Steps to Trade Show Success

- Monday, May 21, 2012

With the right planning, B2B marketers can use trade shows to speed up the sales cycle, reduce the cost of sales, and reach customers and prospects.

Many feel that exhibit marketing is the most cost-effective means of reaching customers and prospects; it reduces the buying cycle; it allows you to reach hidden buyers.  Most important, though, is that it can reduce the cost of a sale by as much as 75%.

However, to attain those kinds of results, planning is essential.  And that’s where many trade show exhibitors fall short.

71% of all exhibitors have no measurable goals or objectives or even a written marketing plan.

Here is a 12-step planning process that can be very helpful for B2B companies who are actively marketing or considering marketing at trade shows.

  1. Define the Situation – Who is your company? What is your product and its real benefit? Who are your competitors?
  2. Identify Your Target Audience – This needs to go beyond just the procurement people. Think about the end users and those who influences the buying decision.  You probably have multiple, distinct audiences.
  3. Pre-show Research – Not all trade shows are a good investment of your time and money.  
  4. Set Goals and Measurable Objectives – Sales goals are not a realistic metric given the long sales cycles for most B2B sales, but other goals should be set and measured such as contact and qualified leads.
  5. Have Management Support and Input – To be effective, management needs to perceive trade show marketing as a cost rather than an investment.  Don’t exhibit if you can’t get management support and input.
  6. Strategies and Tactics – This contains the specifics of how to achieve the goals and objectives from #4 above.  Unfortunately, many exhibitors skip #’s 1-5 and start here.
  7. Include Current Advertising and Corporate Communications – Your trade show message needs to be consistent with all other corporate brand touch points.
  8. Pre-Show/At-Show Promotion – After you’ve determined who you really need to see at the show, develop a promotion beforehand targeting that group to drive them to you.
  9. Design a trade show Exhibit to Support Steps 1-8 – Take the perspective of the visitor whose mindset is “what’s in it for me?”
  10. Plan the Follow-Up Plan – According to some experts, 80% of exhibitors don’t follow up on leads. By developing a follow-up program beforehand, this problem can be eliminated.
  11. Involve and Train Your Staff – One of the biggest challenges is getting staff to listen to visitors before jumping into a presentation.
  12. Measure Results and Make Money – This involves getting back to management, comparing results to objectives and determining if a return to that show is in order.

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