I started my IT marketing career in the tradeshow business. A VP came in to the marketing office and said she had a tradeshow she wanted to do and needed help! I quickly volunteered to take it on. She gave me the paperwork and said keep me posted. Like any newbie, I thought that you all you had to do was send in your paperwork, show up with a booth and the leads will come. HAH! Luckily, this myth was quickly dispelled when I did my usual Google search for “how to exhibit at a tradeshow” (10,600,000 results as of August 22, 2012!)
Today, I view tradeshows like any type of marketing campaign with a clear call to action defined. You want to drive people to your booth. I’m sure there are other goals that go with your reason for attending but after you have spent 1000s of dollars on graphics for your booth, travel for employees to attend, updated marketing material, giveaways, special promotions, and registration fees you want potential customers, investors, press to visit and stay awhile.
So you must market your presence before the event, at the event and after the event. You can do this as one campaign or separate it into three campaigns. I would suggest developing a post show marketing as a new campaign with new goals and a new call to action. So here’s my checklist for successful exhibiting and getting people to your booth:
- Plan, plan, and plan. As soon as it is decided that you are going to exhibit you should have at least three meetings planned on everyone’s calendar. The first is the planning session. Here is where you decide on key messages, attendees, marketing materials, and promotion. The second is the kick-off. This is right before the show and it’s a review of the materials, goals, expectations, sales script, booth schedule and any other housekeeping items that attendees have. The last meeting is the debriefing. Exactly as it says, but you need to review the good, the really good and the rest. This is also the time to review leads and those that need follow up right away and will be passed onto the sales person.
- Get an exhibit that stands out. It really does seem to be a contest of whose booth is bigger at tech shows but as a small company you have to do more with less so be creative but be smart. My suggestion is to get a booth that allows you the most flexibility to change content and structure.
- Giveaways are important. Yes, there are tire kickers who come to your booth just for the tchotchkes. But, if you have the most popular ones work will get around and you never know one could be the customer that you were seeking.
- Blast your presence. Make sure your current and potential customers know where you’re going to be. Whether it’s an email, media alert, or press release. The more people who know the better.
- Have fun! If you’re not having a good time then how will your customers? Treat your customers how you want to be treated.
- Capture, capture, and capture. Make sure you have a way of capturing customer info. Especially the info you find out from talking with them! Daily meetings at the end of the day are great for this.
- Sales script. Everyone isn’t a natural at standing at a booth and talking to complete strangers for hours at a time. Help your team by writing a sales script, with open ended questions, that makes it easier for them to sell.
- Follow up! This is the most important step! Don’t forget to call, email, follow or all of the above for moving your prospects through your sales cycle.
I’m positive that the above will help you receive the best efforts from your time at a tradeshow or any event you are planning to generate customers. Here’s a presentation for those of you that are visual! Maximizing Your Event with Pre, Show and Post Show Marketing Campaigns