Merrily Orsini's Thought Leadership

Trading trade show secrets

Are tradeshows a worthwhile marketing endeavor? That depends entirely upon a) if they meet your marketing goals and b) how you manage your time on and off the tradeshow floor. For some, a trade show can provide a seemingly unending supply of new contacts – and most importantly – prospective clients, referral sources or potential employees.

For others, the trade show turns out to be nothing more than a dizzying blur of booths, business cards, cocktails and cab rides. It’s a traumatic treadmill ride that fails to bear fruit in the form of new business.

Here are some tips to help your agency make a positive impression on the trade show floor.

1) Understand why you’re going. During the fast-paced, adrenaline-laced rush of a trade show, it’s easy to get caught up in the pizzazz and lose track of what should be your focus:  making strategic alliances, getting leads and generating new business. As a result, many exhibitors end up wasting their time on engagements that do nothing to help their business.

“Trade shows aren’t meant as an excuse to visit friends, collect hundreds of business cards for your collection and show everyone how nice your booth looks,” writes Al Lautenslager for Entrepreneur.com.

He’s right. Don’t automatically accept that invitation to spend the evening over cocktails – even if it’s with an old friend – if the engagement doesn’t stand a chance of helping you meet your goals.
2) Be Prepared. It’s more than just the Boy Scout motto – it’s the distinguishing factor between success and failure in marketing. It’s generally a good idea to start preparing for the show at least three months ahead of time. That will give you the space you need to figure out what your booth will look like, how much lighting it will need, what your space requirements are and how you’re going to organize labor to construct the booth and take it down. You’ll also need extra time to order all of your marketing materials such as printed brochures, colorful banners, etc. Making a plan and setting goals will help you come closer to accomplishing what you intend to accomplish.

3) Consider Role-playing. If your goal is to win new clientele, you want the employees who run your booth to listen to trade show attendees, but also be willing to take control of the conversation and steer it toward your ends. They need to be able to recognize when the meeting is veering off course and be able to point it in the right direction. One good way to train your employees to take charge is through rigorous training.

“Preparing your staff for the show can involve creating scripts for them, role-playing and answering any questions they might have,” writes Jonathan Edelman for TradeShowMarketing.com. “Your trade show checklist should establish certain expectations regarding their collection of sales or leads. It should also remind you to assign specific responsibilities to your employees as early as four months before the event.”

He adds that weekly or biweekly training sessions should then be scheduled to prepare them to meet these goals. There are loads of tips on this site if you want to take notes for some certain success.

4) Be Organized. You don’t want to return from the trade show with a disorganized pile of business cards. These aren’t just pieces of paper – they’re invaluable keys to new business. Find a way to stay organized, whether it means purchasing a book to keep them in or a digital business card scanner. You need to be able to follow up with these people – otherwise, those thousands of dollars you spent on the trade show will all have been in vain. Following up is really one of the keys to success.

5) Have Fun! The very fact that you’re at a trade show demonstrates a certain level of success. This is your chance to show that success off! Confidence, enthusiasm and professionalism are the order of the day – but don’t be afraid to take some time to roam the floor, partake of good food, take in the competition and enjoy the city!

The secret to success is preparation. That, combined with determination and a steady focus on your goals will keep you from becoming a trade show casualty.

At corecubed, trade show planning and management is one of our marketing endeavors. Whether you’re new to the trade show scene, or an old hand who just wants a partner to shoulder some of the burden, corecubed can help you make the most of your time on the floor. Call us to day and we’ll get started!And come see corecubed at the PDHCA conference in Phoenix January 24-26, 2010 and see what we are preaching to you IN ACTION!

Watch this video on trade shows!