5 Tactics for Improved Tradeshow Marketing

Actionable Marketing 101

Fall is prime tradeshow season. Last week, I spent most of the week at the DMA 2010 Annual, a conference targeted at direct marketers. It’s a show where attendees spend time in the exhibit hall talking with vendors and sourcing new ideas.

3 Questions to determine tradeshow participation

From a marketing perspective, renting an exhibit booth at a major tradeshow can be a significant marketing investment. In addition to exhibit hall fees, tradeshow marketing expenses include acquiring the physical booth and related furniture, technology, manpower, give-aways and marketing collateral. To determine if it should be an important component of your mix, consider these three questions:

  1. Does your firm need to be seen by your prospects at this conference? Is association with this tradeshow important to be considered part of the market? Will your firm gain any PR value from participating in this exhibit hall? Is a tradeshow exhibit necessary to present at the show?
  2. Do your competitors have presence at this show? If so, does your firm need to be present? Do you need a full booth or can your staff engage prospects and customers without it?
  3. Do your current clients expect to see you at this conference? Do your clients transact business at this show? Can you meet them at nearby restaurants, etc.?

5 Tips to make your tradeshow investment pay off

As a marketer, trainer, presenter and columnist, I’m the veteran of many tradeshows. When I attend a conference, I’m always on the prowl for new trends, cool approaches to old problems, great angles for future columns, seeing colleagues and friends, and meeting new people. That said, I never cease to be surprised by how many businesses spend the money for a booth, related manpower and collateral but it fails to make an impression. Here are my five recommendations to help you plan for your next tradeshow.

  1. Have the right tools to do the job. This refers to the materials and technology to show off your product. Remember, it’s show time!  Do you need wifi? If so, have you made sure that it works in your booth? Do you have a backup plan if it doesn’t work? This may mean an old fashioned, low-tech approach. A number of exhibitors at the DMA used iPads to show their stuff.
  2. Bait your hook appropriately. Think about your tchotchke strategy to ensure that your firm’s give-aways lures prospects in and makes it worth their time to engage with your sales people. As a marketer, your goal is to get prospects and customers to keep your handout on their desk where it’s an on-going reminder.  While many firms have a drawing for the hot tech toy, my choice is smaller gifts provide talk value at the show and make people want to visit your exhibit to get one. I still have a ginzu knife from an old DMA Annual that’s still in my kitchen complete with the list broker’s information. (For more information, read 5 Categories of Company Premiums and  How to Make Your Firm Stand Out in the Exhibit Hall.)
  3. Put your best foot forward. Make sure the people in your booth know about your product and your company.  They should be dressed appropriately for the environment and/or your target market. Even more important, they need to have high energy levels and be out going. They shouldn’t sit in the booth reading email and/or chatting with colleagues. Remember, you only have one chance to make a first impression. Do you want your representatives to look like they don’t want anyone to stop by?
  4. Field visitors’ questions. When manning the booth, consider what type of prospects will stop by and what their questions may be. Ensure that the people in your booth can answer basic inquiries. Is it necessary to have your product people, head of marketing, PR and/or CEO present? Some of my best tradeshow contacts have led to great marketing campaigns or columns.
  5. Follow up after the show. Now that you’ve made the investment in booth, personnel and related marketing, what do you do after the show to build the relationships that you initiated? Does your sales team just scan everyone who passes within a given distance of your booth? Do you smother visitors in email, phone calls and/or mail pieces? While you’re at the show, does your team try to qualify leads to ensure that your post-show follow up is relevant?

Once you’ve decided to participate in tradeshow marketing, it’s important to have a strategy that works before, during and after the show to engage your prospects and covert them into buyers. These points can be a great way to get your tradeshow marketing on track.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


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Photo credit: Amanda M Hatfield via Flickr

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7 Responses to 5 Tactics for Improved Tradeshow Marketing

  1. This is a great post, Heidi. Trade Shows are so often under-utilized as marketing tools. There are so many things that can be done before, during, and after that are missed just because there isn’t a plan in place. Well done!

    • Heidi Cohen says:

      Marjorie-Thank you! I agree. Once a marketer’s committed the money and related resources, why not maximize the impact to develop your lead pipeline and build future goodwill? Happy marketing, Heidi

  2. Great advice about trade show exhibitors needing to keep their staff engaged and their energy levels high — any staff manning a booth for us has to go through booth training prior to attending a show –no matter how many shows they’ve attended.During the training we critique each other as well as pick up strategies and ideas for approaching prospects successfully. We also assign each sales rep several aisles of the show to make sure we make contact with any exhibitors who might be good prospects for us as well. And that brings me to my second point. When I was walking my “assigned” aisles at DMA I was shocked at how many exhibitors weren’t interested in making eye contact with me, or were busy talking to each other — or eating or checking their smart phones. What a waste of someone’s marketing budget!

    • Heidi Cohen says:

      Sandy – Thank you for your comment. You make a great point about training the people in your booth and letting them critique each other. Further, getting out and walking around is always a good way to connect with other marketers. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  3. Kathy Mills says:

    Great advice on the follow-up. I recently gained a new client that way. He told me I was the only vendor to follow up. It was that easy. I am shocked at how many vendors I meet at trade shows who never follow up even when I indicate that I really want to hear from them. Why invest in a show if you never follow up on those leads?

    • Heidi Cohen says:

      Kathy-Thank you for sharing your experience with readers. I agree with you. While information overload can turn prospects off, not building on potential relationships is a wasted effort. At a minimum, be polite. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen