While digital marketing is hugely important to the majority of modern businesses, being able to meet with prospective clients at events like trade shows is still an incredibly effective marketing tactic. However, it’s not enough to simply turn up with some flyers and hope for the best. It costs money and time to exhibit at trade shows, so you need to ensure your investment is worth it and you attract people to your stand. This doesn’t mean that you need to splash out on the latest display technology, give away a glamorous prize or hire a celebrity to be successful.
With the right planning and a well-thought-out strategy, any business can turn a trade show appearance into an opportunity for growth. Here are tips on how to market your company effectively at trade shows.
Unfortunately, a lot of companies will leave planning their trade show appearances to the last minute, or they will book their stand a long way ahead and forget to put in the preparation time. It’s important to plan as far ahead as possible for a trade show and not just in terms of booking transport and accommodation. You should have a strategy that ties together all aspects of the trade show—before, during and after—and how you can tie each element into your wider business goals.
Consider speaking at the event
In addition to having a stand at the event, consider taking on a role as a speaker if the opportunity is available. There may be a stage or platform where professionals will be presenting their views and experience on a topic that is relevant for the attendees. If this is the case, it could be the perfect way to raise your profile at the event, promote your company stand and start conversations with prospects.
Identify your goals
To ensure your trade show is a success, you need to decide what success looks like. Are you attending to raise your company’s profile in general or perhaps you are launching a particular product? Are you looking for sales, leads, or both? If so, is there a number which would make the cost and time involved in the trade show worth it? When you have one, two or three goals in mind, you can tie all of your preparation and activities together to meet those goals.
Create a buzz before the event
You shouldn’t be waiting until the day of the event to create a buzz about the fact you are attending. By using your company’s social media, website blog and mailing list, you can announce that you will be at the show. Be sure to mention any special promotions or other reasons why people should come along to meet you. You can also directly invite particular clients or prospects who you think might benefit from attending so you can meet up with them on the day and solidify your relationship.
Get the right location for your stand
The location of your stand will be integral to the success of the trade show. It’s important to research the layout of the venue, where people will be entering and exiting, and whether or not there will be high levels of traffic. This is another reason why planning and booking trade shows as early as possible is crucial. You will need to pay more for the larger spaces in higher traffic areas but it’s often worth the investment. Make sure you stand is open and inviting for people and that they don’t feel trapped or pressured when looking at your promotional material or chatting to your staff.
Trade events are big and busy events with lots to see and do, so you need to give serious thought to how you will catch the attention of people passing by. You often have a matter of seconds to stand out from the crowd. Your stand should be clearly branded, and people should be able to understand what your company does without speaking to you. From your exhibition stand banners and displays to the printed promotional materials and staff uniform, your exhibition branding needs to be consistent.
In addition to the visual branding, you need to consider how you will engage with people at the event. The staff you choose for the day should be energetic and able to build a rapport with people very quickly. You could also consider using technology such as videos or motion graphics that promote your company and/or product succinctly. Some companies use competitions or giveaways to attract people and to collect data.
Have a follow-up strategy
When the trade show is finished, you still have more work to do. If you have been able to gather contact information during the show, make sure you follow up with them. This doesn’t mean you should go straight in with the hard sell; thank them for stopping by and talking with you. Offer them a free download of a brochure or a PDF document they may find useful. If they download it, you know they are interested. You may also want to set up a nurturing email campaign, which maintains contact over the following months.