TOP TEN TUESDAY: Tips to Turbo-Charge Your Next Trade Show

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Tips to Turbo-Charge Your Next Trade Show

Trade shows remain a great way to expand your marketing and branding campaigns, network within your industry and  connect with qualified leads, all in one place at one time. Check out these Top Ten Tuesday tips to transform your trade show experience and increase your budget’s ROI.

1. Plan your trade show experience. Before developing your booth or marketing tactics, be sure to establish your objectives for attending the show. Are your goals to generate leads, drive brand awareness, or expand your vendor network? Once your goals are identified, quantify them to measure the success of your trade show participation. Your goals may include:  X leads from the show, $X increase in sales, X attendants at the booth. And then plan your strategy to achieve these measurable goals. These may include an interactive, mobile site, enter-to-win contest, give-away, ad in an industry pub incentivizing attendance, etc.  Your trade show experience will be more rewarding and effective if you answer these questions  as part of your plan.

2. Critically examine your trade show marketing materials. If you’ve had the same booth and brochures for the last several years, it’s time to update them. Reach out to your marketing agency to develop an attention-getting theme and compelling marketing materials. Give the team plenty of time to strategize on the key messages and develop tactics such as show guide ads, premiums, interactive presentations, etc. Display designs are constantly evolving, and technology now plays a much bigger role in trade show booths.

3. Know your story. Maintain a consistent and clear brand message. People love stories, so work closely with your marketing staff to figure out how you can ensure your trade show presence reflects your unique story. For example, Apple’s story is all about innovation, while the Walt Disney Company’s story is about imagination. What’s your company’s story?

4. Know your storytellers. Whether you’re sending your top executives or your sales and marketing staff to the trade show, make sure that they’re briefed not only on the purpose of the trade show but how they can achieve it. Do your executives need to attend workshops and seminars, or should they be at the booth at all times? Can you secure a speaking gig for them at the conference? Are your junior sales executives properly trained in trade show etiquette, including body language and networking strategies? Do they know what your story is, and how they can best tell it?

5. Organize, organize, organize. Know how you’re going to capture and organize your leads. Many companies bring back a fishbowl full of business cards but don’t know what to do with it. Have a CRM system in place to capture, organize and manage your leads and sales funnel.

6. Dare to be digital. More than just flat panel monitors and flashing lights, digital trade show marketing can really make your booth pop. QR codes, Twitter hashtags, live-blogging events, video testimonials at the booth, and even text messaging campaigns can all play a big part in your campaign and capture people’s attention.

7. Strive to be social. Find out if the trade show has a unique Twitter hashtag and use it before and throughout the event. Keeping track of all the conversations around that hashtag can be a great way to meet prospects and other like-minded folks before you even set foot on the trade show floor. Give people opportunities to “check-in” at your booth, either on a service like Foursquare or using your own Facebook page as check-in central. Live-tweeting or even creating a YouTube video series during the event are other ways to harness the power of social media to boost your booth’s visibility.

8. Get out of the booth. Make sure that you have enough staff manning your booth so everyone has an opportunity to get out from behind the table and check out the rest of the trade show, meet other vendors and peers, or attend a workshop or seminar. You can’t be everywhere all at once, so the more team members you have with you, the more ground you can cover.

9. Think beyond the booth. If you’re feeling especially brave and want to really be memorable, take a page from the GE Renewables playbook. Their booths at previous American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) conferences were always memorable, and in 2012 they went a step further and staged an employee-led flash mob in the main hall. Now, that may be more than you want to do, but if you have the inclination, think about how you can really stand out and be memorable, long after the trade show is over.

10. Evaluate. Once you get back to home base, debrief with your team to discuss what worked, what needs tweaking, and what you can do next year to make the trade show experience even better and generate more results. Be specific and detailed in your analysis.

What trade show marketing tips have worked for you in your campaigns? Do you find trade shows to be an effective tool in your marketing toolbox?