10 Tips for a Successful Trade Show Experience

As a trade show marketing manager, you’re responsible for managing the budget, planning, execution and follow-up of each trade show at which your company exhibits. We thought it would be helpful to provide you with our top 10 list of “ways to ensure a successful trade show” experience for YOUR company.

1. Set Real Goals, So You Can Measure Success & ROO

Whether you attend one trade show per year or several per month, planning your trade show marketing should start with objectives (ROO = Return On Objectives….our company president, Doug Hughes, will be thrilled to speak with you about this concept!). Bona fide objectives that are realistic for your budget and can be measured at the end of each event.

Are you looking to increase overall awareness of your brand? Are you looking to generate direct sales leads? Do you need to write orders from existing and potential customers on the show floor?

Whatever objectives you set, be sure to put in place a system to quantify and measure the results against those objectives after your trade show event.

2. Know and Understand Your Target Audience

Taking a peek back at marketing 101 – you have to know who your target audience is, what shows they will attend and most importantly – what motivates them.

Everything from what products you will showcase, to how you will staff your trade show booth should be determined ultimately by who you are looking to engage with.

And of course, who you are trying to sell should dictate what shows you attend and what the design & theme of your exhibit exudes.

3. Select the Best Events & Space for your Company

Once you’ve established marketing objectives, your company would like to achieve via exhibiting at trade show events or expos, determining WHICH shows you should exhibit at is paramount. Some initial considerations to take into account would be location, who and how many attendees will be at the show and of course the cost of entry.

Once you have selected the shows you’d like to exhibit at, be sure to register early enough to ensure that your company gets the most choice space available. As most show space is sold on a first-come-first-serve basis, the earlier you can book the better chance you have of getting the prime locations – at any size!

4. Hire a Trade Show Exhibit Company That Excels

Having considered what your goals are, who you are engaging and where you’ll be exhibiting – you need to engage a trade show exhibit company which has the chops to deliver an exhibit that supports your purpose.

Are you in need of a 100’x100′, dramatic exhibit or are you attending a smaller show on a tight budget?

The trade show company you hire should be able to provide you with a purchase or rental solution that fulfills your goals, matches your budget and gives you the best opportunity to maximize your ROO!

5. Produce Graphics and Collateral Which Focus on Impact

Once you’ve hired a trade show exhibit company, they should be working in tandem with you to create a graphics and branding package for your exhibit design which excites and motivates your target audience to engage.

Remember, your ultimate goal is to create awareness or generate leads & sales – so, the graphics of your booth should stand out in the crowd, draw your prospects in and then support your overall mission and brand. And of course, any marketing collateral, give-aways and the like should marry up to the overall theme and brand.

A cohesive marketing package says so many positive things about your brand!

6. Promote Your Exhibit Pre-Show, During the Event and Post

Promote. Promote. Promote!

You should own every event you’ll be exhibiting at as if the whole darned thing were your own!

From sending out pre-show email blasts and making one-on-one calls for appointment setting, you should be advertising your show presence before, during and after the actual event takes place.

And ignore social media at your own peril. At all stages of the event, be sure to engage your prospects via Twitter, Google+, Facebook etc. Be sure to use the shows hashtags (#) in posts, so other interested in the event have the best chance of seeing your content.

7. Have a Lead Capture System In-Place

Capture your leads. At the end of the day everything you do leading up to and during your trade show event is about nurturing your leads. This is where the true ROO is in your trade show marketing efforts.

There are a number of “lead scanners” and mobile apps available to help you capture your booth visitors as leads. Whether offered by the event organizers or from a third party, these scanners and apps can be invaluable for capturing important contact info during your events.

Hint: If you expect lots of attendees at your booth, consider renting multiple scanners to accommodate booth traffic. For better participation, you don’t want to inconvenience your guest with a line so they can give you THEIR information!

And of course, once the event is over – be sure to immediately transfer any captured leads to your CRM (customer relationship management) software for follow-up.

8. Provide Timely Follow-Up With Any Leads You Promised

Once your show is over, you should be adding all of the leads you captured to your CRM, as noted earlier. From here your own internal processes for lead nurturing should kick in.

Be sure to provide timely information to those who requested further contact – within just a few days if email follow-up is needed and within a week if you’ll be mailing out printed collateral.

You’ve worked very hard to capture these leads, make every one count!

9. Measure and Quantify Your Results

So, the big date(s) has come and gone, now what? Well, it’s time to look back on your event and reconsider those objectives you set very early on.

Did you capture the number of leads you envisioned? Did your staff book the orders you set goals for? How about sheer number of visitors to your booth and eyeballs on your brand?

Analytics and stats for your event are quite easy to capture and examine. And  being able to quantify your ROO for each events give you vital information to call upon for future showings.

10. Have a Debriefing Session to Identify What Worked & What Didn’t

Finally, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The show’s over, the leads have been distributed and your trade show exhibit is either stored or shipped to the next show.

Be sure to have a proper debriefing for each show you attend.

Openly discuss what went well, the parts that didn’t go so well and even the details that required effort but didn’t really help nor hurt your performance.

By examining the totality of each show, after each event, you’ll be better equipped to dial in expectations and get a return on your objectives from future shows.

We’re Ready to Discuss Your Next Project