For many brands, trade shows offer the most valuable marketing opportunities they have all year. That’s why we have provided a trade show checklist to help prepare your brand to rise above the noise.
Here are 10 key things your brand should consider when preparing for a trade show:
- First things first, you need to set goals
Goals need to be established for your social media and booth marketing. Who will you target before? How many leads are you hoping to acquire? Will you be creating scheduled content ahead of time? How much money will all this preparation require? Analyze all of your variables and create a calendar to clearly show what needs to be done and when. Success hinges on careful planning and execution.
- Get your website ready
You want to have the most current information about your products/services so that prospects that are interested in learning more can get the information they need. Does your website reflect the caliber of your product or service? Is your website mobile friendly? People won’t be tied to desktops or laptop computers while attending the trade show so they should be able to access your website easily from a smartphone or tablet.
- Plan your social strategy
Building buzz about your company or product is a great way to drive customers and prospects to your booth. You can utilize LinkedIn, Facebook, and your company’s blog to solicit information or questions about what people might want to learn more about, or answer any questions they might have. Create landing pages specifically for show attendees. You can use it to gather information and set up appointments to meet with customers and prospects at the show. Create LinkedIn groups prior to the show that includes targeted keywords for your trade show, these will be searchable within LinkedIn and will help people find you as the big event approaches.
- Make appointments before the event
The biggest downside for most brands is the overall cost of trade shows. Having a detailed plan of exactly whom you will be meeting with beforehand will help ensure that you optimize your time and results. Scheduling appointments with potential customers beforehand is a great way to warm up the sales conversation as well as keeping you on track at the big event. “76% of trade show attendees go there with an agenda in mind” (Skip Cox, Exhibit Surveys, Inc)
- Dress to impress
Make sure to plan ahead of time what you and your fellow colleagues will be wearing. You want to enforce the presence of your brand as well as convey the message that you and your company are established. Subtle things like matching your attire to your booth can help your brand resonate in the minds of your customers.
- Build a better booth
There are very few times you truly come face to face with your direct competitors other than industry trade shows. Make your presence known, and blow your competition out of the water. Display something unique, funny, interesting, create memorable experiences for people, whatever you see fit to attract people to your booth. Yes, you are here to make sales, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make light of the situation. Many of the individuals in attendance traveled great lengths to get there, indulge them. “66% rate their booth visits as very or extremely valuable in evaluating or comparing offerings for future purchase” (Skip Cox, Exhibit Surveys, Inc).
- Put your best foot forward
Yeah, it’s nice to match attire with your colleagues and think of witty things to present at your booth, but if you can’t walk the talk, you are in for a very unfortunate trade show. From the customers’ perspective, they are at the trade show specifically seeking information, and they need to have enough confidence in you, as well as your brand, to even consider doing any business with you. Make sure you have the right people there fighting for your brand.
- Give away something that matters
People love free stuff. But beyond the same old pens and stress balls, give attendees a handout from your product line. Or use social outlets like Twitter to tweet out time-sensitive offers. “Visit us in the next 30 minutes for a free sweatshirt.” Think of it like fishing, your merchandise is the bait, and the more appetizing your lure is, the more customers you’ll be reeling in.
- Have a process to capture leads
You are at the trade show to do just that, make sure you have a system in order to catalog your acquaintances. Whether it’s typing in or scanning business cards at the show, it is absolutely critical that you aggregate all of your leads into one database so that nothing leaks out. You got this far, don’t let easy wins slip through your hands.
- After the show
After the madness has subsided, its time to put your marketing team to work. Depending on the nature of your product or service you sell, prospects can take weeks, even months to funnel all the way through the sales cycle. This is where an inbound marketer will be your hardest working employee. Use your social outlets to extend the conversation and relationship after everyone has packed up their booths. Twitter and LinkedIn are great for reminding those who couldn’t attend what they might have missed, and your company blog can be used to dig into some questions that customers might have had during the show.
Though there are more preparation rituals many may follow when executing their own trade shows strategies, these have been the most crucial in our customers’ and our success. Trade shows can reap huge rewards and failures depending on how well you have prepared. They offer direct contact to your potential customers, as well as your competition. In our age of online connectivity sometimes it’s nice to meet and greet with your targeted personas as well as your adversaries to assess the playing field and see directly where your brand sits in the competitive landscape. And when that time comes it’s even nicer to be prepared.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.