Planning For Your First Trade Show

Posted on 25, January, 2023

Last Modified on 26, January, 2023

Trade shows provide an opportunity like no other for you to show prospective clients and customers what your business is all about. There’s only so much you can show people online, or if you have a brick-and-mortar store you’re limited to the customers you can get through the door. But exhibiting at a trade show helps people get up close and personal with your staff, products, and brand message.

Not sure if a trade show is right for you? Let’s go over a few major benefits of giving them a try:

Increase Brand Visibility

Trade shows are events that are targeted towards your specific industry, meaning people are there with the intention of looking for brands like yours. Maybe you’re a startup looking to make a name for yourself, or a well-known brand trying to build your audience. Either way, trade shows are an excellent opportunity to get in front of people you otherwise might not have been able to reach.

Gather New Leads

A trade show gives you a unique opportunity to showcase your services and products in front of a brand new crowd. When people are impressed with what they see, they tend to become new connections that may later convert to customers if they’re not ready to commit to what you’re offering right now.

Boost Sales

Whether you close a deal right there on the trade show floor, or are able to convert your leads later, exhibiting at a trade show can have a positive impact on your sales both directly and indirectly. Remember, the attendees are there because they’re already interested in the types of goods or services you offer, so you already have an advantage that you might not have through traditional advertising.

Convinced now?

If so, you might be wondering where to even start to plan for an event like this. Here are some helpful tips for how to prepare for a trade show, no matter if it’s your first or hundredth.

Plan Ahead - Budget & Goals

It’s best to be upfront with yourself about what you’re looking to get out of a trade show, and how much you can realistically spend. It’s good to establish a budget as far in advance as you can, because you’re going to have to book things like booth space and travel far in advance. Don’t forget you’ll need something to fill your space, so make sure you budget for the kind of display you want to help you make an impact.

As for your goals, make sure you know from the start what you’re looking to get out of this experience to determine if a trade show is, in fact, right for you and your business. This could mean gathering leads that you can follow up with after the show with more information about your business, or making deals and selling products during the show itself. One important thing to keep in mind, however, is to make your goals realistic. If you’re in a niche industry and the show you’ll be exhibiting at will be small, don’t set yourself up to collect 1,000 new leads when that might not even be possible. Do your research to know what you can realistically expect as far as attendance and competition, and make sure you know up front if what you hope to achieve is viable.

Marketing Strategy for Before and During

To get the most out of your trade show experience, you’ll need to plan ahead for how you want to get your name out there. One thing to consider is how you want your booth space to look. There are endless display options, from simple retractable banners to elaborate backdrops in stand-out shapes, many of which you can have custom artwork printed on to make the display unique to you. (Psst! We can do that for you!) Make sure you’re cognizant of your budget, because the more elaborate your setup, the more expensive it’s going to be.

But how can you get the word out that you’re going to be there to hopefully entice people in your direction? Two words: Social. Media. Take advantage of the reaches of the internet to let attendees know you’re going to be exhibiting at the show, or maybe even convince some folks who are on the fence about attending that it will be a great idea! Many events have hashtags that you can take advantage of, and combine with information like your booth location so people can easily find you. Pair that with branded hashtags that you can use before and during the event to keep people engaged with your brand. Speaking of that, don’t forget to stay active on social media during the event. If you’re hosting a giveaway, it’s a great way to let people know it’s almost time to choose a winner! Remember that social media is fast paced, so you’ll have to be plenty active to make sure your brand gets seen.

Staffing – Who to Bring and How to Prep Them

You’re going to want to make sure that you have the right team at the event with you. Remember that these people will be the face of your business, so you’ll want to make sure your event staff is knowledgeable, sociable, and well prepared. But how do you choose? A good place to start is by looking at your goals. Sales staff is great if you’re looking to gather leads, while a PR staffer could be good for helping your business put its best face forward. If you’ll be including any kind of multimedia or technology of any kind, a member of your IT team is essential.

Now that you’ve picked your team, what do you need to do to get them ready? You might want to hold meetings ahead of time to make sure everyone is on the same page and knows what your goals and strategy are. If there’s a presentation make sure you know who is giving it and what needs to be done to get it up and running. You should also let your staff know your expectations of them and how they should be interacting with prospects. This could include anything from how they introduce themselves to the attire you’d like them to wear. But don’t forget that these are people, and people are your best tool for making connections. After all, your potential customers are people, too, so even if you’re B2B, don’t forget that you also need to be P2P (people to people).

Check it Twice!

Well before it’s time to send your staff off for the show, make sure you’ve double checked all the logistics. Make sure you’ve got your booth displays ready to go, and if they’re being shipped directly to the event, check that they’re on schedule. If you have giveaways or products for demonstrations make sure they’re functional and securely packed away so they’re not damaged during transport. Check your literature and presentations for any spelling errors or other mistakes that might make your image look less than professional.

A great way to do this is to make a checklist at the start of this journey and check things off as they’re completed, including this very important step of verifying that everyone and everything is ready to go.

Helpful Bonus Tips

Literature & Giveaways: We mentioned these briefly above, but don’t pass up the opportunity to get your brand name in the hands of attendees. This can be done with printed literature like brochures or flyers, or with giveaway items with your brand’s name on them. This will help keep your business in your prospects’ minds long after the show is over. Things like pens, lanyards, tote bags, and drinkware are great choices for helping people remember your brand.

Your Booth Setup: How do you want the layout of your booth to look? Do you want an eye-catching backwall? A to-the-point tabletop banner? Maybe some furniture to give attendees a comfortable place to sit while they learn more about your business? Don’t forget about things like flooring, which can help with the fatigue of standing all day.

Get Ready to Be Proactive: Not everyone is going to come up to you asking questions. Make sure your staff is prepared to strike up a conversation and offer information that might help draw attendees in. Even simple conversation starters like “Are you enjoying the show so far?” or “Can I interest you in a demonstration of our latest product?” can invite people into your space and get them talking.

Don’t Forget to Follow Up: You’ve planned and prepared, given presentations, gathered leads, and now you’re ready to pack up and move on to your next venture, right? No way! What about the follow up? You’ve done all that work collecting leads, now you need to follow up with more information that will help convert them into long-term customers and clients. A great way to make sure people feel like they made a connection with you is to take notes during the show so you’re able to write personalized messages. Make sure you don’t wait too long! This is best done within a few days of the trade show.

Don’t get us wrong, trade shows are hard work! There’s a lot that goes into making your experience the best it can possibly be, but if you’re able to build long-term business relationships then it was worth the effort. A successful event starts with planning and ends with follow up, but we hope these tips for exhibiting at a trade show gave you a better idea of what you need to do to make the magic happen!

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