How to Make the Most Out of Your Next Trade Show

How to Make the Most Out of Your Next Trade Show
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The prep work that goes into a trade show is just as important as what happens when you arrive. If you put in the work before, during and after your event, you'll get the most value for your efforts and the cost of attending. Here are five key things to keep in mind when getting ready for your next trade show.

1. Set realistic goals.

Identify your main focus and what you hope to get out of the event. If you are a fairly new company, the goal might be increasing brand awareness and building an email database. If you've just launched a new product, you may be hoping to demonstrate its capabilities and jump start sales. Once you've established your big picture goals, set quantitative goals that you can measure, such as getting 100 attendees to disclose their contact information or selling 20 units of your new product.

2. Create a system to measure goals.

Some goals are easier to measure than others. For example, knowing if you were able to add 100 new signups to your email database is obvious but gauging brand awareness is a little more complicated. If you don't have the tools to measure your goals internally, hire a professional that can gather information such as social media engagement or the source of new traffic to your website. Having a clear idea of your ROI is essential to making marketing decisions down the road.

3. Collect feedback.

If you can get attendees that stop by your booth to fill out a survey, that data could prove invaluable. You can learn important information about the buyers in your industry, and also get a better understanding of why and how attendees come to these types of events. You'll walk away with benchmark data, allowing you to make better informed decisions in the future. Also, your new customers will see that you care about their feedback and improving their experience with your company.

4. Create a memorable experience for your audience.

Trade show attendees visit a lot of booths. It's your job to stand out from the competition, and remain relevant in their minds afterwards. Seth Godin said, "Marketing is a contest for people's attention." Make sure you grab it by creating a memorable experience for your audience. You can do so by catering your conversation to them. Rather than dive into your pitch, ask them questions to get to know them better, learn more about their company, and what their problems and needs are. It's much easier to sell to someone when you know who you're talking to and what they want.

5. Integrate social media into your event.

There are only two forms of marketing that take place in real time -- events and social media. Take full advantage of your event and combine the two to optimize exposure and extend your reach far beyond the trade show's doors. There are many ways for you to interact on social media during your event. Here a few ideas:

  • Think of a memorable #hashtag to create a buzz around your booth and encourage feedback from those that stop by. Include it on display material so that everyone sees it.
  • Tweet to guests that have stopped by your booth with a simple thank you or nice to meet you to keep the conversation going after they walk away.
  • Highlight those that won a game or raffle at your booth to strengthen connections and get other attendees excited about stopping by.
  • Search Twitter to find individuals tweeting at the event and encourage them to come stop by your booth.

6. Invest in your booth.

Don't just set up your booth with the bare minimum. Create a colorful, interesting and on-brand display that is friendly and approachable. You also want your booth to be manned by someone who is articulate, personable and familiar with the ins and outs of your company. If that person isn't you, spend the extra money and hire a professional that looks the part and talks the talk. Having a gift bag or other type of branded takeaway is another way to guarantee attendees will remember their experience at your booth and follow up after the event.

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