Trade Show News: Best Practices for Trade Show Planning

December 17, 2016

Leeyen Rogers

Leeyen Rogers is the VP of Marketing at JotForm, a popular online form-building tool based in San Francisco.

Showcasing your company with a booth or display at a trade shows is an expensive affair. Don’t squander this potentially very valuable opportunity to meet new customers, gather leads and drive brand awareness with poor planning. Pulled off with flying colors, trade shows are an incredible opportunity to introduce relevant audiences to your product. How do you successfully achieve it? Well in short, you want to successfully deliver the message that your product will be the solution to a customer’s problem, or that they didn’t even know that they needed.

Here are the best practices for trade show planning that will help you reach those goals.

Send a pre-show mailing

Depending on your company’s goals, revenue strategy, and historical lead generation data, you may want to send pre-show mailing to high-value clients. Snail mail is not dead, but it can be expensive and a crowded space. This is why your recipients must be properly screened as potential high-value clients. Even if your company offers a free plan, your targeted recipients would probably benefit from a paid plan and be likely to make the purchase. When used properly, your company’s mailing will be attention-grabbing, communicate a memorable value proposition, and give a clear call to action.

Contact the trade show’s management team

The trade show’s management team has a stake in your company having a successful trade show experience. Take advantage of their expertise and advice by contacting them in advance. Perhaps they can give you some tips to develop an appealing booth, and point you in the right direction as far as marketing opportunities and partnerships go. They may be able to advise you on top location options, how receptive certain tactics were in the past, etc.

Rally behind one clear message

Trade shows can be a blur of cookie-cutter, boring companies that do this or do that, and your company will unfortunately be lost in the crowd if you do not make a concerted effort to make a lasting impression. Everything from the placement of your logo (which should be unobstructed and clear), your message, and how your booth managers interact with attendees needs to be part of the same cohesive strategy. Booth representatives as well as the marketing collateral on the booth should be able to sum up your company in a few words, and all materials and giveaways should help drive that same message home.

Establish a clear call-to-action

Companies that exhibit at trade shows have different motives and top priorities. Perhaps your goal is to gather as many leads as possible. Or, you’d like to increase brand awareness with the target demographic who will be attending the trade show. Networking and meeting potential investors and opportunities for partnerships can also be a motivation. Whatever your goal happens to be, you need to formulate a strategy around your specific call-to-action.

If your focus is on gathering leads, then you can push attendees to give out their contact information. There are ways to make this easier, such as working with trade show management to see if they have an event app that you could benefit from. You could have a bowl for business card collection, and have an iPad set up ready to collect information. If your call-to-action is brand awareness, then exhibit design and displays have an added importance of enticing people to come into your company’s space so that they can learn about it in a fully branded environment.

Follow up while the skillet is hot

Trade shows tend to be one of the more expensive ways to gather leads, so every lead is more valuable. The follow up needs to happen when the lead is the most engaged- which is as soon as possible. They’ve talked to many people at the event, and have seen and learned about many companies. You want to make contact early, hopefully beating out the masses of companies trying to do the same, while the person is the most likely to remember what your company is about. Ideally, you would also mention a detail that was discussed in the conversation, or how your product can help their company specifically.

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