The Trade Show

By: Sara Seely, Account Development Executive, WildRock PR & Marketing

Take a few minutes to browse any current literature on marketing and you’ll be ready to throw your entire marketing budget into online tools and social media. Don’t get us wrong, an online presence is vitally important, but we’d like to give some love to a dear old marketing friend: the trade show. In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world of marketing, traditional marketing efforts, such as events, still play an integral role in a marketing plan. So, why exactly are companies still investing their time and dollars in events? Digital marketing and social media efforts alone can’t replace the value and energy of face-to-face connections.

Yes, trade shows are expensive (and can be exhausting), but when done right they can produce quality leads that you wouldn’t otherwise get. Here a few reasons why it might be worth your effort:

  1. Connect and build new relationships with your target audience
  2. Meet decisions makers
  3. Scope out competition to see what’s new and what is trending
  4. Generate leads
  5. Build awareness around your brand

So, depending on your marketing strategy, a trade show may be just what your company needs. Have we piqued your interest? Are you thinking to yourself, “Sign me up! But how?” Here are ten tips to help you make the most of your trade show efforts.

  1. Choose wisely – Your first step should always be to define the target audience you want to reach – be specific! Then, determine objectives that are quantifiable so you can identify the ROI you want to achieve from exhibiting. Now, you are ready to pick out the trade show(s) you should participate in. You can start by asking your current clients where they will be going to ensure maximum exposure to your target audience. Be sure to spend some time searching a variety of online trade show directory databases to get a good list of opportunities.
  2. Start early – Once you have selected a trade show, set a budget! Then, select the right size booth. Booth location is key. As you put together your plan, make sure to order services early to avoid additional costs upon arrival.
  3. Build your booth strategy– Choosing the right booth elements adds polish and impact from pop-up displays to elaborate, custom-built systems. Create an experience that will make visitors feel comfortable and encourages them to spend time at your booth. Rent large screens to play digital videos, conduct live demos of your product, provide samples to try out… The more creative, the better!
  4. Train your staff – This is a crucial step in ensuring a successful trade show. Hold a pre-show meeting to go over expectations, goals and details for the event. Spend time training your staff on “best practices” so they can be successful in their efforts to generate leads and represent the company in a positive and professional manner. The most successful people do not sell – they EDUCATE their target audience and know when to disengage quickly with unqualified leads. One of our favorite tips is the 80/20 rule: Listen 80% – Talk 20%.
  5. Give something away – Hold a contest or drawing. Select cost-effective giveaways that have high-perceived value with your target audience and complement your company image. Add value to the experience by incorporating social media tactics into your plan, encouraging visitors to engage by checking in, stay connected by signing up for an eNewsletter and following live posts and updates throughout the event.
  6. Identify those you want to connect with at the show – You can find out well before the event who will be attending. Check the exhibitor list, network with industry friends and touch base with your trade association.
  7. Conduct a presentationPosition your company as an expert by facilitating a seminar or short presentation on a hot topic. This effort will get you in front a captive audience and allow you to connect with more prospects.
  8. Capture leads – Develop a process and protocol to follow up and grow your business because hey, that is why you are there, right?
  9. Promote yourself – You can leverage a variety of PR tools to increase awareness, drive traffic to your booth and maintain communication long after the event. Start before the event by sending out a press release. Post pictures and live tweets during the show. Finally, share your experience and new trends with your clients and prospect with a blog post.
  10. Take pictures of everything – Not only should you capture the end-result of your booth for post-event communications and debriefing, but taking pictures of other memorable components of the show will make future planning for improvements easier.

Looking for some help building your trade show strategy? Contact us! We love helping companies find their competitive advantage so they can grow their business.