How to Win at Tradeshows

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By Alex James

Trade shows and conferences…While they’re not on everyone’s list of top things they’d want to be OOO for, they’re a necessity and something we’re seeing remain a constant way to remain relevant in the industry. There has been talk (and probably hope from some brands) that trade shows are becoming outdated, but the truth of the matter is, they’ll exist in industries whether we like it or not.  So be there, or experience the FOMO of not being there and all of the opportunities that are passing you by. Regardless of your structure (B2B, lead gen/B2C), there’s a trade show out there for you and likely, one that has the potential to make a big impact on awareness and potentially sales for your brand.

For those of you not currently leveraging trade show advertising opportunities in your industry, let’s first dive into the importance of trade shows. Here are a few key reasons why trade shows are the place to be:

  • Reputation Management: With the influx of brands and the noise in markets, it is becoming more important now than over to ensure your brand remains reputable and credible.
  • Consider your audience: Or should we say, attendees. Most shows have a variety of attendees, from buyers to media members to potential customers. Each of the categories serves a benefit to your brand. A trade show is a great place to make those face to face connections and establish lasting relationships.
  • Know your competition: A trade show is a good place to get a sense of the market – seeing those companies that you’re up against in person will give you an idea of the competitive space
  • Show off your new “inventory”: Whether you just launched a new software, or you have a new full-line of products, a trade show is a great place to give people a sneak peek at what’s in the pipeline. Not only does it offer attendees an extra incentive to stop by your booth, but it also sets you apart from the other companies that are there just for the sake of being there.

For those brands already leveraging the opportunities of trade shows, we understand it’s an investment. Outside of the booth costs, you have to consider the costs of sending your team members to the shows, and the additional items/prep time you’ll want to spend to ensure your booth stands out. With those extra costs in mind, there is an extra step to ensure the investment is worth it. The worst thing you can do is attend a tradeshow without a strategy in place. If you’re already making the investment to booth a show, it’s important you optimize the existing effort and get the most out of your attendance. With that being said, here are a few ways to optimize existing efforts and generate the most brand awareness from trade show attendance and participation.

  • Media Appointments: Trade shows attract a variety of media members and there are a lot of ways to interact with those media members while at the show. Most shows will have a list of media members slated to attend the event, but you’ll always want to have your PR team do additional research and invite localized media to the show, as well. Your PR team will reach out in advance of the show to get on-site media interviews scheduled. You’ll want to ensure your team is reaching out well in advance of the show to ensure you get in before their schedules fill up. Looking at the outreach approach, there is certainly a strategy and art to it. The best thing to do is look to your PR team to craft that message and conduct that outreach. They’ll be the most strategic and efficient with the approach, ultimately saving your team more time. Once those appointments are confirmed, look to your PR team to provide that on-site prep with interview prep sheets. This will ensure each meeting is tailored to that specific reporter’s beat and experience in the industry. Once all of your meetings wrap up, your PR team should conduct follow-ups to bring those media placement to fruition. This usually takes place about 1-3 days post-show.
  • Booth Enhancements: If you’ve attended a tradeshow, you know the struggle is REAL when walking out with a bag full of portable chargers, pamphlets, and those things that stick onto the back of your phone to hold cards, that really just disable your ability to slide your phone into your pocket. The multitude of tradeshow takeaway companies is overwhelming, so it’s important to identify your goal and understand how your company can stand out with that goal in mind. If you’re a software company, perhaps think about ways you can make software personal. Offer booth-attendees the opportunity to learn about your product, followed by a pop quiz at the booth. Anyone who scores 100 percent walks away with a $10 Starbucks gift card and free-trial of the product. Or, consider putting together a brand-specific scavenger hunt at the show. It encourages attendees to keep your brand top of mind for the entirety of the show.
  • Communicate in Advance:  Tradeshows attract a lot of great prospects, however,  their attention is split between the numerous vendors all trying to yell their message louder than the next. So how do you combat this? Plan in advance. Something that we have found particularly beneficial is communicating your arrival to ideal prospects ahead of time. Making your audience aware of your arrival a week or so in advance not only notifies them of your attendance but allows them to prepare enough time to stop by your booth. Through a highly tailored outbound email campaign, booking meetings with your ideal contacts becomes automated. This is an incredibly easy way to set coffee meetings, book in person demos, and even teach people a bit more about your offering. This is perhaps the most cost-effective way to vet good leads, create attendance awareness and book meetings at a tradeshow.

In summary, if spending the time to attend trade shows, you should ensure you’re capitalizing on the opportunity. With the strategic plan in place, it’s likely a trade show can help you stay on top of your industry trends and remain relevant across the board.

If you’d like us to take a dive into your industry and identify key trade show opportunities your brand should be participating in, we’d love to get in touch.