Trade shows can be a strong tactic in your marketing toolkit â€“ a way to reach your target audiences, educate them and create a dialogue about industry-related issues. Trade shows provide a unique opportunity that cannot be replicated in any other type of venue.
And while the opportunity to meet new business prospects face-to-face makes trade shows very popular, the potential return on your financial investment in exhibiting at a trade show can be easily negated by poor planning and preparation.
In an effort to help you make the most of your investment, Iâ€™ve outlined some key phases of trade show exhibition:
Set measurable objectives. Investing in a trade show without them is like trying to build a house without a blueprint.Â Without a fundamental plan, there is no way you can get the most out of your experience.
When setting objectives, ask yourself these questions:
• What is your overall reason for exhibiting at the trade show?
• Do you have the resources available?
• What return do you expect from exhibiting?
• How does exhibiting reinforce your overall marketing plan?
• What will be your standards for measurement (e.g., increased sales, qualified leads)?
The answers to these questions will allow you to determine if exhibiting at a particular trade show fits into your overall marketing plan.
Pre-show mailers and emails can be an effective way to reach key audiences to let them know youâ€™ll be exhibiting, find out whoâ€™s attending, give them a feel for your theme and messages and simply establish contact.
Find a unique way to engage attendees. Maybe youâ€™re giving away a valuable item in a drawing. Perhaps youâ€™re conducting live polling of attendees â€“ asking questions about industry-related topics, the show itself or another topic of interest. (We recently conducted our own live polling â€“ check out our results here.)
Some form of engagement is critical to increasing traffic to your exhibit and getting your message the most possible exposure.
One of the most overlooked aspects of trade shows is following up onÂ all leads obtained from the event in a timely manner. Email all booth attendees who provided contact information (regardless of whether they are good prospects or not). Say thank you for stopping by your booth and offer your product/service solutions again by reinforcing your key messages.
In addition to following up with leads obtained at your trade show, one of the most important post-show activities is to conduct a post-show analysis.Â Conduct an evaluation session with your team to determine what worked and what could be improved upon.
At some point â€“ when your last follow-up call has been made and youâ€™re already considering what youâ€™ll do differently next year â€“ youâ€™ll call this yearâ€™s show a wrap and measure your results against your initial objectives.Â This is probably the most important step because, after all, if youâ€™re going to put this much work and money into something, don’t you want to ensure that it’s worthÂ it?
How are you planning for your next trade show? Weâ€™d love to hear about it.