Traditional trade show planning is over. That is, if you truly want to be competitive in terms of positioning your brand as one that’s at or near the top of the list when it comes time for consideration.
It used to be that you book the space, get your booth together, set it up, get your people there, have some literature, have some fun at night, gather the leads and go home. Maybe you did some pre-show promotion; maybe you had a decent follow-up strategy. But that no longer cuts it.
Trade shows are extremely costly. It’s not just the space and the booth. The human resources costs are high. Shipping, handling, travel, hotel and entertainment expenses can be staggering.
So, you need a full-blown strategy for that show. If your marketing manager does not present you with one, well, maybe that manager is stuck in the ’80s. You should plan your trade show just as you’d plan a major new ad campaign: a fresh strategy based on clear objectives, plus pre-show, at-show and post-show tactics that are very carefully planned and executed. Trade sows are a big deal, but they rarely get the attention they deserve.
If your principle trade show rationale is, “We need to be at that show ’cause our competitors will be there and we’ll be conspicuous in our absence”, then you are cutting yourself short and you won’t deliver a truly memorable event.
However, if you say, “We’re going to make this an event that every visitor will remember for years”, then you have a good start. But that’s just an objective; it’s not a strategy.
Here’s what you need to make your trade show a success:
- a clear USP (unique selling proposition) for the event; one that sets you apart
- a story to tell, preferably a fresh new story, and a way to deliver that story
- pre-show planning and communications that start 6 months before the event
- a compelling reason for people to visit your booth
- technology adoption and content creation for pre-show, at-show and post-show; you need to take advantage of today’s technology
- an at-show and post-show strategy that will astound your visitors
- relentless but respectful follow up that re-iterates the specific needs and desires stated at the show for each individual
- clear objectives for the show in terms of what you expect in terms of ROI, and a way to measure that ROI
If you don’t have the internal resources to achieve all of the above, consider outsourcing some or all of the above. The investment will be well worth it.