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How do I maximize my trade show investment?

Exhibiting at trade shows can be a costly investment. However, if strategically planned and executed, the results can be priceless. The key to success is realizing that trade show participation starts several months before the event and continues during and after the show concludes. Thoroughly planning ahead for all three phases will help increase opportunities and maximize your investment.

Phase 1: Pre-Show

Before the show, you need to get your company on the radar of top prospects, while also strengthening relationships with current customers. Here are some tips:

  • Make sure you have a compelling story going in

The first step is to determine your key messages and then ensure all communication channels, such as your website, pre-show promotions, booth displays and in-booth sales presentations, are consistent.

  • Start outreach to customers and prospects 6 to 8 weeks out

Develop an outreach campaign to prospects and customers to communicate your message, gain attention and generate interest in meeting with you at the show. Remember, at a trade show you may need to step up your game since you are not only competing with your competitors for attention, but also with all exhibiting companies at the venue.

With attendee lists available for most trade shows, target your key prospects and implement a focused email or direct mail marketing campaign to pique their interests. Be sure to include a call to action (schedule a meeting, stop by the booth) and provide an easy way to complete the action (direct link, pre-stamped return card). Extra incentives are also common to secure more booth appointments.

  • Use ads, media relations and social to broaden your reach

Depending on the industry and budget parameters, consider digital and print advertising, as well as media relations, to generate awareness and product publicity in pre-show trade journals. The products featured in your ads and publicity should be consistent with the email campaign, booth display and in-booth sales presentations to support your message and maximize sales opportunities. Social media can supplement each campaign by providing additional supporting details, including persuasive videos or photography, as well as generate engagement.

  • Leverage opportunities the show provides

Most trade shows feature a variety of award opportunities and/or new product showcases, so enter your products for consideration before the show. These opportunities are very cost-effective tactics that can attract extra attention. When a product is chosen as a winner or finalist, it often garners significant buzz at the show, which in turn means more media attention and sales interest from prospects and customers.

  • Network

Finally, be prepared for jam-packed days of networking while at the show. Work ahead to arrange as many meetings as possible with customers, prospects and media in your booth, as well as utilizing non-show hours for breakfast and dinner meetings. And don’t forget about the media: Trade shows present an excellent opportunity to cost effectively meet trade journal editors in one location, creating both short- and long-term publicity opportunities for your products and company.

Phase 2: During the Show

  • Use reminders to ensure meetings are kept

Just because you have a meeting, doesn’t mean you’ll keep it. Send personalized reminders – texts, emails, social media messages – to show your prospects your excitement to meet them and reduce the chance of no-shows or cancellations. Depending on the show, spiffs and incentives, or in-booth activities can also help entice attendees.

  • Capture leads

As you meet with customers, prospects and media, be sure to have a system in place to capture as much detailed information as possible. Recalling personal details or anecdotes, details about your conversations and any specific questions asked is critical to ensuring personalized follow-up.

  • Leverage social

Finally, utilize social media to share pertinent information about your booth activities, news and other information to reinforce your company messages and remind attendees to visit your booth. Be sure to utilize any hashtags or unique accounts assigned to the show.

Phase 3: Post Show

  • Conduct follow-up

Once you return – and are likely exhausted – be sure not to end there. Striking while excitement is high and memories are fresh is imperative. Continue engaging prospects and customers by highlighting the show on social media and, most importantly, don’t neglect following up with your sales leads. Within 28 days, utilize your notes to recall details from conversations to personalize responses when possible to show you are serious about securing their business!

By thoroughly planning for each stage, your trade show experience will be a success.

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Brian Bloom

Senior Vice President

Brian has extensive experience in planning and counseling consumer, business-to-business and industrial clients on a wide range of issues. He helps his clients achieve significant results both in their targeted sectors, as well as in the larger marketplace, both in the United States and globally.