Creating the Perfect Trade Show Experience for Your Brand

Looking to maximize your brand’s trade show experience this year? Keep the following dos, don’ts, and must-haves in mind when formulating your plan for your next expo hall visit.

You’ve made the wise choice to attend a trade show to highlight your business and increase market penetration. The plan is sound – show up, bring free goodies, talk to the attendees, and you’ll go home with a stack of leads that will surely keep you busy until the end of the year. Right? Well, not exactly.

Many business owners and sales team leads learn the hard way that participating in a trade show doesn’t always equate to a successful event. Instead, the before, during, and after segments of the trade show experience must be managed in a very deliberate manner in order to net positive results.

Let’s look at some of the ways to create the perfect trade show experience for your brand, focusing on three key areas – before, during, and after the show.

Before the Trade Show

You’d never walk into a sales meeting unprepared, so why do so many of us feel like we can waltz into the expo hall and trade show experience without a well-defined plan? Here are four of the key considerations to make prior to attending an exposition or trade show:

What is my goal? Before considering the trade show route, ask yourself – what is the ultimate goal here? Break down your priorities into the following categories to help plan your strategy:

How many attendees do I want to talk to/attract to my booth during the show?

How many leads do I want to generate from the show/what is an acceptable conversion rate?

Do I want to sell products or services directly to the end-user at the show, and what supplies (contracts, forms, etc.) do I need to bring along?

Am I promoting my business, increasing awareness of my brand, or launching a new product?

How much revenue do I need to generate from the show to net an acceptable ROI?

What is my overall budget for the show and how am I going to pay for it?

Is this the right show? The next thing to investigate is which trade show most ideally marries with your specific business plan. If you’re looking to net a big boost in short-term sales (i.e., making sales at the actual trade show), you may want to consider a smaller show where you won’t have 15 other competitors alongside you. Trade show organizers often publish statistics on past attendees, so you can glean whether your target market will actually show up for the event, too.

And, if you can’t afford to pay booth fees and the litany of other expenses that pop up during a trade show, you may want to preserve your marketing budget and opt for a smaller regional show. Also, consider travel costs when planning which show to attend. This may be a big expense if you’re bringing along several team members.

Who can I trust to help run the show? One of the most important aspects to maximizing the trade show experience is positioning your best people in front of potential clients – and this might by you.Before committing to the trade show and sending a deposit to reserve your space, ensure you have plenty of support from your sales and marketing groups to help man the booth, interact with attendees, and act as a support system for anything you may need.

You’ll want to make sure no key players are on vacation, have travel restrictions, or otherwise cannot attend – you need all your leaders in place.

How do I create awareness early on? It is imperative that you not only create awareness of your involvement in an upcoming trade show, but that you also specifically invite members of your industry to visit you on-site.

You can create an incentive for appointments booked at the show or contracts signed during the event to promote attendance. Provide all the necessary details to make finding you at the show as easy as possible, such as the booth number, dates of attendance, and a map detailing how to find you at the show.

During the Trade Show

Now that you’ve committed to attending a trade show or exposition and have a firm idea of what results you need to see from the event, it is time to discuss how to manage the actual event. Let’s break it down into two key areas: what to bring and what to do.

In terms of what to bring, you’ll have to consider your specific business line. Here are the top 10 basic items you’ll want to have in your trade show booth:

Tape: Duct tape, masking tape, and Scotch tape. You’ll find a million uses for these during the show.

Refreshments: Keep your trade show booth stocked with water, soda and snacks. Leaving the booth leaves you under-prepared for visiting clients and prospects, so tote along snacks and drinks that don’t require refrigeration, aren’t messy to eat, and aren’t too pungent.

Pens: Bring ten times more than you think you need. You’ll need them for signing up attendees for raffles, meetings, and other activities, and 70% of the pens you bring will inadvertently wind up in attendees’ pockets. Invest in company-branded pens to net an immediate marketing boost.

Business Cards: Though the standard business card will at some point seem a little quaint, there is still a definite need for something tangible to hand to a client. Another option is to hand them an alternative business card, like a business card magnet, a USB drive business card, or something similar.

Marketing Materials: Make your brand stand out with customized tablecloths, banners, and other marketing collateral. Take advantage of every flat surface on your creative trade show booth design and display your brand on the back wall, tabletop, and even on the entrance mat.

Seal-able Containers: You’re going to gather a lot of client information during the trade show, and information security is incredibly important today. Don’t be the business that leads to a leak of confidential information. Seal attendee data, sign-up sheets, and other relevant information in a locking container or secure document holder.

Laptop: Trade show attendees want to be able to access your information electronically, so have at least one laptop computer available to log on to your site. Better yet, a tablet is even more effective because it allows you to interface more freely with a visitor to your trade show.

Cords: Bring all necessary extension cords and charging cables. Most trade show booths only come wired with one 110-volt outlet, so bring a power strip, extension cords, and all charging cables. It is incredibly expensive to rent or borrow electrical supplies at trade shows – so plan ahead on this one.

Wellness Items: There are going to be long days, so tote along breath mints, hair care products, cough drops, a nail file/nail clippers, cold medicine, aspirin, bandages, and more. You’ll be prepared for any minor mishaps that may occur. And don’t forget some hand sanitizer and lotion. Hopefully you’ll be shaking a lot of hands, but that certainly reinforces the need for personal care items to keep you and visitors healthy.

Now let’s talk about what to do. Your activities and behaviors during the expo or trade show are the single biggest driver of success, so make sure you:

Create One-on-One Time: The average trade show visitor spends 5-15 minutes in a trade show booth. You have to make that prospect feel valued and appreciated in very little time, so ensure you have dedicated one-on-one space in the booth to speak privately. Trade shows are loud, noisy places; create an oasis for your valued visitor and they’ll feel like their potential business is important to you.

Monitor Your Team: Keep tabs on the way your team is working the expo booth and the trade show, in general. They should be outside the booth as much as possible, interacting with attendees in a polite, inviting, and positive manner. Listen to make sure they are asking leading questions that will drive conversations and engage potential clients. This is their time to turn on the charm and deliver.

Create Excitement: Order promotional gifts that feature your logo, business contact information, or promotional message for pennies on the dollar, because the benefit of spotlighting your brand long after the trade show is over is priceless.

After the Trade Show

Organized individuals often fare better when managing trade show results. Here’s the bottom line – you’ll talk to a lot of people during a trade show or exposition, and you’ll gather a lot of information about them during the event. By creating an organizational system that funnels attendee data into clearly defined categories, you’ll find follow up is easier and conversion rates will be higher. To create the best possible client experience, make sure you keep the following post-trade show activities in mind:

Follow Up: Make sure you follow up within days after the event. This time frame is critical. Make contact via email, social media, written letter, and phone, if need be.

Nurture Leads: Assign leads gathered at the trade show to specific individuals who will have the best chance of converting the prospect.

Ask Attendees to Sign-Up: Keep the connection alive long after the trade show is over by inviting attendees to sign up for your newsletter or emails. You can provide a small incentive for doing so, like a promotional gift or discount on future sales.

Creating the ultimate trade show experience isn’t as simple as it sounds, but by planning ahead, involving the right people, investing in appropriate marketing collateral and promotional trade show gifts, then executing a strict follow-up plan after the show, you’ll maximize your time spent at the event.

We’ve got a lighter side, but we take your image and your budget seriously. We bring 50 years of experience to every order we fill. Let us know how we’re doing!

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