“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
The most common reason trade show exhibitors don’t get their ROI from their investment in trade shows is that they lack a comprehensive game plan to give them the best chance for success. In fact, many don’t have a game plan at all – they simply wing it, hoping their brand, booth, new product, booth model or some other gimmick will get them the attention they (think they) rightly deserve.
Some even expect show managers to deliver traffic for them. After all, they paid for the booth space, it’s not THEIR job to attract buyers…is it?
If you’re in that camp, think about it like this – a trade show is in some ways like a day out on the lake fishing. The show promoter’s job is to make sure the lake is stocked with fish. The exhibitors job is to decide if he wants to fish from shore or on a boat, what tackle and bait to use, and who he wants to bring with him.
If you show up at the lake with no rod, no tackle and no bait, exactly how many fish would you expect to catch? Sure, you could rent a boat and equipment, but you’ll probably pay more for it than you would have elsewhere and likely not have the right equipment for the job.
Same goes for success at trade shows.
Some critical elements to consider when doing your trade show planning;
1. Establish measurable goals. Are you there to take sales orders? If so, how much? Generate business leads? How many? These questions will help you determine your booth design, marketing collateral, and staffing requirements.
2. Create a checklist. Include both items to bring with you, and action items that need to happen before, during and after the show. The list should be comprehensive enough that an outsider can come in and execute the plan if need be.
3. Develop a staffing plan. Determine how many people you need in the booth and whether you can use temporary help to offset the costs of travel. Have a schedule of assignments, including breaks, for each hour of the show.
4. Rehearse. If you’ve got a new booth display, set it up in your building BEFORE you get the the show floor. You may want to document to assembly if your display company hasn’t already done it for you. Place your literature, products, furniture and staff in the booth and make sure you have an appropriate layout. BE SURE TO TELL YOUR STAFF NOT TO SIT DOWN, CROSS THEIR ARMS, CHAT WITH EACH OTHER, or do anything else to dissuade potential customers from engaging with you.
5. Start early. Most trade show attendees plan their schedules well before the arrive on the show floor. That means that if you’re not on their list before they get there, you’ve got to compete with all the other exhibitors for their time and attention. Get the registration list from the show promoter and invite people to come see your new product in your booth. Don’t forget to invite your current customers as well.
6. Follow-through. As amazing as it sounds, most exhibitors never follow-up with the leads they get from trade shows. They get lost, tossed in a drawer, whatever the case may be…most attendees never hear back from them. Assign the task of making phone calls to your leads starting the day you return to the office and be sure to get a call report on each.
If you take these items into consideration when you do your trade show planning, you’ll be ahead of most of your competition.