Five Tips Every New Exhibitor Should Know

New to exhibiting? Here are 5 tips to enhance your trade show and event marketing program!

Even in this age of the Internet and social media, statistics confirm exhibiting at trade shows is an effective and efficient way for companies to accelerate the sales of products and services.

Although trade show marketing can produce great results, it’s important to understand that you can’t just obtain a budget, pick a show, rent a booth space, buy an exhibit, show up and expect to get sales – you need a a marketing plan and specific strategies to set a roadmap for each show.

Your trade show and event marketing program could be a complex initiative. The following five tips can help develop a plan.

1. Micro vs. Mass marketing

Trade show producers typically use attendance figures to justify the value of their shows. Since trade shows are typically two to three days – and exhibiting hours are only four to six hours each day – analyze show attendees and decide who you want to talk to in the eight to 16 hours you have to conduct actual business. Of several thousand attendees, you may only need to talk to 100 or fewer.

Existing customers/clients are a priority audience. Face-to-face opportunities can be rare these days, so make sure to use the show as an opportunity to re-enforce relationships with your customers. Potential customers/clients comprise the next-priority group.

Others on the list will include the press, alliances, vendors, competitors, and potential employees.
All of these audiences play a role in enhancing your brand and selling your products and services at the show – and after.

 2. Scripting

Once you have prioritized attendees, develop a script that outlines messages your team should deliver and the feedback you hope to gain. Scripting should be flexible so you can address each individual’s needs, interests, and unique perspectives.

Scripting is based on a message hierarchy that tells each group who you are, what you do, where you do it, how you do it, and why it specifically benefits them. Messages should be clear, concise, and consistent throughout pre-show promotion, collateral, premium items, exhibit graphics – and any materials that tell your unique story.

They should also be consistent with your corporate integrated marketing communications plan.

 3. Training

An exhibitor’s staff makes one of the biggest impressions on trade show attendees, according to post-show surveys. The large budgets invested in a trade show can be for naught if staff members aren’t trained to present scripted messages accurately.

Selling at a trade show is markedly different than other types of activities to which your staff may be accustomed – as is often the case with technical experts who typically don’t meet face-to-face with customers and clients.

Everyone working in the exhibit has to know the targeted attendee groups and key individuals within those groups – and engage them in conversation, determine specific interests, deliver the message hierarchy, and collect a lead to accelerate the sales process – all within a compressed amount of time.

4. Pre-show, show, and post show

Pre-show marketing can significantly increase chances of talking to priority groups and individuals. That could include advertising, direct mail, email, social media, and personal invitations. This helps you set up meetings with targeted companies; predetermine their specific needs; and tailor your scripting accordingly.

Your competitors will likely implement pre-show promotions, as well, and you will need to differentiate yourself – whether through highly targeted messages, eye-catching graphics, or nontraditional tactics. It should also expand your presence beyond the booth and to the show floor.

Setting a strategy for on-floor, near-floor and off-floor can help maximize your identity among attendees.

The on-floor strategy is your exhibit, staff, presentations, collateral, apparel, premiums, and all of the other materials that help you meet with existing and potential customers/clients.

Near-floor activities include presenting at general sessions and breakouts, sponsoring social activities food and beverage, and on-site advertising.

Your off-floor activities could consist of private meetings and client appreciation initiatives that aren’t tied to the trade show floor or programs at the show.

Post-show is often one of the biggest failures. Leads must be followed up on immediately. The person following up on the lead has to know the individual interest of the lead and be able to take that the relationship to the next level in the sales process.

5. Documentation and Reporting

At the close of the show, sit down with your staff to review successes and failures. This is also the opportunity to analyze leads and assign follow-up.

It can be difficult to determine ROI (return on investment) for trade shows. Leads may take months or years to convert to sales. It can also be challenging to quantify the value of retaining and continuing sales to existing clients you meet with during a show.

Determining the ROO (return on objectives) is the better objective. This could include achieving key metrics for meeting with existing clients; capturing leads for new customers; the quality of those leads; press coverage; advanced training for staff; and competitive insight and analyses.

All of this needs to be reported to upper management to demonstrate the value of trade show marketing in the mix of the corporate integrated marketing communications plan.

Have a question about trade show marketing? Leave it in the comments below and we would be happy to help!