1. Prepare months in advance. Develop a written action plan and timeline with specific tasks to be completed and assign names of individuals responsible for accomplishing each. Details matter! Think about and commit to the look of your tradeshow booth, plan how you will communicate before, during and after the show, determine who’s going and what apparel each person will wear that will reflect a cohesive look and professional image, make travel arrangements, and select a memorable and effective giveaway item.
2. Pick the right tradeshow. You know where your customers are. Participate in that tradeshow and make an impact.
3. Market yourself before the show. Don’t go to any tradeshow with the idea that you are going to walk away with orders without some advance marketing. Tell all likely attendees to the tradeshow that you are going and tell them multiple times. Traditional mail, email, tweet, company facebook page, blog, on hold message, account managers, customer service managers, and any other way you typically communicate with clients and potential clients. Tell them WHY they should come see you – Do you have a new or upgraded product or service offering? Are you offering a special discount? Is this an opportunity to finally meet face to face?
4. Stand out in the crowd. Set yourself apart from other participants with a unique look that showcases your brand, peaks interest, and drives attendees to your booth. Give 2 levels of promotional items -- one that you can give away to the “collectors” and one that you give away to clients and true prospects. Branded items should be targeted to your customer base. Whether your tradeshow audience is stay at home moms, plant managers, C level executives, or someone in between, know your audience and choose your giveaway item wisely.
5. Collect information about competition and clients. Most tradeshows today allow for electronic collection of attendees information that is supplied to each show vendor. Make sure you not only receive the list, but use it effectively to reach out to potential clients and existing customers.
6. Follow up with clients and prospects. And not just once! Track your sales from contacts at the show. Commit to a goal of at least 3-5 times the cost of the show in sales over the next 12 months. Never go to a show with the idea that we just want to “get our name out there.” Spend your money on other marketing initiatives for this. Tradeshows are intended to acquire new clients and expand relationships with current clients.