When was the last time you really looked at your trade show marketing plan? Or better yet, do you even have one?  If you don’t, you aren’t alone. Even though trade shows can be a big expense for a company, many company’s just “wing” it.

Why Participate In Trade Shows

First, you need to have a good understanding of the “why” of your trade show participation so you can determine your goals to make it successful. Are you introducing a new product? Do you want to generate leads? Do you have new service enhancements to introduce? Are you inviting clients so you can build better relationships? Are you looking to cross-sell existing clients? What about using the venue to recruit new salespeople?

As you can see, there are many reasons to participate, you just need to concentrate your efforts on your top 3 and develop your trade show materials accordingly.

Once your goals are determined you can begin planning:

  •  Pre-Show Preparation
  •  Show Participation
  •  Post-Show Follow up

Develop Trade Show Plan with Goals in Mind

Develop Trade Show Plan with all elements in mind

Keep all areas top of mind when developing your plan

The second step you will want to take is to make sure all the elements of your trade show materials are branded appropriately for the goals you have in mind.

Nothing is worse than sending out pre-show materials about your new product introduction only to have them show up at your booth where all the visuals are of older products. Where is the excitement of the new introduction?

You should have a cohesive look and feel for all that you are doing to achieve your goals. That’s the reason the “why” you are exhibiting is so important.

Every element associated with your trade show participation should work together. Your exhibit booth, sales uniforms, brochures, trade show giveaways and pre & post show communications should all convey the same look and feel.

Start at the Beginning

After you finalize your goals start to develop the story behind your booth. If you are introducing a new product then who are your best targets coming to the show. Are you going to have a hospitality event? Are you going to have a special presentation for them? What about special appointment times for them? Are you going to prepare special materials or thank you gifts just for them?

Answering those questions can help you decide if you want to do a pre-mailing to those prospects and key clients that are on the trade show attendance list. If you are, then you need to develop an invitation so you can mail to them on a timely basis prior to the show.

Increase traffic by inviting clients and prospects to visit booth

Inviting people to visit your booth increases traffic

I still prefer a printed invitation for these qualified attendees. An email gets deleted so easily or gets caught in the firewall and is never seen by your prospect. This has a major impact on your acceptance rate. However, you do need to make sure your invitation arrives timely. I can’t tell you how many times I return from a show to find a number of pre-show offers that came after I left.

Your pre-show mailing should invite them to visit but be enticing to new prospects. Offers such as “Bring this card for a free gift” or “Bring this card to redeem for a discount” work well.

Booth Should Grab Attention

I hate when I attend shows and you see a booth with just a table (with logo’d table throw) and a bunch of brochures and business cards on the table. Trust me I’m not going to stop.

Make your booth impactful

Booth elements should work together and be flexible to the space you are in

Remember, you are competing with a lot of other booths for my attention. You’ve got to make me want to stop and find out more. And you want all elements to work together with a cohesive theme. Do you have a great graphic and a headline that screams a benefit to me?

For instance:

  • We can lower your cost by 25%, ask us how
  • We increase productivity by 50%
  • Our products will increase your profits by 30%, guaranteed!

Trade Show Materials Matter

Most people today don’t want to carry a huge brochure with them all around the show and then lug it on the plane. But YOU do want them to take something with them to remind them of the new product or venture or to just remember your company with them. That’s why offering a discount if they stop by, a free gift or sample works so well.

I just returned from a couple of trade shows. I was very particular about what trade show materials I picked up. But I did pick up a couple of brochures for items that truly interested me to remind me.I also picked up some samples and offers that I plan to use. Your materials should reflect the same theme/look and feel as everything else. Also, be prepared to offer electronic versions of everything. And send them immediately. If possible, send it to them while you are speaking with them. Great way to make sure you have their correct email address!

And if you can get them to take a picture with you at the booth, it’s a great way to shoot out in social media. “Spent time with Joe & Mary from XYZ Corp at the Big Trade Show” and post throughout the show.

The After Show Plan

After you finalize the materials you need for the show, your most important step will be the follow up materials for after the show. You should have a communications plan developed and all follow up collateral developed well ahead of the trade show.

Increase sales from the show with quick follow up

Quick follow-up after a trade show increases positive results

Start by developing several follow up scripts and correspondence templates for your salespeople  – from the very general (thanks for stopping by the booth) to the more specific (don’t forget to take advantage of your discount) including video, ebrochures and hard collateral materials that will be needed for the sales efforts following the show. You may also want to expand to more social media venues like Instagram, facebook, twitter, pinterest and linked in messages to expand your message beyond the trade show venue (just received amazing feedback at the CES Show about our introduction of our hot new product).

It is vital for the follow up to occur within 7 days with your planned correspondence.  Your salespeople should be calling all hot leads within a few days and then the more qualified leads. An assistant can start immediately with the general booth follow up.  Just make sure all the leads are added to your contact management system for further follow up and ongoing business development efforts.

If you follow your plan, you will get the desired results. Just remember, it starts with your Goals!

Danette Gossett

Danette brings more than 30 years of experience developing advertising campaigns, direct marketing programs and sales promotions to her clients. Prior to starting her companies, she worked for New York advertising agencies including Saatchi & Saatchi & Lowe Marschalk.

Her corporate marketing experience included National Advertising Director for Avis Rent a Car Systems, Inc., and Director of Marketing Services for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. Read More