Tradeshows allows for a reasonable cost effective way of direct marketing and sales. They help expose your company to targeted customers who are ready to buy. People who attend tradeshows are trying to find solutions to problems, choose and purchase products, learn about latest industry developments, and meet industry and technical experts. You can take advantage of tradeshows to demonstrate, sample and sell products and services. Tradeshows are about business. Exhibiting is expensive, and without planning and follow up, tradeshows can be a waste of money and time. Make a plan. In order to succeed you should identify your goals, schedule and coordinate all marketing activities, use creativity and always follow up.

The main share of work involved in exhibiting at shows happens in advance of the event. Tradeshows are investments and should be given plenty of time and attention. The sooner you begin preparing for the event the better the outcome will be. The information provided by show management in the exhibitor kit is subject to change. Keep in touch with them and the show’s general contractor to confirm the show schedule. Advanced receiving dates for your booth materials as well as the show Move-In dates can change and do change as do the Move-Out dates and times. This information should be conveyed to all staff involved in the project as well as affected vendors you may be using for booth design, booth shipping, as well as your installation and dismantle company.

Outline overall and specific measurable goals for each show. Some goals include:

  • Selling your products or services
  • Launching a new product or service
  • Retrieving potential customer leads
  • Meeting your customers
  • Establishing relationships with new distributors.
  • Determine how you will measure if you were successful in reaching your goals. This will help in planning future tradeshows.

There are tradeshows for every industry. To learn about what shows there are, refer to trade publications and tradeshow directories. Do some research at the library or on the internet. You can also check with the local chamber of commerce or travel and convention bureau. Ask your customers and suppliers which tradeshows they attend. Check out your competitors’ websites to see what tradeshows they attend.

How closely does the shows’ name and subject match your business? Is it a well known and publicized event? If not, check the history and other events handled by the tradeshow management company in the past.

Total the cost of the booth itself, the graphics, and show site, labor costs, shipping your booth, promotional giveaways, travel and hotel accommodations and entertainment to the cost of booth space.

Historically, how many attendees are there at the tradeshow? Is it an industry specific business to business show or a consumer or general public event? What are the shows demographics?

Do you do business in the country the show is being held? Will the target customers be at the event?

Will your competitors be exhibiting at the tradeshow? Check out how they are marketing their presence at the event. Timing. How do the tradeshow dates relate to your company calendar? Are there industry related events that could affect your success, such as busy seasons where travel could be difficult for your target audience? Also consider if your new products or services will be ready to go to the market by the beginning of the tradeshow.

Once you have chosen the tradeshows you will be exhibiting at select a booth space floor from the floor map and sign the contract. The most important thing to remember is to read all the show materials, including the tradeshow kit sent by the show management company carefully and completely so you meet all necessary deadlines. These items can also offer pre-show discounts which you should take advantage of.

The average booth size is the 10 by 10ft.Larger tradeshows will often have large booths, generally 10 by 20ft, and some are even bigger. You have to decide how large a space is need. Take into consideration rental costs, the size and layout of your booth, your products, and how many people you expect to have in your booth space at any given time. If you will be doing demonstrations or having entertainment in your booth you need to take that into consideration.

There are many variations to choose from. There are smaller tabletop displays, pop-up displays as well as customized booths. Make your decision based on how much you want to spend, size, product requirements, booth partiality, set up and style. Keep in mind how you will be presenting your products or literature about your products and services. You can purchase a new exhibit, rent one from the show, or buy used booths.

A focal point of your graphics should be your company name, product or service details and key benefits with signs and high quality pictures.

The show management company will usually send you an exhibitor kit for the tradeshow which will contain order forms for carpets, electricity, and rental equipment, telephones, furniture, florists, cleaning, security, labor, exhibit transportation I & D and so on.

You must do a lot of pre-show marketing. This will get the word out as to who your company is and what you will be exhibiting at the event. This will maximize your ROI as you will increase traffic at your booth/stand space which will result in more new customer leads and sales. Some options for pre-show marketing include:

-Social Media. Make sure you use Twitter, Face book, and Linkedin to announce your presence at the show. You can even update people live from show site, adding pictures and videos. This brings a lot of attention and can help people find you on the floor.

-Mailers. You can send pre-registered attendees invitations to your booth. Flyers or post cards about target products and services being highlighted at the event are also an option.

-Free Show Passes. Offer a certain number of potential customers free passes to the show. Or you can reward existing clients with them and use it as a tool to gain additional business from them.

-Ad Space. Buy advertising space in various industry publications announcing your presence at the event and be sure to include your company name, your booth number at the tradeshow and contact information.

-Telemarketing. Call your clients and notify them of your upcoming tradeshow schedule. This allows for a better gauge on current customers who will be attending the event.

-Website. Put a notice about the upcoming tradeshow as well as your full tradeshow schedule on your website. Make sure to include the booth number. You can also create an email campaign to promote the show.

-Forms. Put a statement on the invoices you send out to your clients as well as putting a line about the show on fax cover.

-Literature. Have a large supply of inexpensive flyers and products slicks to give to everyone and have available a number of higher-end brochures and pamphlets for serious prospects. A third promotional brochure different from the above should be available to mail to qualified leads after the tradeshow.

-Giveaways. Pick items that will allow for the most name recognition after the tradeshow. Make sure they are logo’d and have a contact number on them. Try to find items that will be used long after the event. Less expensive giveaways can be given to all attendees but you may wish to have a number of nicer items that can be offered to potential new clients willing to speak with you, watch a demonstration, or give you complete lead information.

-Press Kits. If you have press kits available, make sure to bring some to the tradeshow’s press room. Contact the press representatives and schedule meetings with reporters attending the tradeshow.

-In Booth Entertainment. A great way to draw attention to your booth is by using beautiful models, celebrity spokes people, magicians and other performers. When allowed contests can be very successful to draw attendees to your booth as well.

When planning for the Tradeshow you want to design a lead sheet or card that will allow you to obtain the maximum of useful information without being too cumbersome on the show attendees. Not only do you need the potential clients company name and contact information you also must know their budget, the timing of their purchase and a better understanding of their needs. Gathering attendee business cards or using badge readers does not always give you enough of the information that you need. After the tradeshow, the key of making your tradeshow investment worthwhile is to follow up with all leads as quickly as possible, within a week at most. Make sure that all additional brochures requested at the tradeshow are sent as well. You may want to follow up with a “Thanks for stopping by our booth…” mailer. The last part of follow up is reporting on the results of your tradeshow investment. The information will help you decide if exhibiting at the same event next year will be beneficial as well as helping to determine the need for changes in the handling of the show in the future.

All staff at the tradeshow should always be enthusiastic, knowledgeable employees who can best represent your company. You will need to submit your employees’ names for tradeshow passes and badges. Train them on your lead retrieval process and materials. Make sure that all employees understand the goals for the tradeshow. Make sure that all travel itineraries are established complete with dates, times, locations, meeting places, dress and conduct codes and booth assignments.

Plan to move at the tradeshow early. Many times, badges may need to be acquired upon arrival. Have all vendor contact information available to you while on the floor. Confirm that your booth materials have arrived at the tradeshow venue. Also, confirm the installation and dismantle labor is scheduled according to plan or that their arrival is adjusted according to any last minute changes needed. There are many parties involved in making the tradeshow happen and anything can go wrong. Be as prepared as possible. Get plenty of sleep. Don’t miss to eat and drink a lot of water. Just don’t do any of these things while in your booth. Working a tradeshow can be very exhausting. You will be on your feet for hours at a time. Make sure to have very comfortable shoes. Be attentive to your booth visitors. Do not get distracted reading your own booth literature. You should have read it in advance of the event so you can explain it to them. Be excited to have them there and get their lead information as quickly as possible. Do not spend too much time on any given visitor as you need to be available to all who come by.

There will be many parties and receptions. Make sure you do not overindulge at these events. It can ruin the company image you worked so hard to present while in your booth. It will also make working in the booth ineffective the following day.

Its not over yet. You need to make sure your booth is dismantled and packed up for the return back to your country. You must acquire a straight bill of lading (Material Handling Agreement) from the show’s general contractor at their service desk. Be sure to verify that the name of your tradeshow shipping company is placed in the correct location on the form so they can recover the shipment from the tradeshow. Make sure that all shipping cases, crates and cartons have shipping labels on them that note your company’s name and address on them. The bill of lading or airway bill must then be presented back to the show contractor at their service desk. If this is not done, your exhibit can be “forced” to a different carrier resulting in added shipping costs and possible delays in its return back to your country.

Make sure that the leads recovered during the event are gathered together and brought back to you office for immediate follow up.

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