Plan for Your Trade Show Before You Go

Perhaps you’ve just returned from the 2015 NADA Convention, and feel you didn’t accomplish enough or meet your business objectives while attending the show. It’s a significant investment of time and money to attend trade shows, so you need to have a strategy to make the most of them. Here are a few tips and tricks to make the most of your next trade show:

Have clear goals and measure them. Why are you at the show? Are you looking for leads, want to spread the gospel of your brand, or launch a product or close sales? Answering “yes” to all is ambitious. Focus on one or two primary objectives for the show. You will be able to better plan your staffing and concentrate your messaging, signage, and promotional activities around your specific objectives, which will help your effort be more effective.

Make your goals measureable. Do you know how you are going to gauge success? Are you looking for X number of leads or sales per day? Are you looking for Y% unaided recall of a new brand or campaign? How or when are you going to measure these things? Don’t rely on serendipity; have a plan for what you think of as success, and tangible ways to measure it.

Reach out to your prospects before the show starts and have a buzz-worthy booth. Don’t depend on customers to find you. Send a postcard, email, or buy an ad that lets people know where you will be and what you are going to talk about; this will help make your booth a “must see.” Do you have a cool giveaway? Can you provide a consultation with an expert or a demonstration of a new product? And don’t forget the press. Invite them to your booth to learn more about your company.

Design a user/visitor-friendly exhibit. Make your exhibit inviting and functional. Having a barrier between your staff and visitors hinders conversation; create an area where visitors can easily talk to staff. If you’re showing video, make sure it is visible from the aisle and garners attention, but place it inside your booth far enough so that it encourages intrigued prospects to step in to find out more about what it is showing. Are you demonstrating products or featuring static displays? Instead of crouching down on all fours to see how the widget interacts with the sprocket, elevate the display.

Integrate your messaging. If your advertising, website, press releases, and sales pitch all talk about how easy to use your product is, your booth should too. Make sure that the message you are conveying with your exhibit presence is integrated and complements your other messaging. It should look like it belongs to your company—incorporate your logo, colors, slogans, and other recognizable visual cues.

Train your staff. Make sure that your staff knows your goals and how you intend to meet them. Review the products you are presenting, how to identify and qualify prospects, how to hand over leads to subject matter experts, how to deal with inquisitive competitors, etc. Give some thought to including some of your nonsales specialists. Maintenance techs and customer service reps know how to answer the questions that may stump your sales guys—and it’s a great incentive for them.

A trade show should be one of the highlights of your sales and marketing year. With a little planning and preparation, it will be.

Robb Clawson is the Director of Marketing and Communications for Hargrove Inc., a global leader in events, trade shows, and exhibits. He has run trade show exhibits and events throughout his career, including several NADA shows while at Experian Automotive.

Robb Clawson


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