Believe it or not, digital marketing hasn’t killed trade shows. They’re still very much alive and well, and exhibiting at them is a great way to generate leads.
Skeptical? Don’t be. Clark Johnson, marketing director at the Finishing Contractors Association of Chicago (FCAC), said the qualified leads he got at Buildex Chicago™ earlier this month justified participating in the event. But Johnson didn’t just show up and hope prospects flocked to his exhibit. A lot of work went into attracting those leads.
The Simons Group helped brainstorm strategies for drawing traffic to the FCAC exhibit; worked with Johnson to determine the ideal placement for banners and signs; promoted FCAC’s participation before the show; and created signs, banners and marketing materials for the event and beyond. These combined efforts helped make the FCAC’s booth one of the best on the show floor.
Before hitting the road for your own trade shows, follow our top tips for success:
Find the right events
Not all trade shows are made the same. Choose those that match your target audience and won’t clean out your annual marketing budget. Consider any local shows to pinch pennies. Traveling long distances means you’ll have to shell out for airfare, hotels and meals. In addition, you’ll have to pay for shipping your booth and materials – and possibly for storing them.
Mind your Ps: Plan, plan plan
Don’t wait until a month before the event to start preparing. Most businesses plan at least six months out, and some do it a year in advance. Start by setting your goals and budget; be clear about what you want to achieve. How many leads do you hope to generate? How many products do you want to sell? Determine your own ROI.
Nail down the details
Once you know where you’re headed, select your exhibit space. Some businesses prefer to be the first and last booth that participants will see, while others may not be able to afford premium locations. Whatever you land, be sure your booth will fit. The last thing you want is to arrive at the event and find out your exhibit is too large for the space allotted.
Dress it up
Long before the show, think about how to make your booth pop for prospects. If it’s boring, they’ll keep on going – right on to your competitors’ exhibits. Consider placement, too. Does everything need to be at eye level? Can you do anything overhead? Banners and signs, such as the ones below that we created for FCAC, help attract people to your booth. Lighting, music and other accessories can add ambiance.
Keep them coming
Engage prospects before, during and after the show with powerful marketing initiatives, such as press releases, e-blasts, post cards, sell sheets and ads. Let everyone know you’ll be there on your website as well. Invite your customers, suppliers and other contacts to generate interest. Give them all the details, including your booth number. Our pre-Buildex Chicago press release, e-blast and post card for FCAC created buzz for the show and promoted FCAC’s brand.
Stay top of mind
Since you’ll be pressing a lot of flesh, don’t forget to have plenty of business cards on hand. Another way to remind them about your business is to hand out inexpensive promotional items with your company’s logo, Web address and contact information, such as pens, sticky notes and key chains. Place these items in a location where people will have to walk through or into your booth to get them.
Take it up a notch
Contests and prize drawings will also attract people to your booth. Select cost-effective giveaways, but don’t make them too enticing. You don’t want people to show up only for the freebie and then flee. Limit the quantity and require people to provide their contact information to register. Less-expensive examples might include stainless-steel water bottles, tote bags and umbrellas, while more expensive prizes include laptop bags, golf shirts and backpacks. Make sure you put your logo, Web address and contact information on whatever prize you pick.
Don’t let it all slip away
Hot prospects cool quickly. Follow up with them within five business days after the event. Don’t let all your preparation and hard work go to waste. The simplest way is to mail a letter or post card, or call. If they gave you permission to email them, you can send an e-blast. If you don’t ask for the sale, you won’t get it.
Call in the experts
Gearing up for a trade show can be a lot of work, and it’s a good idea to rely on the professionals to make sure your booth and collateral look spiffy. Marketers will manage the logistics and the creative details so that you can focus on getting those all-important leads.
What are you doing to get ready for your next trade show?