Planning to exhibit at a trade show can be a daunting undertaking for any marketing professional, whether it is a local show with a simple table top exhibit or an international show with a custom built booth. You need a compelling message to draw an audience in a crowd of thousands and it can be very costly especially for smaller companies on limited marketing budgets. And the logistics … so many little things to think about to move your business to a trade show floor for a few days! Is it worth the monumental effort and expense?
Getting Started on a Trade Show Plan
The first thing to do when beginning to formulate a trade show strategy is extensive research. You want to know where your competitors are exhibiting, what shows your customers are likely to attend, and where there are opportunities for more than just a booth space (sponsorships, speaking engagements, press interviews). You will also want to understand the costs associated with each potential show. Big ticket items to consider are travel, booth space rental fees, booth component rental/purchase fees, sponsorship fees, and design/signage/collateral development. You should consider contacting the manager of the event to inquire about customizing a package that will include many of the components at a discounted rate. For example, often times they offer a turnkey solution for smaller companies that includes the booth space, standard pipe and drape, modest furniture, and a simple graphics package. This could be a great solution for an emerging business that isn’t ready to commit to a huge trade show presence but still wants to make an appearance at the industry event.
Determining Your Appearance
The next thing to consider is what you are going to look like at the event. You will want to think about things like graphics and signage, presentations/demos, sales collateral, and even attire for your staff. If you rent booth components from an exhibit vendor, they will provide you with detailed specifications to work with a designer on graphics and signage to ensure that your images display properly on the booth components. You should also consider preparing a script/demo for your product/service, including a sales presentation, and creating marketing collateral that you can reference when you have a customer inquiry. Promo items are a nice touch if you have the budget (see previous blog and link to it) as it affords you the opportunity to hand a potential customer something that has your logo and contact information. Attire is also something to be conscious of and it is relatively standard for booth staff to wear a golf polo or button down shirt with an embroidered company logo.
Generating Interest and Attendance
Now that you’ve figured out where you are going and what your presence looks like, you need to start to spread the word that you will be at the event (via email, direct mail, phone, etc.). It’s important to generate interest for potential customers and it gives you a perfect opportunity to schedule a live meeting at the event. Additionally, you might consider making some arrangements to meet with the analysts and/or editors that will be present at the industry event. When you are on-site, you will need to think about how you are going to collect leads/business cards and what you are going to do to follow-up after the event. The work in putting together a trade show is 50% up front preparation, 25% on-site presence, and 25% follow-up. Don’t invest a ton of time and money into a trade show where you collect leads that just gather dust on your desk back at the office. Plan to follow up with your leads within a week after the event.
Other things to think about:
- Negotiate with the exhibition company to get a better deal on a package tailored to your needs.
- Book hotel reservations early: getting a room near the venue is sometimes a challenge.
- Nail down your messaging and “elevator pitch” and make sure that everyone representing your business at the trade show understands it.
- Wear comfortable shoes as you will be standing and/or walking all day.
- Bring a box of business cards. You will be surprised how many you will go through at a standard trade show.