If you're looking to maximize the ROI on your expenditures, developing and executing a marketing strategy that promotes your company, its products or services, and its branding is of paramount importance.

Set Objectives and Outline SMART Goals

Having goals for your trade show keeps everyone involved on the same page and ensures that your efforts are working towards accomplishing your primary objectives. A SMART goal is one that is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-measurable. If your aim is to increase brand awareness, establish some goals that will help you measure your achievement of that objective.

Choose an Appropriate Trade Show that Matches Your Objectives

Depending on your objectives (and your budget), make sure to choose the right trade show. For example, if you plan on launching a product or service, look for relevant trade shows that coincide with the launch date. You might want to choose a trade show that occurs the week before the launch, so you can generate more buzz around your product or service, or a show right after your launch to increase awareness, generate leads, and make sales.

Put Yourself In The Visitor's Shoes

Before you jump straight into exhibiting your company at a trade show, consider attending one as a visitor. As a trade show visitor, you’re free from the stress of being an exhibitor and can focus on what other companies do. You can get ideas for your booth, as well as take note of what works and what doesn't from the perspective of an attendee

What booths grabbed your attention? Why? How did the booth staff get you involved with their products or services? How did they collect lead information? Which booths attracted the most visitors? How? Why?

As an added bonus, you can use this time to network, generate leads, and find potential referral partners.

Promote, Promote, Promote

Promoting your attendance at a trade show comprises a vital portion of your trade show marketing strategy. When done properly, it helps increase both brand awareness and the number of visitors to your booth. Take the time to inform the general public of your presence at the trade show and provide a glimpse into what visitors will have to gain.

Before the trade show, you’ll want to use every marketing channel at your disposal to inform people of your attendance. Use social media, emails, your website, and additional media channels you have access to in order to get as much reach as possible.

During the show, promote your booth through engagement - hold fun activities and utilize interactive demos, interesting raffles, and promotional material giveaways for booth visitors. Just remember, it’s okay to reserve certain, more valuable, promotional items for your most qualified leads.

Once the trade show is over, it’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling a sense of relief; however, the work isn't done yet! Follow up with leads to stay top of mind with your prospects; having a lead management plan in place prior to attending the show will help ensure you don't have to play catch up when the show ends.

Prepare Your Staff

A trade show is a unique experience for both exhibitors and attendees. As such, ensuring your booth’s staff are properly trained is vital. Here are a few best practices when it comes to training:

  • Educate your staff on each of your products or service offerings and what problems they aim to solve.

  • Train your staff on how to engage customers and how to represent your brand's image.

  • Clarify the difference between qualified and unqualified leads and how to quickly identify them, so they can prioritize visitors at your booth.

  • Staff should be energetic and enthusiastic (even on their off days).

Network

Trade shows aren't just events to sell your company's offerings; they're also networking events. Set aside time for company employees to get out of your booth and meet other exhibitors. Gather leads and keep in touch with the people and companies you may have already touched base with in the past.

It shouldn't be too difficult to find companies that complement your company's products or services. Plant the seed for a relationship with these companies, so you can nurture the chance for referrals or future partnerships.

Follow Up With Leads

Trade show attendees get barraged with products, services, and contacts over the course of the trade show. As such, it's important to stay top of mind by following up with your leads within 3-4 days of the event’s closing date.

Send “Thank You” emails and let prospects know you were listening and how much of a pleasure it was to meet and converse with them. Add a personal touch by including details specific to the lead. Call qualified leads to further discuss their specific challenges and open the relationship by letting them know how you intend to help. Your goal is to nurture leads to form a relationship — avoid the hard sell; instead, build rapport and develop the relationship first.

Debrief Your Sales and Marketing Teams

After the show, regroup with your trade show team. Talk about your successes, failures, and shortcomings. Find out what went well,  what didn’t go well, where could you improve. Discuss instances where your team had to improvise and what happened. Review your objectives and your goals and decide which objectives were accomplished and to what extent.

The point of regrouping after the show is to learn from your experience, so you can improve your approach and be more successful at the next show.

Having a strategy for your first trade show will do wonders for reducing the inevitable stresses along the way. Get started the right way by partnering with an exhibit house that understands your needs and prides itself on bringing your show dreams to reality. Contact us today to get started!