want to say or do? Are there people or companies you want to connect with?

person counting moneyOnce your back home, it’s time to evaluate how well your trade show marketing paid off. Call the team together. Give them a summary of what took place at the show and how successful you have been achieving the quantitative and qualitative objectives you laid out in the original trade show marketing plan. Talk about what might be improved next time out. Give some kudos out to those people who made a special effort or achieved greatness. Thank them all for giving up their time and their effort on the company’s behalf!

Follow up on the leads you gathered at the show and develop your database swiftly. I recommend you break the database into various tabs, i.e., Customers, Prospects, Networking Partners, Press, etc. By so doing, you will be able to segment your message if necessary. But you must act quickly. People have short memories. Send an email out 24-48 hours upon your return to all booth attendees thanking them for visiting your booth and promising them some sort of follow up by one of your team members.

Personally write to those key contacts you made during the show. Suggest a time to talk to them during the next week so that a minimum amount of time passes between contact. Meet with your sales team and talk about a follow-up plan. Who can follow up, when and how? Is there a special promotional program you should be introducing at this time to motivate a trial purchase? How will this effort be evaluated, and will you be able to attribute any additional revenues to the trade show effort so that you can accurately determine ROI?

This blog post hits some, not all of the important aspects of preparing to conduct and following up a trade show. As you can see, trade show marketing can be complex and time-consuming. It can also make or break your company’s growth efforts, so making sure you press all the right buttons along the way to success is vital. Trust experts like us to hand-hold you through the process, our expert team can do all the heavy lifting. Either way, do not underestimate the tasks involved or the potential opportunity that participating in the right trade show can deliver to your company. Your future success may depend on it!

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Julian Aston