2 Simple Rules for Trade Show Success

We just finished our single largest trade show event this year, Interphex 2012 in NYC and I realize, once again, trade shows are here to stay.  In spite of all our digital tools like marketing automation, content management, webinar platforms, VOIP video calls and even virtual trade shows, we all love the real excitement and energy of a live trade show.

10 years ago when I owned a marketing production company, as a pioneer in content marketing, I taught small Chambers of Commerce and other Associations about trade show best practices.  As I reflect on the best practices, I come to the conclusion that trade shows require a lot of work to make them successful.  The fundamentals that drive booth traffic and increase ROI have not changed in 20 years.  As I strode along the aisles of Interphex 2012, I saw a myriad of booth sizes from the large 40’x40′ to the small 10’x10′ with all kinds of booth components, slogans, dress, give-aways, ad nauseam.  Remarkably, if you asked people who stood at similar booth sizes and locations how the show was going, some said “great show”, others said “it’s kind of slow”.  How could this be?  It’s the same booth size, same show attendance, same location but different results.  I would bet that the ROI directly correlates to these different perceptions as well.

Although a successful show does take a lot of work, if you follow just these 2 simple and basic rules, you will be one of those who say “great show” and not one of those sad booths with no traffic and no energy:

  1. Let them know you’ll be there and why they should visit your booth.  I’ve seen the oft quoted statistic that 80% of trade show visitors decide which booths they will visit before ever setting foot on the show floor.  You need to let your target audience know ahead of the show that you will be there and give them a compelling reason to put you on their list of booths to visit.  What’s that you say, of course our customers will seek us out, they love us and how could they resist our charm and our magnetic smiles?  Think again my friend, you even need to give your customers a reason to visit. We offered a very simple promotion this year at Interphex; stop by to see some new products and pick up a free t-shirt for your trouble.  It worked like a charm.  We had more visitors than any previous year.  I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the booth across the aisle with not much activity and a booth size twice as big.  Undoubtedly, they did not tell their target audience or their customers about the show or give them a reason so visit.  But, they did seem charming and magnetic.
  2. Follow up quickly.  After 3 days, every day that goes by causes an exponential decrease in your show ROI.   Make sure the sales people follow up on requests immediately and that everyone else who visited the booth gets some type of follow up correspondence or action within 3 days.  You would be amazed at the number of companies who spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on a show but never follow up with the visitors after the show.  It’s hard.  The poor salesman spends 3 days at the show, offline or partially offline and when he gets back, there’s just too much “real work” to do, so the leads go into the CRM or sit on his desk, never to be heard from again.  This scenario is the BIGGEST killer of trade show ROI above and beyond any other issue.

If you’re a Modern Marketer, you need to face it, trade shows aren’t going away and you, as the marketer, need to make sure they pay off.  These two rules will help you make it pay.  There are plenty of books and gurus out there to give you good tips.  Or shoot me an email and I’ll be glad to chat with you about your trade show challenges.

Next blog finishes out my 5 Key Success Factors for the Modern Marketer.

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