Tradeshow Resource Guide— Doing it Right to Save Time & Money
by Mechele Shoneman, Repaz Marketing
Why participate in tradeshows?
Much like seminars, presentations and lectures, tradeshows provide a valuable opportunity to connect with target audiences in a one-to-one fashion while boosting credibility and generating leads. While much competition exists on the tradeshow floor, with adequate promotional activity you can attract enough visitors to your booth to stimulate sales and offset the cost of the tradeshow experience.
Tradeshows also provide a chance to display and demonstrate products/services in hands-on ways not possible in other marketing settings, making tradeshows tough to beat in their ability to transfer knowledge, features and benefits in an aggressive and educational format.
An effective tradeshow presence requires:
- Targeted audience
- Promotional strategy
- Engaging booth design (based on venue size, audience, etc.)
- Qualified booth personnel
- Adequate capture of qualified leads and post-show follow-up
- Potential customers/clients gathered in one location
- Face-to-face opportunity to generate leads
- Supports hands-on interaction/education
- Boosts awareness/credibility
- Extensive planning cycle/preparation
- Expensive to implement
- Competitive environment
- Lead management based on high volume
- Unpredictable attendance
- Logistics, staffing and resource management (check with tradeshow promoter)
When to use:
- Promoting product/service launch
- Initiate/maintain presence and boost credibility
- Meet key customers
- Market development/education
- Lead generation
It is crucial to note that a tradeshow presence must be appropriately scaled to match the size of a given show and the anticipated audience in attendance.
For detailed information regarding upcoming exhibit opportunities, as well as tips and other pertinent industry information, suggested sites to visit include: www.tsea.org (Tradeshow Exhibitors Association) and www.ceir.org (Center for Exhibition Industry Research).
Strategy: A few things to consider…
1. Research Show Audience
- Study and report on participating shows and audiences
- Look for new opportunities
- Determine budget requirements
- Prepare a planning guide
2. Identify Show Goals
- Strengthen presence in the industry
- Cultivate relationships with existing customers/partners
- Prospect for new customers/partners to feed the sales pipeline
- Analyze industry trends for new opportunities
- Evaluate competitors new and old
3. Determine Business Strategy
- What will be the main business objective?
- What message should be communicated to the audience, press and analysts?
- Which products and solutions do you want to emphasize?
- Which demonstration medium would work best (live, CD-ROM, rack, graphics, etc.)?
4. Determine Level of Participation
- Determine booth space requirements
- Select booth space and promotional opportunities
- Secure hotel room block
- Select venues
5. Develop Booth Concept
- Identify branding requirements
- Determine hierarchy of message
- Identify booth requirements
6. Establish a Critical Timeline
Prior to any event, establish a critical timeline including, but not limited to, the following:
- Coordination meetings with advance agendas and discussion points
- Demo space allocation, layout and budget commitment milestones
- Product/application demo requirements and due dates (i.e. phone lines, electrical, etc.)
- Graphics milestones (include initial template, review dates and finalization dates)
- Staging milestones
- Shipping milestones
- Communications deadlines (internal/external, Web, direct mail, etc.)
- Product profile forms for inclusion in presenter briefing binder
- Hotel registration/staff identification deadlines
- Establish date for discussion regarding booth space (prior to arrival)
- Exhibit set-up dates/responsibilities
- Staff training (objectives, administration, etc.)
- Staff critique
- Exhibit breakdown procedures
- Measurement follow-up (1 mo., 3 mo., 6 mo.)
- Show debriefing
How to Put it all Together
1. Write a project plan
2. Develop a budget
3. Determine staffing requirements
4. Publish a general information document
5. Manage all show site activities
6. Manage vendor relationships
7. Manage logistical support
8. Do your best to follow up on any/all leads
Inherent to the tradeshow experience is the unpredictability of audience attendance. Based on this unstable variable, an exhibit can be just as compromised by poor turnout as higher than anticipated traffic. While limited attendance can have a very negative affect on ROI, an overwhelming volume of leads can be just as damaging unless proper precautions are made to support lead management regardless of volume. In general, having a stockpile of qualified leads that are not addressed in a timely fashion ultimately undermines overall positioning and weakens the value of the customer/prospect relationship initiated.
While measuring tradeshow success is very often “lead sensitive,” i.e. an assessment of qualified leads generated, several other factors must be considered, such as:
- What level of overall booth traffic was experienced?
- How many public relations opportunities/meetings took place?
- How many key customers/prospects did you have a chance to meet?
- How many requests for information (literature fulfillment) were received?
Top Ten Tradeshow Do’s and Don’ts
1. Do make sure to set a budget and draft a comprehensive project plan
2. Do establish a critical timeline to ensure organization
3. Do identify and train staff members as to the roles that they will play
4. Do have plenty of press kits available and also a staff member who has experience dealing with the press
5. Do develop a staff guide prior to the show
6. Do have a pre-show meeting with all team members
7. Do create a contact list and maintain constant communication with team members
8. Do be a good neighbor to other exhibitors
9. Do check out the competition and compare/contrast
10. Do be sure to follow up on all leads
1. Don’t scale your presence beyond the venue
2. Don’t overdo the creative
3. Don’t undermine branding
4. Don’t graphically misrepresent product
5. Don’t miss deadlines
6. Don’t show up unprepared
7. Don’t forget to maintain a professional image at all times
8. Don’t waste time with tire-kickers
9. Don’t clutter your booth with anything unessential
10. Don’t impose on space provided for other exhibitors