Trade shows only last a few days, but successful show participation takes a year-round commitment. Your involvement begins long before the show and continues long after.
Having a map to guide you can make the journey smoother, more effective and more economical. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you start down the exhibitor’s road.
What do you want to get out of the show?
What are your goals? For example, do you want to add 10 new advertisers? If so, you’re going to have to talk to a lot of people and develop a lot of leads. That means getting a lot of people to your booth and engaging them in a way that interests them in your publication. This effort, in turn, affects your decisions about customer incentives, booth size and layout and many other considerations.
Is this the right trade show to meet your goals?
Clearly, if you’re looking for home furnishings advertisers, you’re not going to exhibit at a show for sporting equipment suppliers. But the right products aren’t the only consideration. You need to do some tradeshow research to learn, among other things:
- Which trade shows your prospective advertisers attend
- How many prospects might attend a given show
- How many exhibitors you have to compete with
There are a lot of trade shows to pick from. Choosing the ones that will do you the most good takes work, but it’s time well spent. You can save a lot of money on travel, shipping and other costs by attending only the shows that have good potential to provide a strong return on your investment.
How much can you afford to spend on preparation, exhibiting and following up?
Before you can decide on a strategy to attract new customers, you have to know how much you can invest in the effort. Your total budget amount can then be divvied up among expenses related to pre-show marketing, travel, exhibiting and follow-up marketing.
Expect the unexpected. Make sure there’s money in the budget for handling equipment failures and other unforeseen problems. And, don’t just earmark lump sums for things like direct mail and other marketing expenses. Whenever possible, itemize costs right down to specifics, like printing and postage.
What’s your marketing strategy?
How will you get potential customers to your booth and convince them to take the next steps toward becoming advertisers? The simple answer is to wow them.
You’ll need a clear, compelling message that tells your prospects not only what you have to offer but also how they’ll benefit from it. Then you have to reinforce that message in every way you can.
For example, you can bolster the message through:
- Direct mail and/or email prior to the show that raises the awareness of potential advertisers regarding your publication and audience and offers an incentive to visit your booth
- Social media before, during and after the show to highlight any activities, giveaways, contests, incentives and points about your offering that might generate interest
- Video and/or slide shows in the booth that briefly explain what you offer and why prospects should invest in it
- Giveaways at the booth that will remind potential advertisers of who you are, keeping you top of mind when they return home
- Badge scanners that not only give you a record of booth visitors but also an opportunity to add notes that will help you remember why they’re interested in your publication
- Follow-up direct mail and/or email to repeat and reinforce your sales message
- Personal notes using the information you gleaned from your badge scanning that tell prospects that you’ve taken a personal interest in them and their business
Naturally, this isn’t an exhaustive list of marketing tools, but it does provide a place to start as you develop a marketing plan that works to meet your goals.
What should you do to get ready for the next show?
Ask yourself what you’d keep the same and what you’d change about the trade show you just attended and exhibited. Chances are not everything went as planned.
Maybe you didn’t get the response you wanted from your pre-show direct mail or email effort. Perhaps the giveaways weren’t as popular as you thought they’d be. Possibly your booth wasn’t in an ideal location on the show floor, reducing the number of visitors that found you.
Mistakes are inevitable. They can also be learning tools if you’re sure to keep record of what goes right and what goes wrong while you’re at the show, and review it afterward. A critical look at your trade show experience will go a long way toward making your efforts more effective and rewarding the next time.