Attending a trade show is a chance to meet face-to-face with existing clients, explore customer relationships, generate leads and scope out competitor offerings. Trade shows also offer opportunities to learn about industry developments through seminars and demonstrations. With so much to do, arriving ready to take advantage of everything can be a daunting task.
Between vendor fees, displays, shipping, professional services, lodging, travel and human resources, companies can spend up to 20% of their marketing budget on a trade show. Despite these costs, many firms realize a significant return on investment from a trade show. However, this means there is pressure for teams to accomplish a myriad of tasks while in attendance.
The key to getting the most out of a trade show is preparation ahead of the show, execution at the show and follow-through after the show.
- Mission: Be clear about what you want to accomplish. Set individual and team goals for generating new leads. Identify attendees you want to meet (prospects and existing clients). Study the conference material.
- Team: Select the right group for the mission. You may require a mix of skills, not only sales and marketing. Will technical, customer service or management personnel help your mission? Coordinate with the team ahead of time and provide sample scripts. Don’t forget that your booth is also a team member. Make sure it reflects your mission.
- Schedule: Set up meetings at the booth, over meals or through a company presentation. Sometimes your best salesperson can be an existing client. Consider hosting dinner or cocktails with prospective and current clients in attendance. Now is also an ideal time to create a social media editorial calendar and even pre-schedule posts.
- Engage: Rather than relying on free swag to get people in your booth, make sure your team is prepared and knowledgeable. They should ask questions, invite visitors to talk and take notes.
- Social Media: Use social media to stay relevant throughout the show. Post company information. Reply to posts with the conference hashtag. Live post talks and events. Post blog updates about the conference while you’re there.
- Collect Data: It is not uncommon to forget to grab a business card or take notes on a conversation. Don’t wait until the end of the day; record relevant information immediately.
- Meet: Follow through with pre-scheduled meetings and be flexible about accepting invitations or attending impromptu face-to-face discussions. Make appearances at receptions and seminars where potential clients might go.
- Reconnect: Send an email to anyone that visited your booth within five days of the trade show. Then use a trickle campaign to remain engaged.
- Summarize: Have a post-show meeting with your team. Make the conversation lively and talk about what everyone learned, who they met, what your competitors are up to and take suggestions for improvements.