April 16th, 2015 | by

Planning for a trade show involves setting a thousand moving pieces into place. It can be a real puzzle, but when you get it all put together, it can be worth the big effort. While choosing the best promotional items and deciding on the color of booth carpeting can be exciting and fun, they won’t be the factors that measure the show’s success. All of these details, while important, should not distract you from creating a solid strategy for trade show success. Once you have that plan in place, all you have to do is fit the pieces together to become the master of the trade show puzzle.

 Step 1: Set specific and measurable goals

Success for each exhibitor will mean different things, which is why the first step for any trade show strategy should be to establish goals. Each show has a different focus and audience, so your plan should be adjusted to the size, type, and location. For some organizations, the main goal of exhibiting may be a product launch or increased brand awareness, but for a great number of exhibitors, the main goal is to gather quality leads.

It is critical that the goals you set for the show are designed to deliver relevant and measurable results. If you offer the chance to win an Apple Watch to every show attendee who stops by your booth and gets scanned, you are going to scan a lot of badges. However, if your goal is more focused on quality over quantity, the scanned badges won’t be a good measure of your success.

Examples of measurable goals include:

  • Give demos to a certain number of show attendees
  • Get a certain number of press mentions following a show-based product release
  • Schedule a certain number of meetings prior to the start of the show
  • Meet with a certain percentage of your targeted prospect list
  • Produce a certain number of opportunities or ROI from the show

Once you’ve got specific goals in place, you can design your show strategy with these goals in mind.

Step 2: Get on their schedule

We are here!

First and foremost, you need to make sure that your prospects know that you will be at the show and how to find you. Don’t just assume that attendees will walk every inch of the exhibit hall and that your ideal customer will eventually find you. Promote your presence at the show on your company’s website, blog, social media networks, targeted email campaigns – and give prospects a reason to seek you out at the show. Make sure that you let them know if you are demoing a new product, will be presenting some actionable best practices, or have a hot giveaway. Be sure to answer the question: what will they gain for taking the time to visit with you?

Let’s meet up!

Beyond letting them know that you will be there, ask prospects to set an actual meeting time with you at the show. With so much to see and do at a trade show or conference, attendees are more likely to make the effort to meet with you if they have it on their calendar (complete with reminders!). Use the show’s registrant list as a start. If the event doesn’t provide complete contact details for attendees, you can supplement the information provided using a tool like DiscoverOrg’s Paste and Go to fill in details and filter out those who would be good prospects for your solution. Or leverage your existing database to identify those most likely to be at the show, targeting by geo-region and/or title.

Can I help you with that?

Your sales intelligence solution can be used to note any current projects or initiatives that would make meeting with you more compelling. As you reach out, take the time to develop messaging that will be relevant to them using this insight. Many companies use trade show visits to evaluate solutions to current needs. So, make sure to tailor your email messaging to speak to their existing circumstances. The free passes you may have as part of your exhibitor package can serve as a hook for prospects located in the area near the show as well.

Step 3. Go beyond the booth

 If you have executives travelling to the show, you want to leverage their time and presence. Create a targeted list and email or call local contacts directly to schedule executive meetings, extend VIP dinner invites, or offer complimentary show passes.

If you are making an announcement to the press – such as launching a new product – schedule press interviews with executives in the booth if possible. If your interview is located where a demonstration can be given at a moment’s notice you have more of an opportunity to highlight your technology. Product launches with more substance get more ink.

Negotiating a speaking slot for one of your executives as part of your exhibitor package is a great tactic to drive interested prospects to your booth. Even though these sessions are usually focused on thought leadership rather than product, make sure that the company name and booth number is prominently displayed on each slide.

Step 4. Highlight your technology

 Product demos are an integral part of technology trade shows and your booth provides an excellent backdrop for showing product innovations and key differentiators.

If you intend on providing demos, plan carefully:

  • Presenters should be well spoken, confident, accessible and professional
  • Use canned demos or presentations to speak to a wider audience and pique the interest of your targeted prospects
  • Encourage attendees to take the next step and schedule a personalized demo after the show
  • Clearly highlight your key differentiators from your competition. You may choose to take it a step further, providing a checklist for attendees to use when evaluating other vendors (highlighting your strengths of course!)

Guided by specific goals that align with your overall marketing strategy, trade show success can be yours. If you leverage good data and take the time to systematically reach out before the trade show to show attendees and area prospects then you will be far ahead of the competition that comes to the show armed with branded stress balls and yo-yos. Putting together these critical pieces of the trade show puzzle will provide focus and direction, helping your intended results to take shape. Happy Exhibiting!


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About the author


Lisa has a background in international business and over 15 years of technology marketing and she helps to develop strategies to enable a successful sales effort.