Trade Show Marketing for Dummies Part II: Maximizing Your Event Budget

Too many industry marketing contacts tell me that they expect that “If we exhibit, they will come.” Well guess what…that is just not always the case. Why do companies spend tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to exhibit at a big show, but only spend a few hundred to promote it? Here are some of the things you should definitely be considering for your underperforming events as well as those that seem to be strong.

Planning – Why are you exhibiting in the first place? Because all of your competitors are there? To get leads? Because your scientists or sales reps told you, you have to? None of these are necessarily bad reasons, but you need to have a plan. Does it make more sense to send a couple reps to walk the floor, set up meetings in advance instead of a full-blown exhibit? Or maybe a couple of your researchers or product managers go to present posters or hold presentations. Remember you don’t have to exhibit everywhere.
Pre-Show – Let your customers and prospects know you will be at the event. No, they are not going to look up your events page to see if you are going. Use your CRM! (Don’t have a CRM? Call 312-997-2436 and I can help.) Send a blast to your customers and leads, which are relevant to the area. See if you can rent the attendee list from the trade show and send them a different blast explaining why they should check out what you have going on. Don’t forget to include your scientific content like posters and presentations. Do you use Twitter or other social media platforms? If so, this is perfect for a post or two. This is also a time when we think about direct mail. Anything from a postcard to a bigger list to a package that has a special item to bring with them to the booth is great for pre-show marketing. It all depends on the size of your market and how big the price tag..
The Booth – What is the purpose of the booth? At the very least this will be a branding event for your organization. And you have about 15 seconds tops to get their attention. What attracts you when you walk around trade shows? The world’s longest list of bullets? I doubt it. Definitely stick to the brand strategy, but be creative. This is the showroom floor experience for your customers. Wow them! That’s part of the reason they are in the expo hall anyway. How about engaging attendees with some form of activity? Anyway to tie it back to your product, service or brand message is even better?
Post-Show – First off, make sure your leads get into your CRM and routed to the appropriate people for quick follow up. Hopefully you tag new leads as being from this event. Hold a meeting with the group to make sure nothing slips through the cracks. This is another great opportunity to send your email lists a follow up about what was presented at the event. Show some pictures or even a video!
Measurement – Make sure to review the data and get it into your system. It can be as simple as adding up the leads and determining your cost per lead for the show. It’s even better when a couple of months down the line you can determine all the new business from the show and give the event a real monetary value. Who knows, maybe the event pays for itself!

I leave you with a couple of other remarks about how to help your scientists (God bless them) to be better marketers.

Tell them your business goals, product/service priorities and how to use giveaways or any technology at the booth to drive toward those goals
Remind them to bring their business cards!
Make sure their posters or presentations are in proper corporate template (develop it for them, if you can)
Make sure to have an envelope to collect business cards at every scientific poster to give them a follow up call or a PDF of the poster
For presentations, make sure there is a slide with contact information for them and the company
If they are working the booth, tell them to face the aisle, try not to sit down much, and not to eat or engage their cell phones while in the booth
They should also try to smile and say hi to people walking by. If they don’t look interested, then booth visitors probably won’t be interested either.
And the most important tip: have fun!