Everyone loves a good trade show. They are high energy, and they are packed with people working in the same industry.
Why, then, are there companies that avoid trade show marketing?
Perhaps it is the initial investment. Trade shows require displays and travel costs. They also require a lot of energy, as the best trade show displays are staffed by those who care about the brand they’re representing.
However, considering the extraordinary trade show ROI, putting in the initial investment is a no-brainer.
That’s why we want to help you with your trade show strategy. We are confident that if you take the time and put in the effort, you will start to see incredible returns on trade show networking. Similarly, there is lead generation — and then there is trade show lead generation, where everyone in the crowd is already primed to make connections.
So join us as we outline the best trade show branding and budgeting as well as those highly successful guerrilla tactics that will bring people to your booth.
The Benefits of Trade Show Marketing
At the end of the day, the only reason to even do a trade show is to ensure marketing success for your brand. Luckily, there are many unique marketing opportunities associated with trade shows that make justifying the investment easy:
While there are a number of different ways to promote your brand, whether through advertising or on social media, there is something special about branding at trade shows.
For one, you get to occupy a physical space, creating three dimensional displays. You can incorporate multimedia presentations and even give individuals the opportunity to demo your product in person.
All of these factors give your branding initiatives a whole new perspective.
- Engagement and Lead Generation
The truth is, nothing sells a brand like positive face-to-face meetings — and there is no better place to maximize your opportunity for face-to-face engagement than at a trade show.
Usually you have to set up a meeting with a potential lead. That requires scheduling and a significant time commitment — and that’s only if you’re lucky enough to get through to a person. Cold calling is often a dead end.
However, at a trade show, you don’t have to worry about people ignoring your call just because they don’t recognize the number on caller ID.
Furthermore, when cold calling, you don’t know if the person you are trying to connect with is even interested in your brand or industry. Trade shows not only grant you a captive audience, but they preselect that audience from individuals who are predisposed to listen to what you are trying to say.
There is nothing that can compare with this kind of access, and your lead generations are sure to sky rocket when making such connections at a trade show.
Not only are you generating leads at trade shows, but you are also doing a lot to improve your B2B marketing.
Remember, many of the key decision makers at other businesses use receptionists and other gate keepers to keep unwanted distractions away from them. However, when those same leaders attend a trade show, they are there with B2B networking in mind.
If you want to take advantage of those kinds of opportunities, you need to be there when they appear. For many companies that are leaders in their industries, trade shows are likely the only time during the year in which they make their decision makers available to this kind of networking.
Trade Show ROI
Let’s be honest, if you are going to invest in marketing, you had better be getting a good ROI. Luckily, when it comes to marketing, trade show ROI is unrivaled.
First and foremost, the incredible results that come from lead generation are reason enough to put in the time and effort. Just consider this statistic: Half of those attending trade shows plan on buying something that they saw at the show within the next 12 months.
But the superior ROI extends beyond increased sales. For one, by incorporating easy connection tools, whether through embedded social media or through email collection, you can rapidly increase your social media and digital outreach. Furthermore, because trade show attendees are as motivated to make connections with brands as you are to generate leads, you will find that signing up for an email list is an easy sell.
More broadly, you can use a trade show to collect important and actionable data.
So don’t be afraid to give a trade show your all. The more tools you integrate into your trade show exhibit, the more you’ll be able to maximize ROI.
Industries That Benefit From Trade Shows
In a certain sense, all industries benefit from trade shows. Because trade show organizers are looking to make money out of hosting a trade show, they are motivated to make sure all brands are motivated to participate.
However, there are some industries that really shine at trade shows:
- Industries, such as consumer electronics, make great matches for trade shows as they show off new prototypes or products on the verge of launch.
- The fashion industry, in the same way, motivates people to attend trade shows by giving attendees an exclusive opportunity to see the latest trends.
- The automobile industry thrives on trade shows, since these are opportunities to unveil the latest and highly touted concept cars.
However, keep in mind that even small trade shows are powerful tools in your marketing mix. While you want to make sure you aren’t wasting your time with untested and poorly promoted shows, if you are confident that a trade show will be well attended, it is worth your time.
If you are interested in the most important trade shows on the calendar, or simply want to explore the shows that make the biggest impact and reach the most people, check out our Top 10 List of the best trade shows in America!
Measuring Trade Show Success
Of course, you cannot simply expect trade shows to be successful and then leave it at that. Whether you yourself need data driven evidence or other stake holders do, you want to be able to prove ROI has actually occurred.
Luckily, there are some pretty simple metrics that will help you measure your success. To begin with, keep tabs on your website traffic. Pay close attention to both direct traffic and organic search traffic immediately after the conclusion of your trade show.
Direct traffic refers to the website visits that originate with people typing in your URL. Organic search traffic refers to visitors who arrive by typing your brand name directly into a search engine.
In both cases, individuals arriving at your website by these means are directly seeking you out. That is a clear measurement of your brand awareness. If this kind of traffic sharply increases after a trade show, you can be confident that traffic first became aware of your brand at the show.
You can also note the increased social media reach. If there is a sharp spike in Twitter followers or Facebook likes directly after a trade show, you can be confident you made an impact.
Finally, if you have established a cyclical pattern regarding your trade show attendance, measure new customers along the same cycle. If your largest new customer increases correspond with your trade show attendance, rest assured that isn’t just a coincidence.
Budgeting for a Trade Show
There are a lot of factors to keep in mind when budgeting for a trade show. Mastering these variables is key to maximizing ROI.
To begin with, you want to make sure you account for everything before setting your goals. If you think buying the display is all it takes, you are liable to bite off more than you can chew and find yourself in financial trouble when the other bills come due.
Here’s what to consider:
- Space Rental and Size
Remember, you need to pay for the space your display or exhibit will occupy. Furthermore, if the cost of space rental in a particular venue is contingent on the value of that space, you don’t want to find yourself in the deep dark corner just because it saved you some money. However, you also don’t want to waste money needlessly on the prime spot if a spot just adjacent is nearly as good.
To best determine the space you’ll need, and thus be able to properly budget for the cost, figure out exactly what you need so you can display your materials in the best way possible. While a larger exhibit space is generally more expensive, it’s worth it to avoid not being able to showcase what you’ve got.
Keep in mind you also need to factor in shipping costs. Luckily, weight is equally as significant in shipping costs as size, and exhibit designers have become quite adept at minimizing weight while maintaining strength in their displays.
That being said, again, the larger and heavier the display, the more it will cost to ship!
You also need to make sure you budget for staffing your exhibit. The larger the exhibit, the more people you need to staff it. Furthermore, not only will you need to pay staff, but you also need to pay for the lodging and travel costs.
However, you also don’t want to understaff your exhibit simply as a cost-cutting measure. Remember, you are thinking about this in terms of ROI, not just initial costs. If having a bare bones staff limits the amount of leads you are generating, then you might not actually be saving money.
You know that awesome swag people come home with after attending a trade show? While it is a great tool for branding, it also costs money.
No matter what, though, you have to give people something they can take with them to remember your brand. That means even if you’re not passing out bags or shirts, at the very least, printed take-aways with crucial information still need to be part of your budget.
- Unforeseen Expenses
Invariably, there will always be something unexpected that needs a little money at a trade show. Maybe it’s a failed audio-visual component. Maybe it’s something essential that was left behind and needs to be express shipped or replaced. Either way, you never want to be so budget strapped that you can’t address emergencies when they arise.
Getting People to your Booth
At the end of the day, generating leads requires getting people to come to your booth and engage. While a great brand, a standout product or a dynamic staff might be enough in some situations, there are a number of ways you can actually encourage trade show attendees to make their way toward your neck of the woods. Here are just a couple:
- Create a Buzz
Don’t turn your arrival at a trade show into a surprise entrance. If you are trying to generate hype about your presence, make sure you are signaling your intentions for being there ahead of time! Post your intentions on your website, in your email newsletter and on social media.
- Staff the Whole Show
You also want to make sure you have staff at the show assigned specifically to roaming the floor and making initial connections. Give them an attractive flyer to hand out. If you have promotional materials, have someone making their way around passing them out. You can even get creative and get a street musician to play your jingle while people are making their way into the venue.
For more information on guerrilla tactics, see our guide to generating traffic.
Choosing the Right Builder
When putting together your trade show marketing strategy, it is important to consider the fact that not all trade show exhibit builders are the same. Like so many things in marketing, the cheapest route usually isn’t the best.
That’s why you want to take your time in searching for a builder and be sure to:
- Make real price comparisons.
- Give your builder time to workshop and finalize your design.
- Work with someone who understands your vision.
- Work with a good designer who will make sure you aren’t wasting money on shoddy materials nor overspending on unnecessary elements.
Your relationship with your designer is important, and you can tell they are taking the relationship seriously if they are treating you with respect. A good builder wants to take your vision and make it shine. A subpar builder will ignore you until you pull out the checkbook.
Check out some further information on the builder selection process.
Staffing Your Exhibit
Remember, the whole point of a trade show exhibit is to generate leads, and the best way to do so is with good face-to-face contact. So don’t forget to really think about which faces you are going to select to represent your brand.
Many of these choices will be contingent on the size of your company. If you are a small operation, perhaps you will represent the brand yourself. This has a number of advantages, as it gives people the opportunity to interact with the ultimate decision maker within your company.
However, truth be told, a whole day on the trade show floor is also very grueling — and you don’t want to sacrifice energy just to cut down on staffing costs.
If you are a larger organization, you will likely need to find representatives. They can either come from within your company, or they can be hired from elsewhere.
Regardless, there are a few things to keep in mind. You want to make sure your staff are friendly and high-energy but not overbearing.
Remember, you want to hit that sweet spot where potential connections feel comfortable but not overwhelmed.
You also want to make sure your staff are well-trained. That means working out a go-to script so they can feel confident talking about your product or service. You want to prepare them with a good number of answers to frequently asked questions as well, while also equipping them with ways to point people in the right direction if they can’t answer a question.
But here’s an important point: You don’t want to overstaff. If a booth or exhibit seems to have more staff than visitors, potential connections might become intimidated. You want to make sure someone is available to talk to people, but you don’t want people to worry about being swarmed if they try and connect with your booth.
Capitalizing on Your Investment Outside of the Trade Show
Keep in mind, just because the trade show is over doesn’t mean you can’t use your investment in other capacities. For instance:
- If you have a store or business office, you can use portions of your display in the entrance, helping you to further brand your space.
- You can use your display as a backdrop for big promotional events, such as the launching of a new product or service.
- If you ever hold an outdoor event or fundraiser, you can use your display to create an exciting atmosphere — which is a key component of any fundraising event.
So don’t think of your trade show display investment as single use!
Next Steps for Adding Trade Shows Into Your Marketing Mix
Now that you’re fully convinced of the value and importance of trade shows, what do you do next?
You need to first establish which trade shows are a must for your industry. These will define your trade show calendar. Contact the organizers and find out what they require as far as pricing and scheduling.
Keep in mind, if the trade show is a popular one, the best spots on the floor with likely be reserved well ahead of time, so don’t be afraid to start investigating early.
Next, you want to put together a vision plan for your exhibit. Do some budgeting and start to look at exhibit builder prices. Think about what you are willing to spend and what size exhibit will best serve you. Think about how versatile you want your display to be. Is this one you are going to be using often in a lot of different capacities, or are you looking to invest in a large, fully constructed display that will be used exclusively at shows? Are you looking to integrate your products into your display, and if so, how would they best be displayed? How much smart technology do you want embedded in your display? How will different features influence your target market?
Once you have a vision, it’s time to start working with a builder. You want to make sure to find someone who is willing to see your vision and turn it into a reality, but you both need to be able to make suggestions to get the best possible product. Your builder may be the expert on trade show exhibits, but you are the expert on your own brand. You want to find a builder who is willing to find that perfect middle ground.
After the builder gets started, you want to do the behind the scenes work, such as setting up your data gathering approach and identifying staff. That way, you aren’t scrambling right before the show.
Considering our years of trade show expertise, we have been helping businesses of every size from a wide range of industries up their trade show marketing game. As such, we have produced a number of video guides designed to help you navigate this process.
And if you are ready to start working directly with a builder, know that our experience and partner-first approach has made us the industry standard in designing and fabricating trade show displays. So contact us today and get ready to see your brand shine on the trade show floor!