Get the most out of your trade shows

June 14, 2009 at 11:48 pm Leave a comment

If your company participates in trade shows, you know there are many differing opinions about whether or not you should be there. There are probably even more opinions about how to define “success” when you are there. I’ve managed, attended, and participated in more trade shows than I care to mention, and I’ve discovered there are some undeniable truths when it comes right down to it:

  1. If your upper management is either undecided or split regarding whether to attend, you have no chance of making your participation as successful as it should be.
  2. Anything less that complete support from your senior management team spells doom. If their heart isn’t in it, if they’re just going through the motions because “that’s what we’ve always done,” others in the organization will recognize this lack of enthusiasm and follow suit. Given the fact that you’re probably spending a good chunk of change, it’s in the best interests of upper management to buy in and embrace it.

  3. If you have not created a specific set of goals that are clearly identified, communicated, and understood, you can guarantee yourself a below-average experience.
  4. What do you hope to accomplish by attending the trade show? Why are you going to this particular show rather than another one? Is success measured in revenue, leads, news articles, brand awareness, internal perception, or something else? You can’t provide an answer without first knowing the question, so lay this all out beforehand, solicit feedback, engage all groups within your organization, and use all means at your disposal to promote your attendance.

  5. If the management and participation of your trade shows is solely in the hands of your marketing team, whether by autocracy or by disinclination from other teams, you will not achieve the buy-in or participation required to succeed.
  6. Marketing people are great… heck, I’m one of them. But I also know they are single-minded when it comes to execution. Without participation by other teams, marketing will invariably defer to marketing-specific goals, which most of the time are functions of larger goals. Consequently, they may not achieve everything that other teams, like sales or product management, would have hoped for. If you are one of these other teams, I suggest that you get involved early and often so that you’re not disappointed.

  7. If you focus more on number of leads, rather than quality of leads, you are destined to waste massive amounts of time chasing people that will never generate a dime of revenue.
  8. In an earlier blog entry I discuss how to identify and focus on hot leads instead of sheer quantity. Just remember that all leads are not created equal. The best rule of thumb is to focus on your target audience, develop good incentives to encourage continued conversations, use best practices to qualify your leads, and create programs that will fill, but not overwhelm, your sales pipeline.

  9. If you do not have a strong events manager firmly in charge, your salespeople will spend more time on their Blackberries than on the trade show floor.
  10. I love salespeople. I really do. But I know they have a tendency to be a bit, um, ornery. Let’s be honest… without a strong personality keeping them on a short leash, most salespeople will walk into the trade show booth, zoom over to the first empty chair, and start answering emails on their Blackberries. They tend to view trade shows as a waste of time that’s cutting into their ‘face time’ with customers. The truth is that they can engage more customers spending 3 hours in a trade show booth than they can if they spent a week on the road. A strong-willed events manager can help them remember this and keep them on-task. Remember, the booth is there for the benefit of sales more than any other team, so they should learn to take advantage of it.

  11. If you do not reserve a meeting room, you will lose out on many important opportunities.
  12. The noise of the show and the buzz in the booth can make it difficult to engage in deeper conversations, the kind that close deals. Your solution is to reserve a meeting room when you purchase your booth location. The meeting room can be used for prospects, interviews, PR functions, and a variety of other high-quality activities. The booth brings ’em in, but the quiet meeting room helps to keep ’em.

  13. If you don’t choose your booth location carefully, you might as well not even be there.
  14. Whenever possible, do an on-location reconnaissance as early as possible to determine the best location for your booth. If you can’t do this, or if you don’t have enough budget to get into the highest traffic areas, don’t worry. The next best places are: near the meeting rooms, next to the bathrooms, near the concession stands, and close to the sitting areas. Another trick… if your booth has a place to sit down and/or offers food & drink, you will probably double your traffic.

You’ve spend a lot of money on registrations, booth design, marketing, and T&E, so follow these tips to maximize your ROI. Happy hunting!

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Entry filed under: Best Practices, Branding, Buzz Marketing, Lead Generation, Leadership & Management, LinkedIn, Marketing, Marketing Campaigns, Marketing Communications, Messaging, Public Relations, Raising Awareness, Sales, Sales Tools, Strategy, Trade Shows, Word of Mouth Marketing. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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