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Show Me Whatcha Workin’ With: Doing Trade Shows Right

Trade shows are not to be taken lightly. Why? Well, trade shows are where all of your marketing and branding manifest themselves into physical form. And if done wrong, there’s no quicker way to damage your brand and look ineffectual. So it’s important to do them right.

After walking the floor at the annual HR Technology Conference, I wasn’t surprised to see the number of vendors doing it wrong – even with their most sincere and earnest efforts.

So, I came back from Las Vegas and decided to dish the secrets to doing trade shows right. Here they are.

Defining the Goals

Before you create a show concept or strategy, ask yourself this: What percentage of my trade show marketing efforts will go toward brand recall and recognition? What percentage will go to lead generation?

Need a starting point to analyze your efforts? Look at your last trade show. How much did you spend? How many potential leads did you turn into paying clients? Does your brand have cache and recall or do industry people give you a blank look when you tell your company name?

Chances are you need a mix of both. Depending on how many shows you do a year, you might have different goals for different shows.

Creating the Concept

This is the most difficult aspect of your show experience. It’s where most companies fail – crashing back to the minor leagues. A simple approach: Your concept should be a one-off, one-of-a-kind, themed experience that jives with your branding and messaging. Trust me when I tell you, it’s easier said than done.

Maybe your concept means repackaging your core branding and messaging into something fun and whimsical. Maybe it means you go for shock and awe. You could play it super safe and be another vanilla-flavored vendor. Only you can decide that, so choose wisely.

Developing the Strategy

Your trade show marketing strategy really depends on how you answer these questions:

  • Are you planning to pay for an official sponsorship?
  • Will you run a print ad in the show’s publication?
  • Do you plan to use dimensional mailers and email campaigns for pre-show marketing?
  • Will you be using social media to campaign during the show?
  • How will you promote and attract potential clients to your booth at the show?
  • How will you engage and market to your new leads after the show?

Are there more questions you need to be asking as you plan for exhibition? Yes. The devil is in the details, but these questions will point you in the right direction.

Owning the Show

This is where all your hard work comes together. But now is not the time to relax. You’ve worked really hard to nail down your marketing goals, concept, strategy and production deadlines. Now your sales force needs to step it up.

Now is not the time for them to be sitting down in the booth and making out with their iPhone or BlackBerry. It is time for your sales team to engage the potential clients (and current clients) coming to the booth. Always be closing. That is it and nothing more.

Well, that about sums it up. Hope you enjoyed. Is there more? Hell yeah, but we save those secrets for the clients who patronize our fine establishment.