The prospect of managing the logistics and myriad of details that go along with any trade show event can be daunting. Take the following tips to heart for each phase of attending a trade show and no one will be able to guess if it’s your first show or your fifty first.
Setting Goals: Before you even decide what trade show to attend, take some time to examine your goals. What do you hope to gain by attending a face-to-face marketing event? Are you launching a new product? Looking to expand your geographic footprint or reach a new industry? Or maybe you are taking the opportunity to re-connect with existing and potential customers. Whatever your purpose for exhibiting at a tradeshow, use it to articulate what you want every visitor to your booth to do.
Clarifying your goals and call to action for visitors will focus your efforts and will make sure everyone on your team is aiming at the same target.
Do Your Homework: There is a lot to learn ahead of a show from a logistics standpoint, but you should give equal attention to understanding your audience before you start putting the wheels in motion for your booth. Put the time in before the show and you will save yourself wasted effort and time at the show.
You’ve established your goals and desired outcomes from booth visitors. Make sure you are able to articulate who your ideal customer is and you will have better luck connecting with them. Who are you trying to reach with your message? What is the best way to communicate to your ideal customer? What types of activities, design and atmosphere will attract that customer to your booth?
Set (and stick to) Your Budget: One of the surest ways to increase your stress level is to shortchange the budgeting step in your planning process. Preparing an itemized budget with flexibility built in allows you to see where your money is going and forces you to attend to the smallest details of the event. The flexibility piece is necessary to give you the wiggle room you need when any unexpected expenses crop up.
Assemble Your Dream Team: Selecting who will staff your booth and interact with visitors is a crucial aspect of executing a successful trade show. You may arrive with the flashiest booth and offer the tastiest treats, but without the right people in place to ensure successful human connections with visitors – your efforts will be wasted. First off, try to have a mix of expertise on hand, from marketing to technical experts. Properly coach your staff to stay on message (remember that goal setting step?), give warm greetings to all visitors (link to previous blog post on this topic) and really engage with them. One cautionary note – remind your team that they should check emails and messages away from the booth and keep personal chit chat, eating and drinking out of view.
The Fun Part!: You know what you want to say, you know who you are saying it to…now you get to choose the best method for drawing visitors in. It’s time to design your trade show booth and all the collateral marketing you will use pre- and post-show! You only get one chance to make a first impression, so don’t be afraid to be creative.
Lean on the experts to fully understand all your options…from custom booths to rentals, you can find a creative solution that fits your budget.
The exhibit floor can be a crowded place, so you want to make sure you stand out. Think about how your visitors will interact with your booth from top (link to blog post on hanging branded sign) to bottom. Whatever design you settle on, make sure your pre-and post-show materials (linke to previous blog post) are all in line and consistent with the look and feel of your booth.
Ideas Before the Big Day: The name of the game is traffic to your booth, so be proactive about reaching out to your customers and prospects to invite them to stop by. Leverage your digital mediums to spread the word, from social platforms to targeted email campaigns. If you are able to run a promotion or drawing, be sure to highlight that aspect. People like to get stuff! It’s just human nature, so use that impulse to your benefit. Do you have a creative giveaway? Are you providing delicious snacks? Let your contacts know what they will get from stopping by your booth. Another proven technique is to offer attendees the opportunity to schedule time with your experts.
Show Time: Now it’s time to reel them in. Ideas abound about how to make your booth attractive to attendees. Giveaway items, food and drink, music and interactive activities should all tie in with your design and your goal and desired action from your visitors. If your giveaway is enticing enough and/or visible, it will draw people to your booth. Use every opportunity to gather attendee information – collect business cards to enter a drawing, scan badges to participate in your activity. All of this builds your database of contacts for follow up and ongoing interaction long after the show ends.
Speaking of Follow up…Amazingly, despite the time, cost and energy that goes into exhibiting at a trade show, many marketers drop the ball on this critical step. Don’t be one of them! Follow up quickly after the show before attendees memories of the event have a chance to dim. Turn all that data you collected into entries in your database and send a thank you email within a week or so of the event. Even better, have your sales team personally contact “hot leads” before they run cool.
The ideas above should give you a running start at successfully executing your first trade show event. While getting your arms around all the various aspects that need to be attended to can be challenging, the reward of face-to-face marketing cannot be overstated. Do it well and you will walk away with renewed connections with loyal customers, promising leads, vendor ideas and likely a whole slew of ideas for your next go-round. Connect with the experts at Exhibit Systems to take advantage of our planning tools and expertise to efficiently plan your first time at a trade show.