At the end of the day, every trade show must have a return on investment. Not only helping to cover the plethora of costs of exhibiting for multiple days, but also to help the company's bottom line. You invest in your trade show displays, handouts, brochures, staffing, hotels and meals, time commitment, and on and on.
Every successful trade show appearance needs to move the needle: more clients, more contacts, more partnerships, more revenue, etc. You need a measurable return.
Be Overly Prepared
It's time for a reality check. You do not have enough time (nor can you afford) to realize at the trade show that you are unprepared or have left something at the office. Yes, it can be a drag to unpack your display and set it up in advance when you know in your heart everything is there - but you also can't leave it to chance.
- Make a checklist: Whether it's your emergency trade show toolkit, business cards, media presentation, or hotel reservation, you need it on a list - even the stuff that doesn't go to every show. Take the time to walk through the list twice to ensure everything is packed and shipped ad necessary.
- Set a calendar with reminders: Why not automate some of these tasks by setting up multiple calendar events to remind you what to do on which day? It's simple and it's something you can replicate for every event then tweak based on the nuance of the show. Plug in all of the important dates such as the deadline for shipping, setup days, seminar times, show hours, etc.
- Let Your Customers Know: Don't squander the opportunity to meet in person with your best customers who will also be at the show. Line up those meetings first before the show opens when you can spend quality time building relationships.
- Inventory check-up: Is your entire trade show display packed including accessories, literature/product stands, monitor mounts, fasteners and new graphics? Make sure your brochures, business cards, and other printed materials are packed. Charge your tablets and laptops. Check that all of the power cords and any backup batteries are packed.
Capture Your Leads
On the list of "you had one job to do" is capturing leads. It's almost without question the most important aspect of your trade show strategy, so leave nothing to chance. Outline your strategy and train your booth staff. Even developing conversation starters and talking points can help break the ice. Whether your strategy is having a relevant giveaway or a touchscreen sign-up process, be determined about it.
- Giveaways: This sometimes is an after thought, but if you're thoughtful about it, this can drive great engagement and can help develop quality leads. For example, if your booth strategy is to demonstrate your latest or greatest product, then provide a giveaway of that item. Clearly, the more valuable the product, the easier to convert attendees into leads. Allow folks to drop their business card into something or sign-up on a sheet of paper, so if the touchscreen signup gets too backed up, you won't dissuade them to skip it.
- Kiosk: Your booth may get busy and your staff may be engaged in important conversations. Setting up a kiosk or media stand so attendees can view your promotional video or subscribe to your newsletter or opt-in for follow-up is hugely worthwhile. Position it in an obvious location that attendees can see from the aisles
- Business Cards: When in doubt, always extend your business card to someone at the end of an interaction with the aim to receive their card in return. We may be in the digital age, but this analog tactic is easy and immediate.
Follow-up & Thank You's
Every ounce of your work is undone if your company does not send a followup to all of the various contacts you make at your recent trade show. Consider the days after your trade show as one of the most important days in your trade show strategy. While the event is fresh, you and your team need to block out the time to enter everyone into your CRM system. Then within a couple days of the show, follow-up with an email. Frankly, the sooner the better.
- Automate: If you have the systems in place, automate as much of the process as possible as long as you're not sacrificing the personal touch in the process. Your automated campaigns should already be highly personalized.
- Assign Leads on Relevance: Make sure your specialized salespeople get relevant leads for their specialty.
- Hand-written: The most important connections require an extra level of outreach. Send them a handwritten note or thank you for the time or insight. It can provide an edge in a competitive industry and flattery can go a long way.
Knowing whether a trade show is worth reinvesting in is paramount. Of course, there are many reasons to return to an under-performing eventIt's a great reminder to dig in to every show as if it's the most important of the year. Leave nothing to chance and treat every encounter as your greatest potential lead.