[UPDATED FOR 2023]
Picture it: You reserved your booth early in an effort to land your spot at the most popular trade show, and now you have four days to make your investment worth it. Are you ready to roll, or are you frozen in fear?
Highly-rated industry trade shows are not cheap. Once you factor in travel, accommodations, per-diem for your staff, exhibit booth materials, hardware, demo tools, branded swag, and signage (not to mention the cost of the booth, registration fees, parties, events, electricity, optional carpet, furniture, and more), the numbers can turn as red as -- well -- your face at Monday morning’s budget review! In today's economic landscape, the significance of maximizing your ROI for trade shows has never been more crucial.
1. PLAN, PLAN, PLAN
Otherwise, there you are, looking three booths down at your ultra-prepared, sleek, relaxed, and confident peers buzzing with traffic and returning leads. They’ll follow up their buckets of leads diligently and laugh all the way to the bank -- while you stand there looking around, asking strangers if it’s too late to buy electricity.
2. MEET DEADLINES
When you book your booth, you should receive an exhibitor kit outlining payment, delivery, add-ons, and submission deadlines. Read them. The handbook is always incredibly boring, and the type is typically too small. But put those deadlines in your calendar, set a reminder, and don’t miss them!
3. BE YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE
As you book your booth, imagine your prospect’s journey from the time they enter to the time they leave. Is it true to your brand? Is the size appropriate? Do you have electricity? Play out the scenario in your head (even better, role-play with a colleague), and determine what assets and signage will answer the buyer’s challenge and what will make a truly memorable impact.
4. GIVE GOOD FREEBIES
Nothing says “come to my booth,” like free stuff. Trade show attendees love to stock up on cool items they can bring back to their desks or give to their kids. Again, think through your target audience. What is their day like? A pharma sales guy in the car all day might dig a car phone charger. A doctor might prefer a silicone lanyard with a phone holder. Or a whimsical pink mophead pen and screen cleaner. Give yourself a month in advance, at least, so the stuff is where you want it and perfect.
5. USE DYNAMIC BROCHURES
Rather than using old generic brochures, create fresh attendee-targeted ones. Especially if you plan to lure extra traffic with a great offer, e.g., “First 50 people get 50% off”, or “Book before [date] and receive 15% off.” Regardless, your printed handouts have to be fresh and powerful.
6. PUT VIDEOS ON DISPLAY
Simply put, videos wow eyeballs and draw crowds – plus, they save you from having to explain the same thing over and over. Make sure they're created by professionals, the small extra cost is well worth it in impact. Also, bring the recorded videos with you –Wi-Fi at crowded conference venues is often unreliable. If you must link to your website, make sure you’ll have internet available in advance. And test, test, test! Make sure it all works and that you have the proper cables and connectors ready. These videos can also be shared on social media during the show!
7. THE SHOW LIST
Get the list of attendees. Rather than 'spray and pray,' break it down to people you know and don’t know. Then, among the 'don’t knows,' eliminate non-prospects (students, competitors, geographical boundaries, etc.). Contact the known attendees with dinner invitations and the others with 'get to know them' messages and, of course, draw all of them to your booth with 'special' incentives. If the show organizers do not share the list, locate the conference hashtag and stalk it on Twitter or Instagram. From there, try to identify prospects going to the trade show and tweet a similar message to them.
8. DRUMBEAT SOCIAL MEDIA
Speaking of stalking, follow a hashtag, post, or video on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, and others to connect with people that will be/are at this show. Hey – going to trade shows is exciting; people love the buzz, so make your booth part of the conversation. “Like” the show organizers and follow what they push out and who comments. Using stories, reels, and video give a behind-the-scenes look at the show, especially what you are offering!
9. DOWNLOAD THE CONFERENCE APP
The magic of apps in 2023 is amazing. Download the specific conference or trade show app that you are attending and learn its tricks and features in advance. They usually have exhibitor maps, schedules, and sometimes names and contact info for attendees. If you’re lucky, there may be a chat feature where you can actually connect with attendees from within the app. Get familiar with the app and how it works. If attendees are confused, this is a great conversation starter!
10. BOOK SOCIAL GATHERINGS AHEAD
Reserve hot nearby restaurants early and invite key clients or prospects for a fun evening – in a relaxed setting. A great idea is to split the tab with a non-competing partner exhibitor and invite more guests (who might also need your organization’s help).
11. THINK EARLY ABOUT COLLECTING LEADS
Does your show let you digitally scan the contact info of people who approach? If not, don’t rely on that traditional your-card-my-card dance. Set up a drawing display -- a good one -- with an awesome prize like an iPad, and hold a live drawing. That brings people back and attracts a crowd, too. If you can only offer a discount or something minor, be sure you follow up later and let everyone who entered know what happened. You should also be encouraging everyone that stops by your booth to follow you on social media. Make sure your social media handles are visible, and you are frequently updating during the show to announce presentations or giveaways. New followers will last long past the end of the show.
THE BOTTOM LINE: OFFER SOLUTIONS
Solve their problems, and they’ll want what you offer and ask about the details. During the show, be sure to put your most gregarious, warmest people out front, smile a ton, and learn the scripts that really help prospects with their issues. While free swag and networking are great, a product or service that solves a problem is key.
Want more insights? Reach out to us here at Ironmark to get personalized trade show solutions to meet your needs.