5 Tactics for Improved Trade Show Marketing

Fall is prime trade show 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 trade show participation

From a marketing perspective, renting an exhibit booth at a major trade show can be a significant marketing investment. In addition to exhibit hall fees, trade show 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 trade show important to be considered part of the market? Will your firm gain any PR value from participating in this exhibit hall? Is a trade show 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 trade show 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 trade show.

  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 trade show 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 trade show 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 trade show marketing on track.

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
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Photo credit: Amanda M Hatfield via Flickr

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