In helping organizations prepare for trade shows, I have worked with event managers, event specialists, marketing managers and marketing assistants. One thing they all have in common is the pressures of meeting the deadlines of organizing and executing an amazing trade show for their organization. Having seen results of the good, the bad and the ugly, below are 4 strategies that I would characterize as must do’s in order to fully realize success in the trade show world.
- Rent the lead retrieval system. Your company’s trade show budget has to cover your exhibit fees, travel, graphics, and marketing. But don’t forget one of the most important investments you can make; the lead retrieval software offered by the show. Without this tool you have no efficient way of tracking booth attendees and holding sales team members accountable for results. Many of the more current software lead retrieval offerings have advanced to the point that they will sync with your CRM or lead development stages. The bottom line is this: if you are not planning to pull the trigger on this expense, you might as well stay home.
- Focus on the PRE and POST. Most event staff tend to focus on the actual show itself and lose sight of the 2 phases most important to success; pre-show and post-show. The pre-show involves meetings with sales personnel, audience/objective alignment, pre-event marketing, budgeting, strategies and planning. A solid post-show phase should include lead follow-up, booth visitor communication, ROI calculations and event evaluations.
- Involve the sales team. When the sales team is properly included and aligned with your trade show efforts, it can be a beautiful thing. Let’s face it, most sales teams are super demanding of marketing and are often not so good on the follow-through. Involving them from the beginning will allow your team to clearly set event objectives, messaging, offers and follow up timelines so your organization can reap a full harvest from all the trade show seeds sown.
- Stick to the budget. Seems like a simple concept but there really is a purpose for that yearly trade show budget you developed. Furthermore, you got it approved by your director 6 months ago and endured the lengthy review process with someone in corporate accounting. They are often called “add-ons”, “special requests” or “show specials” and they can be yours for a great discount, but they all add up to what I like to call “budget busters”. Ignore the shiny offers from trade show staff and last minute specials from creative sales reps. They will quickly land you in the red with your trade show budget.