Trade-show marketing

Trade shows can be worthwhile, if you pick the right ones, set goals, train your show team, invite clients, and follow up. This page provides you with some tips to help make your trade show participation a success.

Table of Contents

    Pick the right trade show

    You can improve your chances of success by doing some research before committing to exhibit at a specific trade show. For example, make sure that a significant number of people from your target audience are expected to attend. Don't hesitate to ask the trade show's organizers for detailed statistics on the demographics of attendees at previous shows.

    This doesn't mean that you have to stick with industry-specific shows. Some trade shows may offer you the opportunity to profile your goods or services alongside complementary offerings, instead of being located directly beside your competitors.

    Set your goals

    Are you trying to sell on the spot, or do you want to promote your business name? Are you trying to get 10 new leads or 1000? Setting your goals helps you stay focused; it also allows you to compare your return on investment from show to show.

    Choose your tactics

    Consider what marketing materials you will need for the show.

    • Do you plan to hand out brochures, business cards or other materials that clearly identify the name of your business, the product or service you are selling, and how people can get in touch with you?
    • Do you have a trade show booth or a banner that you can put up to visually attract visitors?
    • Will you have samples of your product on site?
    • Will you be handing out branding merchandise like pens, mugs, hats, or tote bags?
    • Will you draw a name for a prize?

    There is nothing stopping you from making a sales call to those who enter their name in a draw, as long as you clearly indicate how you will use their personal information on the raffle ticket, and you do not engage in deceptive sales tactics.

    Train your team

    Prepare your employees to work at your booth by clearly indicating what you expect from them. Personal grooming, choice of clothing, personality, knowledge of your products and services, and listening skills are among the factors that make or break your promotional efforts.

    Shows are different from regular sales environments. Attendees may be tired, impatient, or distracted. Your team should use original ways to attract visitors, listen to what they say, and then give them what they want. Your employees should be quick about it, and then close the sale or follow up within days.

    Invite your customers and prospects

    When participating in a trade show, make sure to invite your customers and sales prospects. Most show organizers develop some form of publicity or promotional package, but you may want to do more to promote your own business.

    If you want to meet your objectives and succeed in your trade show efforts, let people know that you are participating in the show. When those turnstiles start to click on opening morning, make sure visitors can find you and have a reason to visit your exhibit.

    Create a buzz. An effective promotional campaign does not have to be costly. In fact, promotion of your participation in most trade shows can be quite affordable.

    Here are some helpful hints for promoting your show participation:

    • Find out what opportunities there are for you to promote your business through the trade show's website, mass mailings and other promotional materials.
    • Use your business website, blog, newsletter or social networking activities to invite current and prospective customers to the show.
    • Use your email or mailing lists of current and prospective customers to get the word out about your participation in the show. You could distribute invitation passes to customers and prospects at least two months prior to the show.
    • If you do not have a strong list of prospective customers, you might want to consider purchasing a mailing list that matches the profile of your target audience.
    • Put reminders on invoices, statements and all email correspondence — try using your email's automatic signature feature.
    • Distribute a press release to trade journals or local newspapers announcing your participation in the show. If you have a new product, feature it in the release. In your advertising, include a tag line like: Be sure to visit us at booth number ___!

    Follow up and evaluate your efforts

    If you have any sales leads or requests for more information, follow up as soon as possible. Each passing day dulls the positive impression you invested so much to create.

    Keep track of your return on investment. Calculate how much you invested to generate each new lead or to make a sale. Estimate how many people saw your display and have become more aware of your product or service — divide your costs relative to the show by this number. Was it worth it? What worked well? What will you do differently at your next show?

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