Trade Show Marketing: How to Improve Your Results

trade show marketingLet’s face it — for many companies, trade show marketing can be a nightmare.

Here’s the scenario:  You’re investing in an important industry trade show.  Along with booth rental fees, you’re also investing in travel, food & lodging, insurance, event setup, sales materials, and booth production.  Primed with freshly-printed marketing materials, your reps attend the show and come back with stacks of business cards and plenty of enthusiasm.

Yet in the busy weeks that follow, you know that leads are falling through the cracks.  Months afterward, you’re not exactly sure what the show has produced.  Was it worth all the time and effort?

Trade Show Marketing is Big Business

Believe it or not, this scenario is very common.  And yet B to B magazine reports that trade show revenues grew 8.9% in 2005 to more than $9.8 billion.  So they must work for a lot of companies.  But they could work a lot more effectively.

With a solid strategy and plan, trade shows can produce a large percentage of your annual leads.  And you don’t have to scratch your head and wonder whether you’re wasting your money.  Before anyone packs a bag, make sure you have a tracking and measurement program in place.

7 Steps to Improve Trade Show Marketing Results

Here’s a process to get you started:

1.  Know your purpose. Are you looking to generate new customers, connect with potential partners, raise your profile, launch a new product or service?  This simple question can dramatically change who attends the show, the budget, and your activities when you’re there.

2.  Define your goals. For example, how many new customers should you generate?  How many qualified leads will you need to reach that goal?  And do you have any qualitative goals for the event?  When you start with very specific goals, your team can execute and track against them.

3.  Make sure the event is a good match for your goals. For example, if you need to generate a certain number of leads, make sure the pool of attendees is large enough to hit that number.  Carefully look at demographics as well – are there enough attendees that match your criteria to make it worth your while?

Once you’ve defined your goals and chosen your event, develop a process for tracking and evaluating your success.

4.  Develop a ranking system for your leads. One of the easiest ways to make sure you follow up with all legitimate leads is to categorize and prioritize them.

    • Group A:  Top priority / hot
    • Group B:  Second priority / warm
    • Group C:  Third priority / cool

For each lead group, decide on these variables:

    • What are the criteria for the leads that will be categorized in the group?
    • What sales tools & literature will you need to deliver to these leads at the show?


5.  Document how you’ll follow up with leads in each group.
Will everyone handle every lead group or will a particular rep be responsible for group A while another rep handles group C?

There are 6 key questions to keep in mind as you develop this process:

    • How quickly you’ll follow up
    • What fulfillment materials you’ll need
    • How leads will be distributed
    • How you’ll report on your results
    • Who will monitor and manage the process to make sure it’s working
    • Who is ultimately responsible for the success of the process

Here’s a great way to figure out these details:  Create a hypothetical scenario for each lead group.  Walk through each interaction you’ll have with the lead and document every step.

6.  Discuss the ranking system, event goals, evaluation metrics, and lead criteria with everyone attending and supervising the event. This is the time to discuss roles, tasks, and followup responsibilities.  Make sure everyone understands and contributes to the process.

Now you can focus on execution!  But don’t forget …

7.  Measure your results. Follow your tracking procedure and let the numbers do the talking.  Did you accomplish your goals?  Why or why not?  What was your ROI from the event and should you attend next year?  You may also want to put together a questionnaire for the reps who attended — then you can capture their perceptions and rate the event internally.

Do you have other recommendations for our readers?  Let me know or post a comment below.  In addition, here are a few related posts that can help:

    • How to use metrics to improve your performance
    • How to document your sales process
    • Why documenting your sales process can improve your revenue

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