Trade Show Marketing
Marketing at Trade Shows
The leads you capture at a trade show can be among your hottest, most qualified prospects. So it makes sense to have a solid trade show marketing plan in place for each event you attend. You can produce significantly more leads and close more deals if you treat the event as one step in a long sales process rather than approaching a trade show as if it is a single, isolated event.
In order to have the best chance at success, gather your ideas and clarify your trade show marketing strategy. You should be preparing for the event 3-6 months in advance. Before you leave for the show, you should have a plan for promoting the event, make sure you send the right people, know how you will work the booth, have a process for following up with prospects after the show, and decide how you will measure your results. The trade show marketing tips below will help you do all of that.
Promote the Trade Show
In the months leading up to the show, you want to let people know that you will be attending.
- Update your website to let existing customers, prospects, and other site visitors know that you will be in attendance. Post your booth number and highlight any pre or post show events you will be hosting or attending.
- Monitor blogs and social media sites for mentions of the show you plan to attend. Search Twitter, use Google Blog Search, run Google searches with the name of the trade show in quotes, and set up Google Alerts to be notified when the event is mentioned online. Find out who else is planning on being there and contact them via phone, email or through social media.
- If you have a print or email newsletter, highlight the event. Get readers interested in the show and interested in meeting you there.
- Direct mail to current prospects can be another effective way to get more inquiries and traffic to your booth.
- You can also re-engage with people you’ve met at previous events or promote the show to potential attendees via email or direct mailing.
Send the Right People
Trade shows are not an excuse to travel and have lunch on the company. A trade show is a sales opportunity. If you have a sales team, send salespeople. Some companies will staff their booth with promotional models, marketing people, customer service reps, or even IT people. Don’t send people who aren’t trained in sales or experienced in selling your product to meet with some of the best prospects you’re likely to run across.
Using Lead Collection Systems
You can rent lead collection hardware and software from trade show organizers or use third party applications to swipe or scan attendee badges. Whether you rent equipment from the event organizers or scan to your laptop or iPad using one of the many lead collection tools on the market, collecting leads has to be fast and easy for your booth visitors and for your team working the booth.
Have multiple lead collection stations in place. Have a backup plan for collecting leads in case something goes wrong. You do not want interested visitors leaving without you recording their contact details and answers to your questions.
Literature and Trinkets
At any given trade show, you might see other companies passing out literature or promotional items without so much as getting a first name. You’ll also likely see handouts littering the trade show floor and filling up trash bins. Instead of being concerned with giving out brochures and handing out pens, focus on getting contact details and answers to qualifying questions.
Bring some product literature, but keep it out of reach. Only pass it out if you have a specific goal, such as building advance awareness of an upcoming product launch. If a booth visitor absolutely insists, get their contact info and try to get answers to questions about their needs before you hand them anything.
You could even skip the brochures entirely. If pressed for literature, offer to email an electronic copy or mail your printed materials so they’ll have them when they return to their office. You can email literature requests back to someone at your office for fulfillment while you are at the event.
If you are giving out free t shirts or doing a giveaway in exchange for contact info, you have to separate the people who are interested in your product from the ones that are only interested in the prize. If everyone drops their business cards in the same fishbowl, you will end up wasting a lot of time calling bad leads.
Trade Show Marketing Tips and Ideas
Working the Booth Effectively
In order to capture solid leads, you need to separate the suspects from the prospects. At the same time, you also want to highlight the benefits of your product to the qualified prospects.
To do this, define your trade show sales process and make sure your team understands it before you leave for the event. Your trade show process could look like this:
- Greet your visitor.
- Politely ask to scan the visitor's badge.
- Ask qualifying questions
- Politely disengage from unqualified suspects.
- Demonstrate your product to qualified prospects.
- Get a commitment to take an appointment, call, or other follow up communication.
Build rapport with a friendly question or two before moving to the qualifying questions. For example, ask what brought them to the show. Don’t ask yes or no questions.
To qualify your visitors, find out the person’s role in the buying process. Determine what product they’re interested in. Try to find out what their budget is and when they’re looking to purchase.
Set a target number of qualified leads to obtain. Offer an incentive for exceeding that number to keep you team focused and motivated.
Post Show Follow Up
One of the keys to making each trade show you attend a success is following up afterward. You’ve met qualified prospects, you’ve piqued their interest, and you know they’re in the mood to buy. Not following up quickly or at all defeats the purpose of going to the trade show in the first place.
Having your post trade show sales process mapped out before you even leave for the event will ensure that you don’t drop the ball. Your post trade show sales process could look like this:
- Rank the leads.
- Follow up with the best prospects within 48 hours.
- Fulfill all requests for literature within 48 hours.
- Contact all leads via their preferred method within 5 days.
Your process may be different depending on your industry or product. Regardless, know what you’re going to do with the leads you get before you get them then follow through.
Post Trade Show Results and Analysis
Your return on investment for a trade show can only be determined accurately when all the leads you gathered have been worked to their conclusion. This could take weeks or months depending on how long your sales cycle is.
You don’t need to wait until a sales opportunity is won or lost with every trade show lead, of course. You can get a rough idea whether a trade show was worthwhile for you in the first few months following the event. As long as you track your lead sources and your leads as they move through your sales funnel, you can calculate your ROI for a particular trade show at any point in time. If you use a CRM application or sales tracking software, you should be able to do this easily.
Once the results are in, take the time to analyze what you did well and which areas need improvement. Did the trade show attendees fit your target customer profile? Did the number of leads you collected meet your goal? Can you identify any ways to cut costs? Are there any ways you could have collected more or better leads? Analyzing your results then asking questions should help you come up with new trade show marketing ideas and a better ROI from future events.
Getting the Most Out of Trade Shows
If you approach a trade show as a one day event, you stand a good chance of being disappointed with your results. By formulating a complete trade show marketing strategy well in advance, you put your business in the best position to achieve a positive ROI from the show. At a minimum, your trade show marketing plan should cover promoting the event, working the booth, qualifying leads, following up after the event, and monitoring results.