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How to Make Trade Shows Work for You

Trade shows can be seen as a big investment, particularly by small businesses, but by investing in the short term, you can reap the benefits in the long term, turning the leads collected at a trade show into loyal customers.

To get the most out of your investment, it’s important to pick the right trade shows and conferences. By researching thoroughly, you can establish whether the event will match your marketing objectives and reach your target audience. The conference program needs to have a strong seminar and speaker line-up to draw visitors to the event. In addition, the marketing budget dedicated to the event should be focused on delivering maximum visitors through the door and ensure these visitors are decision-makers. Ask the event organizer how they market the event and how they maximize visitor numbers.

Build relationships

trade shows, conferences and trade shows are the perfect platform for meeting key people in your industry — giving you the opportunity to market your business face to face. Talk to as many people as possible, take time to learn about their business and remember to take their business card. You’ll need it after the event. Don’t forget, the event can also be used as a live research session. Ask people opinions of your brand, products, sales pitch and marketing material. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn from a couple of day's face-to-face marketing.

Trade show planning

Preparation is vital for success and will maximise opportunities, giving you better value for money. The more thought and planning you put in before the trade show, the more likely you are to succeed at the event. Follow the exhibitor manual carefully when you receive it and ensure you organize everything you need on your stand (such as lighting and electricity). Set objectives for the event and put a plan in place as early as possible. This should include all deadlines for getting the stand designed and the information you need to submit to the organizer.

Marketing messages

Make sure all your marketing messages are prepared in advance of the event. Your messaging should be consistent across your booth, company literature and press material. This will ensure you’re communicating clearly to your customers and prospects about who you are and what your business is about. If you don’t already have one, you’ll need an “elevator pitch”. This pitch should say everything a visitor needs to know about your business and unique selling points in less than 30 seconds, the time it takes to travel a few floors in an elevator.

Maximise your exhibition presence

Maximise your presence at an event by combining it with other marketing techniques. Use direct mail, e-newsletters and PR to raise your profile ahead of the event. Check the event website to find out who the media partners are. These publications will normally run features and articles about the event.

Contact the journalists and let them know what you can offer attendees to the show. You’ll need to prepare press packs, as most trade shows have a press office for journalists attending. Putting your background information, latest news and customer case studies in a press release is an effective way of getting in front of journalists.

Post-event follow-ups

Remember, the event doesn’t end when you’ve left the venue. In fact, in most cases this is when the important work starts. Make sure you follow up with all the leads you’ve generated and the people you’ve spoken to. Most events offer data scanners, which means keeping track of who visited your booth is easy and hassle free. The data is then provided to your business in a spreadsheet after the event. This makes the follow up process much more efficient and ensures you have data for everyone you met, even if you didn’t get their business card or details.

You need to keep your business at the front of your prospects' minds by staying in touch after the event. This increases the chance of converting your leads into sales. Send personal emails to people, rather than a group note to everyone you met, invite them to respond and to stay in touch with you. Many sales can be completed at the event or soon after. However, some take months or even years to come in. Staying in touch on a regular basis helps maximise your long-term return from the event.

With the right preparation, trade shows provide an excellent platform for building brand awareness and generating sales leads. It’s important to build a pipeline of new business opportunities all the time and to keep your current customers happy. Attending an event, conference or trade show offers your business the chance to connect with both customers and prospects.

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