Anyone who has been to a trade show knows this familiar scene: one booth is vibrant and bustling with a crowd, while the booth next to it doesn’t draw a single person except a few bored looking employees staring into space. What gives? The answer is a bit more complicated than having the right product or a good display – it’s all about finding a successful trade show strategy.
Participating in a trade show is an investment, taking up a large portion of most company budgets. If you’re going to do a trade show, it’s important to do it right – and that starts with an excellent strategy. Planning your approach is absolutely key to making the event as effective as possible. Here are a few tips for developing the right strategy so your trade show is worth the investment.
Trade show regulars will tell you that it’s important to register for a trade show far in advance to guarantee a good spot. While this is definitely true, don’t make the common mistake of registering and forgetting. Companies frequently do this, pushing all prep until the last minute and throwing together a so-so trade show.
Your prep should begin right after you register. Start with setting goals: What do we want to accomplish at this trade show? What is our purpose for being at this trade show? Who do we want to talk to at this trade show? Be as specific as possible so your employees have a clear idea about their mission. Everything you do at your trade show should tie back to your original goals. And don’t forget to book flights and hotel rooms for your employees! Waiting until the last minute will usually drive up costs for less-than-ideal options.
Get the buzz going! Let your current contacts and prospective customers know about your upcoming event to get people excited. With the internet and social media, doing this is easier than ever and almost always free. You could host a webinar on Facebook live, tweet updates on your progress, send out a promotional email or write some exciting new blog posts. The goal is to give your network a good reason to show up to your booth. Hone in on what’s exciting and new about your event that customers shouldn’t miss.
The last step in preparation couldn’t be more crucial – booth design. Start by making sure you get a prime location at the trade show. While these spots usually cost more, they are also larger and in high-traffic areas. Obtain the exact dimensions, lighting access, and other information pertaining to your space, as this will determine the design of your booth.
Once you’ve got your space locked down, focus on creating a design that will draw people in instantly. You only have a few short seconds to show customers who you are and what you offer, so use your space wisely. Eye-catching graphics, videos and demonstrations are just a few ideas. Avoid placing a table across the entrance to your booth as this tends to close people off.
You made it to the trade show – congrats! Now it’s time to perform. It’s not enough to just have employees present at the trade show. Pick the friendliest, most energetic and most engaging people you have to work your booth. They should be eager to talk to attendees without being overbearing. Trade shows are stiff competition, and competing well is key. No sitting around or scrolling Instagram feeds. Again, this is a big investment of time, money and resources – every minute counts!
Once the trade show is over, you and your team are likely to be exhausted, but the work isn’t over after you’ve packed up your booth. If you want any of the leads you talked to during the show to become customers, you need to follow up as quickly as possible (ideally the next day, but at least within the week).
During the show, have your employees take brief notes on each lead. Chances are many other companies at the show are also following up with the same people, so it’s important to stand out. Including small personal details from your notes (without seeming creepy) will go a long way. Try to make an impression – maybe even make phone calls instead of sending out emails! These follow-ups are essential to making the most of your trade show.
Great trade show strategy isn’t just about what you do at the actual event. It’s about your preparation before, action during and follow-up after the event. Each of these phases is crucial to the other two, so don’t cut any corners! Follow these steps and you’ll be amazed at just how effective your trade shows can be.